It is that time of the year again, suddenly Christmas is looming with urgent gift shopping imperatives.  But don’t worry, once again Oxford Dance Writers is here to help with our round up of dance publications reviewed and received this year, from the highly academic and practical to the entertaining memoir and gorgeously illustrated records of companies and dancers; for the dance lovers in your lives, or to add to your own Christmas wish list…  Great thanks once again to all our reviewers!

Memoirs and artists’ reflections:

Sir Peter Wright with Paul Arrowsmith 2016  Wrights and Wrongs: my life in dance

Sir Peter Wright who recently celebrated his 90th birthday has produced an enthralling book of memoirs, an ideal Christmas gift.  A hugely entertaining mixture of vivid anecdote and thought-provoking insight into the recent history of ballet in the UK.  Frank and humorous about his colleagues, Wright also has strong opinions about the future of ballet and much to say from extensive experience about how to produce the classics.  Maggie Watson greatly enjoyed this; read her review here, and buy this book here.

Deborah Hay 2016  Using The Sky, a dance  Routledge

Welcome insight too into the extensive and ground-breaking practice of another highly respected dance artist.  Deborah Hay’s post-modern and experimental work as a founding member of the Judson Dance Theatre and beyond has influenced numerous contemporary dancers in the development of personal ways of moving, and this compilation of notes and reflections charts her experiments with collaborators from the 1990s on.  Emerging Oxford dance artist Rachel Gildea finds inspiration in its pages; read her reflections on this text here, and invest in a copy for yourself here.

Juju Alishina trans. Corinna Toregianni 2015  Butoh Dance Training: Secrets of Japanese Dance through the Alishina Method  Jessica Kingsley Publishers

This admired Japanese artist in the field of Butoh sets out her thoughts on training methods and how to reach a deeper world of expression through challenging physical exercises, and find understanding of the butoh aesthetic through improvisatory and compositional exploration.  Oxford based Butoh dancer Jeannie Donald-McKim finds Alishina’s practical approach ‘refreshingly honest and direct’; read her review of the book and Alishina herself in performance here, and buy this valuable and instructive book here.

Dance in Academia:

Pickard, Angela 2015  Ballet Body Narratives: Pain, Pleasure and Perfection in Embodied Identity   Peter Lang

Arising from her own experience as a dancer, Pickard’s doctoral research was a four year longitudinal study of adolescent ballet students as they develop in vocational schools.  This book, with an ethnographic approach rooted in the theories of Pierre Bourdieu and others, makes a significant contribution to a little explored field, drawing on the students’ vivid testimonies of pain, pleasure and emerging identity to raise important issues for discussion about ballet training.  While admiring the clarity of Pickard’s theoretical exposition Susie Crow questions some of the assumptions in her review here.  Join the debate and order your copy here.

Spatz, Ben 2015  What a Body Can Do: Technique as Knowledge, Practice as Research  Routledge

Ben Spatz’ examination of concepts of technique and practice is a richly rewarding read, both for its rigorous discussion and clarification of ideas which can often be confused and confusing, and for its thought-provoking analysis of a range of examples from physical culture, performing arts and everyday life which resonate strongly with current debates in dance.  Susie Crow found much of value in this passionate and well argued championing of embodied knowledge, one for reading and re-reading; check out her review here and buy yourself a copy here.

Pil Hansen & Darcey Callison (eds) 2015  Dance Dramaturgy – Modes of Agency, Awareness and Engagement  New World Choreographies, Palgrave Macmillan

This collection of essays has emerged at a time at which the term dramaturgy is increasingly heard and used within dance disciplines, particularly in the UK; yet with its different meanings and  connotations artists and scholars are not always clear about its practice.  Mixing theoretical essays, case studies and reflections on experiences by dance scholars, artists and dramaturgs the book provides a valuable overview of the diversity of a developing field, as well as insight into specific examples.  Herself an emerging dramaturg, Miranda Laurence brings personal experience to her thoughtful review.  Read her appraisal here; and buy this important resource book here

Now a book which profiles and analyses the work of a major company:

Thomas J M Wilson 2016  Juggling Trajectories: Gandini Juggling 1991-2015   Gandini Press

For over two decades Gandini Juggling has been one of the world’s most prolific and successful circus companies.  Their groundbreaking experimental work fusing juggling with dance and other performance forms has generated a succession of spectacular works that have delighted and astounded, and changed perceptions of what juggling can be.  In this colourful and beautifully presented book Thomas J M Wilson’s thorough and distinctive approach follows the development of their working practices and catalogues over 25 major performances, including in depth essays on specific features, contributions from collaborators, and of course a wealth of images, to give detailed insight into the work of this influential company.  Both a serious contribution to knowledge and a delightful book for dipping into, buy this intriguing volume here.

Finally books with unforgettable dance images – treat yourself to one of these…

Rick Guest 2014  The Language of the Soul  Rick Guest Books

Photographer Rick Guest features images from his 2014 Exhibition at The Hospital Club Gallery, as well as many more in the series in this beautiful large format volume.  Working in collaboration with stylist Olivia Pomp, and featuring such luminary dancers as Edward Watson, Tamara Rojo, Marianela Nuñez, Steven McRae, Sarah Lamb, Sergei Polunin, Zenaida Yanowsky among others, this series of imaginative dancing portraits brings together photography, fashion and dance to reflect the power and beauty of the photographer’s subjects in singular and evocative images.  Sample and buy this gorgeous book here

Rick Guest 2015  What Lies Beneath  Rick Guest Books

A further large format collection of magnificent photographs by Rick Guest shown at his 2015 Exhibition at The Hospital Club Gallery.  At once beautiful and brutal, these intimate informal portraits of dancers from The Royal Ballet, English National Ballet, Richard Alston Dance Company, Dresden Semperoper, The Royal Danish Ballet and Wayne McGregor Random Dance, include telling images of dancers such as Alban Lendorf, Tamara Rojo, Sergei Polunin, Sarah Lamb, Steven McRae, Edward Watson, Olivia Cowley, Federico Bonelli, and Yuhui Choe.  Maggie Watson found the work monumental and yet immensely personal in exhibition; read her account here, and buy the book here.  There is a discount if you buy both Rick Guest’s books together…

Wishing you a Happy Christmas and rewarding reading…