I made a last minute decision to go and see Watkins Dance Company. As a result I was late and missed most of the first piece but I’m glad that I went and saw the show. It was a shame that it did not appear to have been very well publicised.  The programme included three pieces by choreographer Anna Watkins; Human Animal, Mrs Oath, a film made in collaboration with Film Oxford and ACE, and Solitude. The evening had a theme about the equality and oppression of women in celebration and acknowledgement of the 100 year anniversary of women getting the vote.

Human Animal was a solo piece for the one male dancer in the company.  I missed the beginning of this, and had to watch it relayed on video in the foyer.  It was difficult to see the movement because of poor video quality, so I cannot really make a comment on it.

In Mrs Oath the dancers were all female and there was a mixture of older and young dancers, wearing old dresses with cardigans, bare legs, big boots and wild hair, hair down and bit unkempt, in an old barn with bales of hay, straw and books. There were shots of moving and still feet, heads, close up shots and shots of dancing with a full body view. The piece included duets and solos. I am not sure what the point was that it was really making but it was enjoyable to watch. Clear decisions had been made about the camera angles and the costumes and the movement; obviously a piece made as a dance film rather a film of a dance piece.

Solitude had a cast of about eight female dancers. There were all in an interesting costume consisting of an all-in-one loose fitting white body with long arms, loose straight legged trousers and a tailored tweedy man’s jacket worn on top, with bare feet, and their hair in one long plait down the back.

The dancers were all different body sizes and they were well-rehearsed and committed.  Each dancer had a strong performance presence, with an inward intensity and concentration; they had awareness of each other but mostly a clear desire to stay focused on oneself and remain in the zone with a clear intense inward dynamic.  The movement was centered, strong, circular, dynamic, with a mixture of groups of trios, duets, solos and ensemble work melting seamlessly together into a fluent whole.  The whole piece was well thought out, the costume, lighting, movement, and theme and fitting together to make it work.

I liked this company and it was a good, enjoyable evening of dance. Each piece obviously had evidence of clear decision making and of clear decisive choreographic, theatrical intent.  It was a shame that the theatre was half empty.

One criticism is that I would have liked more informative programme notes, more explanation about each of the pieces and how they fitted into the theme of women’s rights and oppression. I guess the conclusion is that women have not come far enough and are still oppressed… I would also have liked to have had a biography of the dancers, or at least their names. They were all very good and beautiful to watch.

Jane Connelly

26th September 2018

You can find out more about Watkins Dance Company here