Dance and Academia

Last Thursday, on a snowy night, St Hilda’s College Oxford warmly welcomed the local dance community to learn more about Fred Astaire, arguably the greatest dancer of the twentieth century. New York Times critic Alastair Macaulay gave an entertaining, witty and enlightening talk, as he showed us a series of filmed dance excerpts, while placing Astaire’s work in its cultural and choreographic context. (more…)


Aptly following its recent showing of the documentary film New Wave Ballet, another DANSOX event exploring legendary dance performances on film.  DANSOX welcomes as distinguished guest lecturer Alastair Macaulay, Chief Dance Critic of the New York Times, who will discuss the legendary Fred Astaire’s life and work with illustration and film footage. Not to be missed!

Date:  Thursday 1st March 2018 5.30pm

Venue:  Jacqueline du Pré Building, St Hilda’s College, Cowley Place, Oxford OX4 1DY

Free and open to all, followed by drinks reception
Reserve a seat via:

There was much to celebrate tonight at St Hilda’s, when five years of fascinating DANSOX events programmed by Professor Susan Jones coincided with the 125th anniversary of the college that so generously hosts these events. It was a wonderfully inclusive evening that centred round a screening of Lynne Wake’s New Wave Ballet, a documentary film about the early ballets of Kenneth MacMillan, before a packed audience that included members of the college and wider University, participants in the local dance community, practitioners and dance scholars from further afield, Dame Monica Mason, and Deborah, Lady MacMillan.

Wake’s introductory talk vividly described how eager she had been to see Edmée Wood’s films of Royal Ballet productions, her initial disappointment at the poor quality examples that she found, her excitement at discovering the original recordings, and the work involved in their restoration for the Royal Opera House. Her documentary is an outstanding example of the use of archival footage to bring back to life the essence of dances that might otherwise be lost, by showing film alongside interviews with the actual dancers, who know the works from the inside.

Next, Dame Monica spoke about her experiences working with MacMillan, as a dancer and as his répétiteur, noting the wide range of his artistic interests, his willingness to take risks and work with new collaborators, and his ability to reprove but then move on. Almost five years to the day since she spoke at the first DANSOX event celebrating the centenary of The Rite of Spring, she described what it was like to be the Chosen Maiden, dancing between the criss-crossing legs of the corps de ballet as they lay face down on the stage, or being passed from hand-to hand high overhead (an image reminiscent to me of Greek vase paintings of the sacrifice of Iphigenia). I remember seeing her in the role in 1982, and still carry pictures of her performance in my head.

At the reception following the brief question and answer session, St Hilda’s Vice Principal Dr Georgina Paul thanked DANSOX patron Sheila Forbes (the former Principal of St Hilda’s) and proposed a toast to DANSOX’ other patron, Dame Monica, to mark the fact that she is now an Honorary Fellow of the College.

Maggie Watson

19 February 2018

PinDrop Creative & Oxford University Buddhist Society present a fascinating forthcoming event, Journey into Jatakas.  Oxford based Composer/Producer Sebastian Reynolds will be joined by the curator of the Ashmolean Museum’s acclaimed Imagining the Divine exhibition Jas Elsner, Jataka scholar Dr Sarah Shaw and Oxford University Classics scholar Professor Fiona Macintosh for a lunchtime talk on new dance and music production Mahajanaka Dance Drama – a collaboration between internationally renowned artists from Bangkok, Thailand and the UK.  Join in with the discussion facilitated by dramaturg Miranda Laurence to discover Jataka mythology, and how one of the oldest surviving stories in the world has inspired a contemporary re-telling. In the forthcoming production Neon Dance Artistic Director and choreographer Adrienne Hart and composer Sebastian Reynolds collaborate with musicians and dance artists from Thailand and the UK to retell the story of Mahajanaka Jataka, a shipwrecked prince who survives alone at sea until the goddess of the ocean comes to his rescue. Bringing together eastern and western musical traditions, this beautiful show fuses ancient and modern, and will preview at Wiltshire Music Centre on 2nd April 2018.

Date:  15th February 12.00 – 1.00pm

Venue:  Headley Lecture Theatre, Ashmolean Museum, Oxford

Free Entrance

Facebook event page:

Tickets for the Mahajanaka Dance Drama preview at Wiltshire Music Centre can be bought here

Dance Scholarship Oxford‘s first event of 2018 is a real treat; a film night featuring a screening of New Wave Ballet, Lynne Wake‘s documentary film about the early work of twentieth-century choreographer Kenneth MacMillan, newly reversioned for last autumn’s anniversary festival Kenneth MacMillan: A National Celebration.  The film includes historic and lovingly restored footage of some of the ballets as well as interviews with original interpreters.  The showing will be followed by a talk by Lynne Wake on the making of the film, and Dame Monica Mason will also talk about the experience of working with Kenneth MacMillan.  Not to be missed!

Date:  Monday 19th February 5.30pm

Venue:  Jacqueline du Pré Music Building, St Hilda’s College, Cowley Place, Oxford, OX4 1DY

Free and open to all followed by drinks reception, but booking advised

Book here: new-wave-ballet-tickets-41209915968

Further information about DANSOX and its programme of events can be found here

Dance and Academia‘s fascinating seminar series programmed by Miranda Laurence continues this week with its third session presented by Professor Nicky Clayton and Clive Wilkins (Department of Psychology, University of Cambridge):

What is dance without an audience? An investigation beyond language and the complexity of our social interaction to explore wordless thoughts~ to include demonstrations of tango and magic.

i. Does an audience have to be real?
ii. Is dance without an audience merely ritual, resulting in an altered state, and if so, what kind?
iii. Is dance without an audience simply the confirmation of a heartbeat?
iv. Is the introspection of an intimate partner dance audience free, and if so, what is being explored?
v. Is dance without an audience the opportunity to invent and explore realities that exist outside of the compass of shared experience?

Date:  Tuesday 6th February, 6-8.15pm

Venue:  Heritage Learning Centre, Town Hall, St Aldate’s, Oxford OX1 1BX

Tickets: £5 cash on the door per seminar (£1 off for any repeat attenders). Please email to reserve your place.

The seminar series concludes with a Culmination Conference  during the Dancin’ Oxford Festival.  A whole day provides opportunities  for exploring responses around questions of dance and audience. Themes will include dance in ritual and worship contexts; the role of the dance critic; a workshop on the Visual Matrix Method of accessing audience response; investigations into performer-audience connections across Bharatanatyam dance, site-specific work and other disciplines.

Date:  Saturday 3rd March, 10.30am-4.30pm

Venue:  Harold Lee Room, Pembroke College, St Aldate’s, Oxford OX1 1DW

Tickets:  £20 – please book here
Includes lunch and refreshments

For further information visit

October 2017 marks the 25th anniversary of the death of choreographer Kenneth MacMillan.   The festival Kenneth MacMillan: a National Celebration hosted by the Royal Opera House brings together two weeks of performances of MacMillan repertoire by not only the Royal Ballet, but also Birmingham Royal Ballet, English National Ballet, Northern Ballet, Scottish Ballet and Yorke Dance Project, who will be performing his late work Sea of Troubles in the Clore Studio and on tour.  Oxford Dance Writers pays its own hommage to the master here: Susie Crow, a founder member of chamber company Dance Advance for whom Sea of Troubles was originally made and and herself an original cast member, writes about the work, its genesis, and the experience of reviving it for performance by today’s dancers.

Sea of Troubles was commissioned from Kenneth MacMillan by Dance Advance for touring to small and mid-scale venues.  It was officially premiered on March 17th 1988 at the Brighton Festival.  A tour of over 35 performances in what was then the Southern, South East and Eastern regions followed, culminating in two performances at the Queen Elizabeth Hall in London. In the following year there were further performances by the company including at Madrid’s Festival de Otoño, and the company was supported by the British Council to perform it at festivals in China and Germany.  In 1991 the work entered the repertoire of Scottish Ballet for a few performances; and in 2002 it was performed by an ensemble lead by Adam Cooper and Sarah Wildor at the Exeter Festival in commemoration of the 10th anniversary of MacMillan’s death.  It was revived at short notice by Scottish Ballet for performance at the Edinburgh Festival in 2014; and in 2016 was remounted from the original notation by Jane Elliott for Yorke Dance Project, who are currently touring it and performing it at the Clore Studio at the Royal Opera House as part of Kenneth MacMillan: A National Celebration.  I was called in as a member of the original cast to coach and rehearse a new generation of dancers. (more…)

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