Dance and Academia


Sharon Skeel’s biography of Catherine Littlefield underlines the fragility and ephemeral nature of dance careers, schools and companies. During the course of her short life, Littlefield, building on work begun by her mother, became Philadelphia’s foremost ballerina, teacher and choreographer. She headed up her own ballet company, the Philadelphia Ballet, which toured widely in North America and even to Paris, Brussels and London, and her school provided several dancers for Balanchine’s inaugural class at School of American Ballet. Since she died aged 46 in 1951, her contribution to the development of ballet in the United States has largely faded from memory. (more…)

“Modern dance is a bottomless pit of possibilities and I have only scratched the surface” (Paul Taylor)

This year’s DANSOX Summer School was, of course, conducted online. At a time when the coronavirus has made us acutely aware of our bodily fragility, I was particularly struck by a focus on the corporeal in these seven lectures, the first two concentrating on American choreographer Paul Taylor, the second of which is discussed in detail here. All of the lectures remain available on YouTube via the St Hilda’s website.

I must confess to not having heard of Taylor – but was relieved to hear from the webinar that followed that I was not alone. As well as Alastair Macauley’s guest lecture, I highly recommend his obituary of Taylor in the New York Times – the comments are a joy to read and show how highly regarded Taylor was in his native land. (more…)

The second DANSOX summer school was a triumph. Delivered remotely in the middle of a pandemic that has driven theatrical and academic activities online, it was a wonderful opportunity for an international audience to enjoy seven pre-recorded lectures on dance by practitioners, early career researchers, and a leading dance critic. The programme fell into two halves: a two-lecture memorial to Paul Taylor, followed by five lectures investigating the inter-textual and interdisciplinary nature of dance, and a concluding live Webinar on Zoom chaired by Professor Sue Jones.

Alastair Macaulay’s opening lecture was actually the last talk to be uploaded after which it was well worth returning to listen again to all the lectures in their correct order: Macaulay’s talk prepared the ground, sowing seeds for themes that the other speakers, whether by accident or design, picked up upon, including modernism and post modernism; the corporeal and abstraction; musicality; classicism; the visual arts, and the choreographer as dramatic poet. (more…)

Performing Epic or Telling Tales is a monograph companion to the edited volume Epic Performances from the Middle Ages into the Twenty-First Century (OUP, 2018). The monograph offers authors Fiona Macintosh and Justine McConnell an opportunity to investigate and seek to account for the increased popularity of story-telling and narrative in live theatre since the turn of the twenty-first century. It is not a book about dance, but the earlier edited volume contained contributions by dance scholars, and this monograph includes a chapter on ‘Telling Tales with the Body’.

Macintosh and McConnell start from the premise that twentieth-century theatre saw an anti-narrative turn (seen, for example, in the work of Samuel Beckett), and they seek to chart and hypothesise reasons for the subsequent (re-)turn to narrative that they perceive in theatrical works, including dances, since the millennium. In their Preface, they propose that this twenty-first century ‘narrative’/storytelling (re-)turn is often a turn to Graeco-Roman epic. However, their definition of ‘epic’ in the context of performance extends beyond ancient Greece and Rome, embracing other cultures and story-telling traditions, and oral modes of creating, improvising and performing, as they reflect on the ways in which epic can cast an alternative gaze upon contemporary society.

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Following the success of the inaugural Dance Scholarship Oxford (DANSOX) Summer School in 2019 at St Hilda’s College Oxford, a second, this time virtual Summer School is being programmed by Professor Susan Jones.  Events will be available to view on the Jacqueline du Pré Music Building’s YouTube channel from 16th July 2020.

DANSOX Virtual Summer School 2020 includes two strands:

Celebrating the work of the distinguished American dancer and choreographer Paul Taylor (1930-2018):

Alastair Macaulay (international dance critic and writer): lecture on the life and work
Parisa Kobdeh (ex-Paul Taylor dancer): on practice and technique.

New Scholarship on Dance: text and practice

Joseph Kay (composer) on musical notation and dance notation
Susie Crow (choreographer and writer): aspects of the ballet class
Marcus Bell (DPhil student, St Hilda’s) on Pina Bausch and the classics
Megan Smith (2020 English Finalist, Oxford): literary criticism meets fiction and performance in John Haskell’s The Complete Ballet: A Fictional Essay in Five Acts (2017)
Anna Chamberlain (2020 Art History Finalist, Oxford): Hilde Holge, German Expressionist dance and photography.

Find out more about DANSOX here and get ready for the Summer School by watching some past events here.

Following his rich contributions at the 2019 DANSOX Summer School, Dance Scholarship Oxford has scheduled another opportunity for Oxford dance enthusiasts to hear the immensely knowledgeable Alastair Macaulay, former Chief Dance Critic of The New York Times, in a guest lecture on the great twentieth-century choreographer, George Balanchine.

Date:  Thursday 5th March 17:30 – 19:00

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

The event is free and open to all and will be followed by a drinks reception. Registration required on Eventbrite here

Why host an event which presents dance work focusing on various human rights issues in 2020?  This is a volatile time for many of us in the world, although the concept and ethos of human rights enables us to reflect upon the fact that at any given time human beings are fleeing persecution and seeking to affirm their human rights.  And so, in our turbulent times it is urgent to ask—what is our commitment as artists and human beings to the idea and practice of human rights?

My own introduction to human rights came a long time before I knew what that concept entails.  My political education was on the pro-Palestinian Israeli left, and so I’ve come to learn of human rights from the wrong side of history.  Even when my every day was shielded by walls and checkpoints from events of huge historical consequence occurring sometimes less than a few miles away, I knew well these events are part of my own life. And I realized early on that no one is free until everyone is free, and our human fate is entangled in others and so we have responsibilities towards them. (more…)

What can contemporary dance tell us about human rights? What can hip hop say about equality and human dignity? Join an evening of dance and discussion to find out.  Curated by scholar of dance and political philosophy Dr Dana Mills, this programme at the Old Fire Station is part of Oxford Brookes University’s forthcoming festival Think Human – what does it mean to be human in 2020?.

Dancing Human Rights offers an exciting opportunity to watch live dance that explores the theme of human rights, with powerful performances from respected dance artists Blakely White-McGuire, Eliot Smith and Oxford based emerging group Body Politic Dance; and to celebrate art’s power to challenge the social and political turmoil we face around the world today.

Performance:  Saturday 1st February, 6.00pm

Venue:  Arts at The Old Fire Station, 40 George Street, Oxford OX1 2AQ

Tickets:  The event now is sold out but if you would like to attend, or for more details, please contact Dana on d.mills@brookes.ac.uk

For more information about this programme read the curator’s blog here

Another important evening programmed by DANSOX, and not to be missed.  As the Richard Alston Dance Company prepares and undertakes its final performances before the company’s closure in the spring after 25 years, major contemporary choreographer Sir Richard Alston brings dancers from his company to the Jacqueline du Pré Music Building prior to their performance at Oxford’s New Theatre on Wednesday 22nd January, to demonstrate his work as he and distinguished dance and music scholar Professor Stephanie Jordan reflect on his life and career.

Date:  Monday, 20th January, 5.30pm

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

Tickets: The event is free and open to all, but booking is essential. Book online here

Refreshments will be available.

 

Dance Scholarship Oxford, DANSOX begins its 2020 programme with an exciting evening of music and dance: Making The Cellist.

In the lead up to the highly anticipated premiere of The Cellist in February, the Royal Ballet and choreographer Cathy Marston come to Oxford to discuss Cathy’s choreographic process for her new work for the Royal Ballet inspired by the momentous life and career of the renowned cellist, Jacqueline du Pré, in the building named after her; including live demonstration by dancers from the company.

Date:  Monday, 20th January, 8:00pm

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

Tickets: The event is free and open to all, but booking is essential. Book online here

Refreshments will be available.

 

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