Dance and Academia


The third annual DANSOX summer school was a scholarly investigation into the relationship between dance and inscription.  It treated both concepts in the broadest sense: ‘dance’ encompassed Western movement styles ranging from the Baroque to the contemporary; ‘inscription’ embraced not only the written word and notation, but also the traces preserved in art, photography, film and the dancing body itself.  The format was hybrid, with a small socially distanced audience present in the Jacqueline du Pré Music Building, and a recorded live stream for external participants.

Alastair Macaulay’s opening lecture looked at literary sources of inspiration for dance and the role of notation in protecting, preserving, and challenging our perceptions of works.  Macaulay’s wide ranging discussion, liberally illustrated with film clips and photographs, raised themes developed in the subsequent lectures and dance workshops.  He noted the subtle ways in which choreographers such as Merce Cunningham have drawn on a literary sources, and cited Pam Tanowitz’ interweaving of dance, music and poetry in her Four Quartets.  Macaulay also discussed the ways in which dances change over time; the problems and inadequacies of recordings; the significance of context, and the readability or otherwise of notation, whether that of Vladimir Stepanov or Vaslav Nijinsky.

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During July a week-long summer residency sponsored by TORCH (The Oxford Research Centre in the Humanities) and supported by DANSOX and APGRD (Archive of Performance of Greek and Roman Drama) took place in the Jacqueline du Pré Music Building at St Hilda’s College, Oxford. Curated by Marina Warner the residency brought together international choreographer Kim Brandstrup and two renowned dancers, Laurel Dalley Smith and Liam Riddick to develop a new dance-piece Cupid and Psyche with commissioned score by Edmund Finnis as part of the Dancing with Apollo project, originally devised by violinist Sara Trickey.

Read Professor Sue Jones‘ account of the project here

And view a short film of the residency made by Rocio Chacon now available to view on YouTube here

DANSOX Summer Programme 2021 continues…

DANSOX invites you to a sharing of new choreography Sum Dance – A Collaborative Response by renowned Rambert dancers, Liam Francis and Simone Damberg Würtz.

Date: Sunday 22nd August 2pm.

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

No charge, but limited seating, so please rsvp susan.jones@ell.ox.ac.uk and
cc marcus.bell@st-hildas.ox.ac.uk to confirm a place.

You are welcome to drop in to watch the making of the work any day/time between 17th and 22nd August but please email us first (Covid rules).

DANSOX looks forward to welcoming you during the week or for an after-lunch Sunday treat.

Find out more about DANSOX here

Watch previous DANSOX events on the DANSOX YouTube channel here

The Grace Project is an interdisciplinary investigation into the concept of ‘grace’ in all its forms, which evolved from the research of Professor Sue Jones on literature and dance.  Grace has been central to the development of dance aesthetics, but it has also been challenged by practitioners of modern and contemporary dance.  These two seminars, which were attended by socially-distanced groups of academics, practitioners and interested local people, interrogated the question of what constitutes grace by examining five contrasting dances performed by, and discussed with, members of the Yorke Dance Project led by Yolande Yorke-Edgell.

The dancers presented works by Robert Cohan, Kenneth MacMillan and Yorke-Edgell, the latter consciously channelling the influences of Richard Alston and Bella Lewitzky (who was herself influenced by the choreographer Lester Horton).

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It was great delight to attend the Royal Ballet School’s recreation of Ninette de Valois’ experimental study The Arts of the Theatre (1925) to the music of Ravel’s La Valse.  It was the culmination of a project resulting from archivist Anna Meadmore’s exciting discovery of Ursula Moreton’s choreographic notations in the School’s collections.

The evening fell into four parts:  an illustrated talk by Meadmore, followed by an initial performance of the work by five dancers from the Upper School.  Then, after a brief pause, Meadmore interviewed each of the young dancers, sensitively eliciting their individual responses to the work, and taking questions from the online audience.  Finally the dancers danced again, giving us all a second chance to watch a work that had not been performed since 1932.

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During the fascinating discussion between Professor Susan Jones and Professor Mark Franko, in celebration of the publication of this book, held for DANSOX members via Zoom in November 2020,[1] Franko says: “I worry that the Occupation chapter is overpowering the book”, because the critical responses received thus far, had only written about that chapter. I will attempt to review more of Franko’s tour de force than this chapter, although it is rich with new archival material which uncovers much about the relationship between Serge Lifar at the Paris Opera and the Nazi Occupation.

Franko runs the major theme of the baroque in neoclassicism in ballet, through the body of Serge Lifar, throughout his book. He dissects the French baroque of the seventeenth century and the German baroque of the eighteenth century, their similarities and differences, their nationalist links and how they are reflected in Lifar’s ballets at different stages of Lifar’s career in Paris (1929-1958).

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Another fascinating online dance event coming up from DANSOX: International choreographer, Kim Brandstrup, currently one of two Director’s Fellows at New York University’s Center for Ballet and the Arts (CBA) for 2019/20, will give the lecture, Hearing Footsteps – the ear and the audible in dance and choreographic practice, with practical demonstration from dancers, Estela Merlos and Thomasin Gulgec.

This event will be added to the Jacqueline du Pré Music Building’s YouTube channel from Wednesday 9th December. Watch this and more on the DANSOX playlist.

Celebrate the new book from distinguished dance scholar Mark Franko with this online book launch hosted by DANSOX and hear Professor Franko discussing his work. Many DANSOX supporters have enjoyed his ongoing research for this book on previous occasions; you can read Susanna Reece’s account of his 2015 stimulating lecture The Fascist Legs of Serge Lifar about his emerging research here. The Fascist Turn in the Dance of Serge Lifar: Interwar French Ballet and the German Occupation is the latest publication in the prestigious series Oxford Studies in Dance Theory.

You will be able to find this event online on the DANSOX Playlist of the JduP YouTube Channel here from Tuesday 24th November.

You can purchase a copy of Professor Franko’s book online from Oxford University Press Academic here.

An exciting project initiated by Alice Oswald (Professor of Poetry University of Oxford), with dancers Estela Merlos and Thomasin Gulgec, and composer Joseph Kay, in collaboration with Rocio Chacon (film-maker) and Kevin Mount (designer). TORCH is collaborating with the Oxford University English Faculty, Archive of Performances of Greek and Roman Drama (APGRD) and DANSOX (Dance Scholarship Oxford) as part of the Professor of Poetry Lecture Series, to invite participants to be part of a Poetry Performance, taking place at midnight on Monday 30th November. This event is led by Alice Oswald, current Professor of Poetry as part of the Humanities Cultural Programme. 

This event is an immersive experience, with limited availability now sold out. 500 signed up participants will be mailed a special copy of a poem written by Alice Oswald. At the stroke of midnight, participants are invited to open their poem and step outside to read it. If you signed up to receive one of the limited mailed copies of the poem written by Alice Oswald, you should receive this by 30th November. Full details will be found on your mailed poem.

If you were unable to sign up for the mailed copy, you can still enjoy a slightly different experience of the evening. Two copies of the poem will also be sent to two dancers who will be filmed opening and reading the poem, so there will be an online performance via YouTube happening at the same time. The performance will be released via the TORCH Oxford YouTube channel at midnight. Watch the performance here.  

Date: Monday 30th November 11.59pm​

Dance Fields is an important collection of papers, arising from a 2017 conference convened by the Centre for Dance Research (Coventry University), the Centre for Interdisciplinary Research in Dance  (De Montfort University) and the Centre for Dance Research (University of Roehampton).  The conference celebrated the coming of age of Dance Studies within the ‘academy’ and is evidence of the breadth, depth, and originality of research on dance in UK universities.  Stephanie Jordan’s Opening Panel Paper notes the vast range of dance scholarship, embracing areas as diverse as history, philosophy, anthropology, sociology, dance science, and of course the dance itself; its choreography and practice.  This collection, through its scope and varied styles of presentation, with examples of interaction between ‘traditional’ and practitioner modes of scholarship, demonstrates the intellectual extent and value of Dance Studies as a discipline in its own right.

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