Dance Writers of the Future

The Castaways by Barak Marshall tells the story of a cast of twelve characters trapped in a strange, unexplained, seemingly underground limbo. How they have arrived here and how they are to escape are not clear. Their predicament is nonetheless enthralling.

The characters’ individual stories are played out for us in clever choreographed pastiches, and narrated by a cartoonish, mocking emcee: the jilted bride murdering her way though endless fiancés, the would-be lovers too timid to admit their feelings, the destructively passionate Latin couple and other such familiar tropes. The characters seem to have stepped straight off the pages of a particularly sinister children’s story book, although one under-lined by very adult themes of love, war, fear and bitterness. (more…)

Following consultation with our judges, David Bellan dance critic of Oxford Times, Penny Cullerne-Bown Principal of East Oxford School of Ballet, Susie Crow of Oxford Dance Writers and this year’s special guest, dance critic of The Times Donald Hutera, Oxford Dance Writers has great pleasure in announcing the result of the third Dance Writers of the Future Competition.  The prize for the 17 to 22 years category has been awarded to Emily Romain, for her vivid and perceptive review of Barak Marshall’s work The Castaways, performed by Rambert at the New Theatre on March 19th.  Emily is a recent graduate of Oxford University and an aspiring choreographer looking to further her studies in dance.  Her winning entry will be posted here on Oxford Dance Writers and on the website of The Dancing Times.  We look forward to bringing you further pieces of her writing here, and wish her much luck in her future career.  The judges also wish to offer a special commendation to Sergei Kundik, the youngest entrant in this category, for his evocative and heartfelt account of the dance piece This Bitter Earth.

Oxford Dance Writers would like to express its gratitude to the judges for giving this their time and expert consideration, and to Dancin’ Oxford, The Dancing Times, Oxford Playhouse, New Theatre and Oxford University Press for their generous support.  But above all thank you to all entrants for your interest; we very much enjoyed reading your thoughts and impressions, and would encourage you all to keep on observing, thinking and writing about dance; Oxford Dance Writers looks forward to welcoming your further comments and contributions about what you see – keep in touch!


“The ability to see movement clearly and to describe it evocatively is a rare and wonderful gift.”      Roger Copeland

Calling all young writers – an exciting opportunity to write about dance and win some great prizes!

Oxford Dance Writers is delighted to announce the launch of Dance Writers of the Future 2014, the third competition to find talented young writers on dance.  This year’s competition is once again generously supported by the Dancing Times, and by Oxford venues the New Theatre and the Playhouse, who are donating attractive prizes; and the competition is being promoted and supported by Dancin’ Oxford 2014.  Young writers are invited to submit dance writing on any of the dance shows they see in Oxford between 1st February and 20th March.  There is a lot to choose from!  Go to the Dance Writers of the Future page for full details of how to enter, and a list of shows over the competition period.

And please pass the information to other young people and students of your acquaintance, we would welcome their contributions!

Looking forward to hearing from you…

Susie Crow

A Suitcase for All Occasions – 17th March 2012 at the Old Fire Station

I was not sure what to expect from Paulette Mae’s A Suitcase for All Occasions. It was very well attended, and the atmosphere built up outside as we all waited in the foyer to be let in. The programme seemed to suggest- from Mae’s background and the information we were given- that the three dances would focus on the meaning and unnecessary nature of the material possessions we want and accumulate. The first dance, P.S., seemed more about mother and daughter losing connections than the significance of a dress that the daughter wanted. (more…)

Between, at the Burton Taylor Studio, Friday 24th March

When we entered the Burton Taylor (the tiny studio attached to the Oxford Playhouse, usually given over to student theatre) it was quite dark, apart from a thin shaft of light, and quite empty, apart from the figure of a woman lying in the middle of the floor. We ranged ourselves against the walls, standing. The feeling of anticipation and curiosity is incredible. Suddenly a torch is raised – another woman is caught by its beam in the corner, struggling with a silver coat. The torch bearing man moves round and as it catches the light again the silver glows fiercely, the woman gasps. (more…)

Following the completion of this year’s Dancin’ Oxford Festival, Oxford Dance Writers has great pleasure in announcing the winners of this year’s Dance Writers of the Future competition.  The competition judges were David Bellan, dance critic of the Oxford Times, Susie Crow of Ballet in Small Spaces and Oxford Dance Writers, Penny Cullerne-Bown, Principal of East Oxford School of Ballet, and Miranda Laurence of Dance and Academia. All entrants were in the higher age category and the final winners in a very close contest were as follows:

First Prize: Thomas Stell

Runner-up:  Miranda Frudd

The judges would like to congratulate Thomas for his vibrant account of performance installation Between by Angela Woodhouse and Caroline Broadhead at the Burton Taylor Studio, and Miranda for her thoughtful reflection on Paulette Mae’s A Suitcase for All Occasions at the Old Fire Station.  Both of these winning entries are being posted for you to enjoy.

As part of his prize Thomas received a pair of tickets for Matthew Bourne’s Nutcracker at the New Theatre – his review of this successful and popular production will also be posted very shortly… We hope that both winners will be encouraged to contribute further writings on dance to Oxford Dance Writers and look forward to hearing from them again in future.

Well done to all the contestants, and our grateful thanks to the Dancing Times, New Theatre Oxford and Oxford Playhouse for their support of the competition through generous prizes.

Dance Writers of the Future 2012

Following the successful Dance Writers of the Future project initiated by Ballet in Small Spaces in 2009, Oxford Dance Writers announces a second competition to find talented young writers on dance.  This year’s competition focuses on Dancin’ Oxford 2012, whose programme of exciting dance events, activities and performances from 18th February to 28th March provides multiple opportunities for reflective writing and critique.

  • Entrants are asked to submit a piece of original critical writing about an event taking place as part of the Dancin’ Oxford 2012 programme.  This could be a review of a performance, an account of a workshop experienced, discussion of a talk or conference presentation etc.
  • Length to be approximately 400 words.
  • Entries to be sent to Susie Crow of Oxford Dance Writers either by email, or hard copy by mail – see contact details below.  Please include with your entry your full contact details, including postal address, telephone and email, also date of birth.  Incomplete submissions cannot be accepted.
  • Deadline for submissions 5.00pm Monday 2nd April.
  • A panel of experienced professionals will judge entries and select winners in two categories; under 18 years and 18-22 years.
  • Prizes will include pairs of tickets for forthcoming dance performances in Oxford, including Matthew Bourne’s Nutcracker, and dancers of English National Ballet and Flawless in Against Time at the New Theatre, and joint subscriptions to Dancing Times and Dance Today.
  • A selection of entries including the winners will be published online on the Oxford Dance Writers website, and the competition will be publicised in Oxford Times and nationally through Dancing Times who will publish two winning entries online.

Guidelines for writers:

“Good dance criticism is a multi-faceted endeavour.  It involves – at a minimum – description, interpretation and value judgement.”  – Roger Copeland

The judges will be looking for:

  • Flair, imaginative response
  • Evidence of some informed understanding
  • Inclusion of specific detail and useful information
  • Quality of written English

For the full Dancin’ Oxford 2012 programme: .uk

For information and samples of writing from the previous competition:

For further information about the competition, and to submit entries:

Susie Crow, Oxford Dance Writers

28 Victoria Road, Oxford OX2 7QD

Tel:  01865 557098              Email:

by Rachel Gildea

Not even the pre-show warning from Saori could have prepared me for what I was about to witness. The show was to be an ‘emotional rollercoaster’, and the audience were asked to ‘enjoy the ride’. It came off the rails fairly rapidly.
Moran’s opening line ‘This sucks…I hate doing the show’ set a confusing tone.
‘The show’ was a series of sketches and private jokes between the unlikely double-act: Saori, a charming Japanese dancer and John, an intense and nervy American. Their surreal skits darted with no obvious thread from childhood tantrums to McDonalds’ workers. We were at the mercy of John and Saori’s fickle minds, following the crazy loops and tangents of their thoughts. Was this the rollercoaster?
Perhaps the most puzzling element of ‘the show’ was the conflict between intense preparation and a casual, laid-back delivery. Before he performed the song ‘For Rebecca’ Moran confided his painful love for her. The song was chilling, juxtaposing the low, guitar strings against the high, tortured squeals of his vocals. Suddenly, he interrupted himself, laughing nervously ‘Strange song huh?’ Immediately his performance was demeaned, he was ridiculing himself.
However, the ‘Portrait of Soari’ was impressive. Saori mimed and acted over a pre-recorded sound collage of her quirky sayings (‘Where is my gold earring?’) and Moran’s especially created piano piece. The show was now back on the rails, but unfortunately the ride was over.
The audience were left confused, not knowing whether to applaud. This experimental theatre piece had fizzled and disappointed.

John Moran and his Neighbour Saori (North Wall Arts Centre, Wednesday 18th March 2009)

by Emma Dougan

It’s fairly unusual to begin a ballet performance with ‘behind-the-scenes’ video footage. But then it’s also unusual to be almost knocked over by two young boys running to watch a ballet performance. The Balletboyz’ introduction to their ‘Greatest Hits’ combines their mission statement with their career history, and the general japery that arises when two classically-trained guys travel the world seeking their fortune. It also plays a vital role in bringing down the fourth wall always felt so strongly in ballet, and in heightening their work’s accessibility. In a form in which the artist is necessarily both creator and medium, the Boyz seem keen to emphasise the role of the human rather than the canvas. (This emphasis on shared humanity was sublimely epitomised by the sight of the superhumanly supple Oxana Panchenko resignedly munching a burger on an American sidewalk.)
The first piece of the night, ‘Broken Fall’, lost none of its sense of harmony through its focus on the human and the individual. Its fascination lay partly in the subverted expectations of synchronicity, which seemed the inevitable result of such close co-ordination. There were similar motifs passed around the trio, but each remained a single tone in a chord, rather than striking the same note. The attitude towards the stunning range of lifts was also refreshing, as the male dancers supported each other as well as Panchenko, who in turn struck out confidently, enforcing her own agency throughout.
The subsequent pieces featured both the enjoyment of movement for movement’s sake, and its power for non-verbal communication. Edox witnessed Panchenko and Tim Morris experiencing an almost childish wonder at their bodies’ power, while the relinquishing of physical boundaries in Propeller, an intensely intimate duet between Panchenko and Nunn, created a highly emotive piece laced with tenderness and eroticism.
The finale, a tango choreographed by Craig Revel Horwood, was full of ‘fish out of water’ humour. We saw the dancers learning about an alien form (which is ‘all about discipline. ….And sequins’), and then saw their characters, both in suits evoking the East End diamond geezer, suffer bemusement at their own balleticism, and apprehension at what the other bloke might do next. While I would have enjoyed a finale in the Boyz’ native language, the humour, accessibility, and courage of this piece summed up the source of the Boyz’ charm – which will doubtless inspire others to discover the ballet’s potentials outside the classical arena.

Balletboyz – Greatest Hits (Oxford Playhouse, Friday 23rd January 2009)

By Rachel Gildea

Like a snake charmed from its basket, the first movements of Okan Nijo saw a dancer awaken from a crouch on the floor. As he unravelled and rose higher, his muscular torso pulsed to the energy from the live drums. Six dancers powerfully expressed idea of growth. While their well-spaced feet rooted them to the earth, their wide eyes resembled an infant’s and their shaky arms reached out as if to take something from the void.

Lawal’s exploration included a look at dance throughout diverse cultures. The company maintains a vital link with African dance but their flex-footed arabesques and weighty rolls evoked contemporary dance and elaborate hand gestures where fingers opened up flowers suggested Kathak’s ‘hastas’.

However, where there is growth and aspiration, there is also decay and degeneration. The third piece, Respite highlighted a frightening truth about all human life. The music discordant; harmony was lost to frenzy. Robbed of their deep focus, the dancers looked down, suggesting blindness and self-absorption. The reaching motif was repeated but this time the dancers were grabbing desperately at the air, but falling; missing it. Uprooted, they moved like puppets: limp-limbed, shaking; this time from madness. This was resolved by Sakoba’s new dawn: a flute played like birdsong, the lights shone sunrise-red and the dancers pulsed their torsos as before showing something of the continuity of life, the presence of hope and energy in the hardest times.

Sakoba Dance Company – Respite (Pegasus Theatre, Friday 6th March 2009)

Next Page »