reviews


The Chosen Maiden, a novel by Eva Stachniak, is difficult to place. The “chosen maiden” of the title refers at one level to the young girl chosen by a community for ritual sacrifice in Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring. The ballet depicting this ritual was choreographed by Nijinsky; and it is Nijinsky’s sister, Bronislava Nijinska, who is the protagonist of Stachniak’s book.

It appears from Stachniak’s account that Bronislava missed dancing the role of the chosen maiden in Paris despite longing to do so. She had become pregnant just as rehearsals for Rite’s opening began and so she was unable to fulfil perhaps the deepest of her many ambitious dreams: to dance the part of the chosen maiden under her brother’s direction and for its dramatic opening. However, as the novel portrays her, Bronislava’s often sad, even tragic, life somehow carried – bore sacrificially – the many painful experiences of her birth family, her country, her profession, her gender and her personal relationships. In this respect the rejections and losses of her life represent the painful submissions of the ballet’s chosen maiden. (more…)

Jess Ryan-Phillips writes her first piece for Oxford Dance Writers, a review of Scottish Ballet’s powerful contemporary double bill, on show last week at Sadler’s Wells Theatre, London:

MC14/22 (Ceci est mon corps)
From the first moment, this production for twelve of the company’s male dancers by choreographer Angelin Preljoçaj created an intense world of ritual, religion and violence.  Pairs of dancers explored the fine line between embracing and causing pain, using exceptional control in displaying different states of the body: sometimes seeming so lifeless that they were being manipulated like rag dolls or puppets, sometimes moving explosively, fighting and flinging each other around the stage. (more…)

Northern Ballet’s new work, based on John Boyne’s eponymous book, tells a complicated story set in and around a death camp in the midst of the Holocaust. This is extraordinarily difficult subject matter, which does not lend itself easily to narrative dance, and choreographer Daniel de Andrade along with his collaborators (dramatic coach Patricia Doyle, designers Mark Bailey and Tim Mitchell, and composer Gary Yershon), has done well to convey the complex plot.

The score, which is demanding to listen to and intricate to play, is integral to the work, and at times the instrumental accompaniment and danced steps seem to represent conversations between the characters, in the manner of a scene in a nineteenth century ballet. (more…)

Last week, Richard Alston Dance Company brought Oxford Playhouse a programme that was all about surprising encounters: tango and contemporary dance; Britten and Purcell; Scarlatti and Andalusia; Indian and Western classicism.

The evening opened with Martin Lawrance’s Tangent, a clever take on tango for four couples, set to Piazzolla’s Las Cuatro Estaciones Porteñas, which was played at the grand piano on stage by Jason Ridgway. Lawrance uses steps such as picked up foot-crossing walks, sharp changes of direction and occasional close holds to hint at tango, but this contemporary dance piece is not at all like ‘Strictly’, although there is plenty of spectacle. (more…)

Rambert’s adventurous programme shows a commitment to new work and artistic collaboration that gloriously affirms the company’s long heritage and roots in the post-Diaghilev dance diaspora.  The evening opened with Kim Brandstrup’s Transfigured Night, followed by Didy Veldman’s The 3 Dancers, and concluded with a revival of Christopher Bruce’s Ghost Dances. Live musical accompaniment was intrinsic to the immediacy and vigour throughout.

Brandstrup’s study of painful choices as a couple’s relationship teeters on the brink of failure courageously uses the music (Arnold Schoenberg’s Verklärte Nacht) that Antony Tudor chose for his ballet Pillar of Fire, but his conception is original and completely different from Tudor’s. (more…)

If his more recent works are Hollywood blockbusters, Matthew Bourne’s Early Adventures is more like quaint, arthouse cinema (a metaphor that seems very apt regarding Bourne’s filmic inspirations). The whole evening has a gentle feel, more subdued and less emotionally diverse than Bourne’s full length productions. This is presumably attributed to the fact that all three works deal more with concepts and ideas opposed to narrative storylines (which more naturally lend themselves to an emotional journey), however this style of choreography brings its own charm, creating a light-hearted and relaxed atmosphere. (more…)

As someone with no knowledge of juggling beyond the much applauded performances of enthusiastic jugglers at Swedish Swing Dance Camps, I merged into the audience at The Oxford Playhouse in September 2015 to see Gandini Juggling’s 4×4 (Empheral Architectures). Four ballet dancers, four jugglers, aesthetically enchanting and quite unlike anything I’d seen before. Co-choreographed by ex-Royal Ballet dancer turned choreographer Ludovic Ondiviela and Gandini Juggling’s Sean Gandini, simply said, I loved it. Awareness of the expertise of the performers in both disciplines skimmed barely discernible beneath the beauty of the piece – a combination of two languages brought together into something new and something I now recognise as a trademark ambition of the company.

Thomas J. M. Wilson’s book, designed to be dipped into with colour-coded sections, helps the reader to develop their knowledge of juggling and in particular the approach of Gandini Juggling and the environment from which it emerged. Echoing its subject matter, the book encourages you to create your own trajectories through the text. (more…)

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