reviews


Aporia, presented by Thomas Page Dances at the Old Fire Station last night, is a work of gruelling physicality. It is also didactic and earnest, and felt at times like a lecture illustrated by movement. Billed as an investigation that explores social unrest and the relationship between peace and conflict, the work’s movement vocabulary is vigorous to the point of violence: the dancers throw themselves at the floor landing hard on their hands and feet, contort their backs twisting into backbends with rolling ankles, or confront each other like martial arts practitioners (Page had early training in kick-boxing). Page is not limited by adherence to a specific dance system, and seems to have devised his own training method: company class includes a programme, referred to with some dread by the dancers, as ‘The Ten’, in addition to improvisation and work based on whichever piece is in performance. (more…)

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As part of the Oxford Offbeat Festival, the Sona Lisa Dance Company performed Eleven, twelve, thirteen at The Old Fire Station, a series of dances and spoken reflections based around the traditional rhythms of Indian Kathak. It was a fascinating program, impressive in its professional standard and its often breath-taking beauty; a show of multiple collaborations, devised and woven together by Artistic Director Sonia Chandaria Tillu.

Kathak is the Hindustani name for one of the eight major forms of Indian classical dance. The origin of Kathak is traditionally attributed to the traveling bards of ancient northern India known as Kathakars or storytellers.  It is important to the art of these North Indian dances that they communicate an entire story through non-verbal actions and bodily movements: head turnings, eye glancings, finger shapings, distinctive torso positions from squats to turns and leaps. The intricacies of the stories must be honoured, as well, by the costume colours, the breathing, the hair style and its ornaments of flowers and/or jewels. All the visible details of deportment and dress signify elements of the dramatic story. (more…)

There had been torrential rain earlier in the day, and so I wore walking boots and wet weather gear to go to Gemma Peramiquel’s site–specific work Botanic Dance (part of Oxford Green Week) in South Park. Would the performance take place at all, we wondered, but there was a notice at the gate on Morrell Avenue telling us to follow the red arrows, and so we made our way across the huge expanse of damp grass to the copse at the top of the rise. The cast, children, teenagers and adults dressed in black leggings, assorted green tops and white sneakers, greeted us. We sat on a fallen tree trunk, surrounded by a semi circle of freshly planted flowering pot plants.

Then the music started (improvised on a fiddle with percussion, and later on a squeeze-box). We were asked to turn round, and saw the dancers who had secretly gathered behind us moving among the trees, interacting with them as well as dancing around them, almost treating them like partners. (more…)

Images Ballet Company presented a programme of joyful, colourful and musical work at Didcot Cornerstone Theatre on Thursday. Interlacing originality with tradition, the opening work, Interplay by Mikaela Polley, set the tone for the evening as light gradually bathed the backdrop in blue, revealing percussionist and composer Martin Pyne upstage right, and seven dancers stage left, silhouetted in beautifully placed classical ballet poses.

Images is the company of London Studio Centre’s graduating ballet students (six women, two men this year) and it gave the dancers the chance to work with four different choreographers on new works, exploring ballet as a means of expression and communication. The light hearted Interplay, with its changes of direction and use of pointe and swift, darting petit allegro was full of friendly interactions between the dancers. (more…)

The final week of April brought thought-provokingly contrasted dance performances to Oxford. On Tuesday 23rd at the New Theatre the BalletBoyz performed their latest programme Them/Us, shortly to be opening for their first West End season at the Vaudeville Theatre. This two-part programme involves all six male dancers in both pieces. Opening the evening Them was a collaborative choreographic venture by the dancers drawing on elements of their own individual movement, sharing them in a succession of often playful episodes and exchanges. Set in a twilight zone, a gleaming stainless steel tubular cube framework and sleek satin shell suits brought enlivening geometric dashes of light and colour, red, blue, green and purple. The cube defined shifting spaces which the dancers could manipulate, inhabit, swing from and climb up. Movement combined sharp crisp gesture with a lyrical contemporary idiom, integrating tumbling and floorwork in response to Charlotte Harding’s lively but dark toned score; suggestions of character and relationship were glimpsed and a feeling of camaraderie and group identity emerged, even if overall the episodic structure of the piece did not build a sense of narrative or situational development. The performers conveyed lithe fluidity and a smooth assurance, distinct from the rawness of previous BalletBoyz ensembles; no longer projecting a company narrative of emerging talent and inexperienced diamonds in the rough, but a polished professional group. (more…)

Oxford Dance Writers is delighted to welcome experienced dance critic David Bellan, formerly writing for the Oxford Times, as a guest reviewer; here writing about the recently performed programme of new works by the Yuka Kodama Ballet Group in association with Oxford University Ballet Society.

It’s several years since I have reviewed this company of talented amateurs, but I was as impressed as ever.

They opened with A Night in the Tropics, with tuneful piano music by the exotic Louis Moreau Gottschalk – a half Jewish, half Creole virtuoso pianist admired as a child by Chopin and Liszt. The work falls into seven parts, allowing Kodama to highlight most of her cast, choreographing for each performer according to their abilities. It has a classical look. It was well danced, and clearly well rehearsed. Most impressive, for entirely different reasons, were the company’s two boys: Matt Pybus and Taiga Kodama-Pomfret. (more…)

This was a stunning evening of new dance works, alongside extracts from Kenneth MacMillan’s newly revived ballet Playground.  The curtain raiser Who’s It?!, choreographed collaboratively by Edd Mitton and Jordi Calpe Serrats with students from the Centre for Advanced Training at Swindon Dance Centre, was an ingenious preparation for MacMillan’s deeply disturbing work with its references to children’s games. In the duets from Playground that followed, Oxana Panchenko as the Girl with make-up and Jonathan Goddard as The Youth portrayed an emotionally and sexually abusive relationship, enmeshed within violent and coercive social forces, in a ballet that pushes game-playing to a horrible conclusion. (more…)

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