reviews


Professor Richard Beacham’s account of the rediscovery and re-generation of Hellerau as the European Centre for the Arts was both romantic and inspiring. Founded by Karl Schmidt and Wolf Dohrn in 1909 as a garden suburb of Dresden, Hellerau was an ideological attempt to create a community that would live and work in social equality and harmony in an idyllic setting. Hellerau became the home of an Institute and Festspielhaus that drew together the ideas and practice of the progressive innovators , and has been cited as the birthplace of modern theatre. Experimental work at Hellerau embodied theories in which architecture was subservient to rhythm, light created space, and the human body became the medium of transmission between dramatist and audience. These works of living art influenced dance, theatre, music and design in ways that are visible not only on stage but also in our urban surroundings today. (more…)

A huge inflated plastic bubble fills the theatre space, we remove our shoes and are ushered in 8 at a time, told to stand, sit or move around as we please (but like most audiences, don’t budge once we decide to sit!).  The bubble is constantly being filled with air and we must enter quickly so the entrance can be zipped shut again to avoid too much deflation.

Once inside the audience huddle in small groups on the floor.  There is an air of anticipation and curiosity. Throughout the space hang white mesh sculptures moulded into the shape of body parts.  These ghost images bob up and down in the space as the air level fluctuates and the final members of the audience are let in.  Three dancers enter with them and begin to walk about the space. They appear human but there is something very alien about them at the same time.  A soundtrack with a voice begins, and the dancers are signing the words, the voice repeats itself ‘we have decided not to die’. (more…)

A beautifully intimate friendship, a shared curiosity and a lot of satisfying movement.

Following a lovely curtain raiser from the inclusive dance company Parasol Dance Group  full of talented young dancers, 111 begins with an empty scaffolding in soft lighting waiting to be occupied.

Joel Brown (a paraplegic dancer and singer-songwriter, currently dancing with Candoco Dance Company) enters the space, gets out of his wheelchair and begins a solo of floorwork. This solo was the first of many highlights from the work; Brown fluidly glides across the floor releasing into a series of rolls, balances and spirals. He then begins to tell us how the partnership with Eve Mutso (freelance dancer and choreographer, former Principal Dancer of Scottish Ballet) began, and about a series of notes he sent to her each starting with “Eve I have to tell you something.” (more…)

On Sunday, Oxford Dance Forum celebrated Evolution, its three-year professional development programme for dance artists, funded by Arts Council England and Oxford City Council. Events were free to attend, but had sold out quickly and I was lucky to catch performances by Jenny Parrott, Naomi Morris, and Joëlle Pappas with musician Christopher Redgate, before a discussion led by dance dramaturg Miranda Laurence.

Jenny Parrott’s part-planned, part-improvised performance of With or without (tea and cake) in the OFS Café created an intimate and friendly atmosphere as she led us through a daydream laced with absurdity and gentle humour, built around ordinary domestic objects (a cup of tea; a ball of wool; a hat …). Initially her props were hidden beneath a cloth but she was visible, then in a neat reversal she removed the cloth so that we could see the objects, before covering her face. It was an enjoyable opening to this part of the afternoon programme. (more…)

There is never a dull moment in this collection of interviews with dancers associated in one way or another with the various companies collectively described as the ‘Ballets Russes’. The book tells their story from the Diaghilev period, through the de Basil, Blum and Denham years, right up to the final days of the Marquis de Cuevas’ company, and concludes with an ‘Afterword’ with John Neumeier. Tamara Karsavina, who died in 1978, is included, by means of an interview with her friend the dancer Rachel Cameron, but it is the later generations, from Alexandra Danilova (born 1903) to Maina Gielgud (born 1945) that are best represented. (more…)

Marius Petipa worked for the Russian Imperial Theatres as dancer and ballet master for sixty-three years, from 1847 until his death in 1910. He choreographed over fifty original ballets, creating works with composers who ranged from Pugni, Minkus and Drigo to Tchaikovsky and Glazunov, for some of the greatest dancers of the nineteenth century. His influence on ballet is incalculable, yet Nadine Meisner’s meticulously researched biography is the first coherent, full length, account of his life.

Meisner’s eagerly anticipated book was launched in the UK in June at the DANSOX summer school at St Hilda’s College Oxford, and it does not disappoint. (more…)

Company Chordelia arrived for their third visit to Oxford’s North Wall with their latest production The Chosen garlanded with four and five star credits following a successful opening at this year’s Edinburgh Festival. While touring extensively north of the border this Scotland based company does very few performances in the south, so Oxford audiences are lucky to see it, and to have been able to trace the development of the company’s distinctive style through earlier works about legendary dancer Nijinsky, and Lady Macbeth. Director Kally Lloyd-Jones’ latest piece is a moving meditation on life and death, an intense hour which nevertheless reaches out directly to engage emotionally with its audience; a company of fine dancers come across as believable individuals whose moods and travails we can all identify with. (more…)

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