reviews


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…)

Woolf Works opens with a recording of Virginia Woolf herself reading from her lecture On Craftsmanship, “Words, English words, are full of echoes, memories, associations …”. If the purpose of ballet is ultimately communication, Wayne McGregor has set himself a problem: how is it possible to add to what Virginia Woolf has already said with words in the three books that inspire the ballet? The depth and density of Woolf’s writing as she moves in and out of the minds of her characters cannot be directly replicated in dance, but by taking themes in the novels as a jumping-off ground, McGregor and his dancers are able to use movement to delve into the human psyche. (more…)

Black shapes twist and turn languidly in the water. Reflections ripple out. Now a foot, now a hand shows; a figure faces down into the water. The refraction of light causes strange foreshortenings of limbs, odd bulges break from the surface as air moves around a wetsuit. A twiggy chorus of hands lifts, turning slightly, then shifts apart again. Figures sway horizontally, pushed and pulled by the heavy liquid mass around them. Accompanied by a minimalist score of growing intensity, this is mesmeric watching.

Pond, a piece by Helsinki-based integrated dance company Kaaos Dance, takes place in the spa area of a hotel some 20-odd kilometres outside of the city. We audience members first encounter each other on a coach outside Madhouse theatre, which is hosting the event. During the journey through a bleak January afternoon landscape of dirty snow and black trees, we are instructed to turn off our smart phones and invited to relax into a ‘retreat’, an experience aiming taking us out of the real world for a short while. (more…)

Lucy Suggate and James Holden’s performance of Pilgrim, an investigation into what it is to lose yourself in music, is unforgettable. The theatre was dimly lit, the light diffused by a tinge of pink and blue, with chairs arranged around the edge of the room to leave as much performance space as possible. It was a wet night, and our shoes left damp patches on the dance floor as we edged around it to our seats, but fortunately Lucy Suggate is a ‘terpsichore in sneakers’ – literally – wearing tracksuit bottoms and a long dark shirt buttoned to the neck, which in time she removes revealing a gleaming mosaic-encrusted evening top. (more…)

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