reviews


Dame Beryl Grey’s autobiography is both a personal memoir and the story of twentieth century English ballet told from the point of view of one of its leaders. It is fascinating to compare Peter Wright’s Wrights & Wrongs, which covers a similar ground, yet is utterly different; both writers have outlived most of their contemporaries, but Grey seems much the more discreet of the two.

Grey’s approach is chronological, starting with her birth into a happy and loving family, which instilled religious faith, a strong work ethic and respect for authority and British institutions (she is an unabashed royalist). Part One describes in detail her dancing life, as she quickly worked her way up through the ranks of the Sadler’s Wells company, becoming a principal of the Royal Ballet, before launching herself on an independent career, which included becoming the first Western ballerina to guest with the Bolshoi Ballet. Part Two covers her time as Director of Festival Ballet. (more…)

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Ana Barbour’s  Rope, Rock, R… investigates and plays with various materials like a rope, wool, a stone, and experiments with the qualities of these often oppositional and complementary props. She does this with a virtuosity and variety of ideas, aesthetic and controlled use of movement which is a pleasure to watch. (more…)

The affectionate nomenclature “Bollywood” denotes films traditionally produced in Bombay (aka: Mumbai) and which employ some of the distinctive forties and fifties Hollywood narratives. As the program notes for Bring on the Bollywood explain:

“A journalist in the 1970s first coined the nickname for the Hindi film industry by replacing the H from Hollywood with the B from Bombay… which is the capital of the industry.”

The plot in a Bollywood film is filled with romance of one kind or another. Boy meets girl; they immediately fall in love but are then faced with bumpy obstacles so that they seem to fall in and out of love a few times until, finally, working through all these obstacles, they reach a happy ending which is celebrated with a HUGE party. (more…)

Choreographer Ieva Kuniskis’ work is exciting, moving and entertaining. First up last night, Encore was the debut performance by the Remarkable Dance Company. The dance opened with the entire cast in a closely gathered group, right arms raised, before they collectively followed a sequence of gestural movements. To music ranging from Eric Satie’s Je te veux and Csokolom’s Lulu Valse to Lou Reed’s Goodnight Ladies, they took us through a series of scenes that affirmed the dancers’ wit, experience and individuality. This was an outstandingly successful engagement between a choreographer and a group of older dancers, who are for the most part without vocational training. Some barefoot, others in shoes, they clearly wore what felt right (and what they could see in; at least two wore their spectacles).  (more…)

The first edition of Oxford Dance Forum’s ODF Presents… at The Old Fire Station showcased work-in-progress by five Oxford based dance artists and companies, as part of a three year Arts Council England funded professional development programme.

Ana Barbour:  Rope, Rock, R…

The opening piece of the evening unwound from a quiet, subtle beginning to great sweeps of movement and sound. The idea of examining the way that a lifeless object such as a length of rope can move and change shape, was an intriguing one, and an original way to develop a performance piece. There was some interesting use of multimedia, with projected images which Ana interacted with quite directly at times, at other times providing a less prominent backdrop.  It felt as though a large span of emotions and characteristics was explored in a short time, from intricate delicate movements and a soft, almost caressing interaction with the hanging rope on stage, to a cheeky, flirtatious moment of tango, and the violent rage of the rock star. Throughout all of these elements, Ana maintained a relationship with the audience; from defiant stares to small smiles and moments where she was facing away from us, one felt included in the journey that played out. The quick switch between different temperaments and movement styles in an instant was impressive, as was her innovative use of the props and media.  (more…)

The Dancing Lives conference at Wolfson College offered an exceptional opportunity for archivists, academics and dance practitioners to discuss and discover new ways to research and write about dance and dancers’ lives.

The speakers for first panel, on Historical Dancing, demonstrated the vast range of material that dance historians draw upon to investigate the past. Mike Webb and Jennifer Thorp used Jeffrey Boys’s manuscript annotations in his almanac of 1667 to paint a picture of the social dancing scene in seventeenth century London; Michael Burden used caricatures vividly to recreate and interpret the scandalous adventures of Mademoiselle Mercandotti, and Julia Bührle showed how the technological invention of the lithograph helped to make Marie Taglioni a ‘superstar’. While the first four speakers showed how creatively scholars use documents, images and ephemera to advance our knowledge, the plenary session, in which Sue Jones expertly interviewed Jennifer Homans, began to explore what the dance itself can reveal. (more…)

My interest was piqued by the chance to watch a dance piece exploring issues of oppression with our current cultural context as a narrative backdrop to hold in my mind – as well as wearing multiple hats: dancer, student of psychology and working in medical research. I wondered how dance as an art form rooted in movement can offer space to explore, express, embody and perhaps come to terms with oppressive situations. How can oppression be conveyed in essence?

We are living in social and political instability resulting from the particular moment, embedded in history. It seems reasonable to propose that people of less privileged demographics – in increasing numbers and inequality – are disenfranchised, feel excluded from opportunities or have experienced discrimination from ruling class decision-making. From narrowing school curriculums, our precarious gig economy, public service and infrastructure funding cuts, NHS privatisation or divisive Brexit strategies, to name but a few examples close to home.  The repercussions of such circumstances include levels of oppression that have psychological consequences such as depression.  (more…)

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