reviews


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…)

C-A-G-E-D performed by  Thomas Page Dances was a thought-provoking performance from a young choreographer who clearly has some strong ideas, and a company of very capable dancers.

In terms of the tone of the movement, there were some effective sections including the very start of the piece, and much of the second half – these showed a contrast between sharp, almost robotic accents and sinuous, natural movements.  These were, for me, the most interesting moments: the choreography developing organically and looking almost improvised, rather than the more gymnastic cartwheels and rolls at other points which felt a little engineered and out of place.  There was a very clear sense of strong emotions being portrayed, in particular panic, anxiety, a palpable tension, and loneliness and isolation. (more…)

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…)

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