reviews


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…)

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…)

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…)

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