Sleeping Beauty by Let’s All Dance was a joy to watch. The cast of seven dancers delighted their audience of small children from the start with a brief introduction to ballet gestures for them to try for themselves and look out for during the performance. The story was slightly modified: Carabosse becomes wicked because King Florestan breaks her heart by marrying Queen Celeste but they all forgive each other at the end.

This was a delightful introduction to the ballet, which retained plenty of choreographic references to Petipa’s text. Rosy Nevard delivered Aurora’s Act One solo with speed and attack, and Synanne Day’s Lilac Fairy included the huge developpés with ronds en dedans. There was even a Rose Adagio, albeit with only one prince (whom Aurora definitely did not want to marry), played by James Aiden Kay. (more…)

The Royal Academy of Dance centenary book is beautifully presented; complete with a red satin page marker, burgundy end-papers, a centenary seal embossed in gold on the front cover, and the Academy’s Royal crest on the back.  Generously illustrated throughout, the photographs run through the text like a thread of gold.  There are wonderful images such as Adeline Genée in Robert Le Diable at the Empire Theatre in 1908; Phyllis Bedells teaching in the 1950s; Michael Somes jumping higher than the international high jumper Dorothy Tyler beside him, and Stanislas Idzikowski demonstrating an arabesque in class, wearing a three-piece suit and street shoes.

All pictures are carefully credited wherever possible, but curiously, the main body of the text is unattributed. Apart from Forewords by Darcey Bussell and Li Cunxin, the Introduction by Gerald Dowler, and a short article by Jane Pritchard on the RAD collections at the Victoria and Albert Museum, there are no named authors; only an editor, Johanna Stephenson. (more…)

This year, star performer and founder of the Sona Lisa Dance Company, Sonia Chandaria Tillu, appeared in Oxford as a solo dancer, having established her own choreography and proving that alone on a stage she is able to hold her audience to a spell-binding performance of Kathak dance.  She now bills herself as “an independent artist working in dance, choreography and education.” Her formal training in the classical dance form of Kathak expands to show the influence of other dramatic forms including ballet, yoga, kalaripayattu and ballroom dancing.  Sonia notes that she particularly enjoys performing work which evokes an emotional response in her audiences. (more…)

Following his rich contributions at the 2019 DANSOX Summer School, Dance Scholarship Oxford has scheduled another opportunity for Oxford dance enthusiasts to hear the immensely knowledgeable Alastair Macaulay, former Chief Dance Critic of The New York Times, in a guest lecture on the great twentieth-century choreographer, George Balanchine.

Date:  Thursday 5th March 17:30 – 19:00

Venue:  Jacqueline du Pré Music Building, St Hilda’s College, Cowley Place, Oxford OX4 1DY

The event is free and open to all and will be followed by a drinks reception. Registration required on Eventbrite here

A powerful new dance show based on issues of migration, culture and identity premieres in Oxford, ahead of its international tour. Sona Lisa Dance Company presents the first outing of its new triple bill solo dance show – UNTAGGED – at the Old Fire Station.  The show comprises three distinct dance pieces themed around issues of identity and discarding labels attached by society. These powerful narratives are told through the medium of Indian classical dance form Kathak and contemporary dance with flamenco influences by award-winning dancer and University of Oxford alumni Sonia Chandaria Tillu.

Commissioned by Midlands-based arts organisation Sampad (and with grant funding from Arts Council England and the British Council), Breaking Ground depicts the journey of Sonia’s family migratory story traversing India, Kenya and finally the UK. More broadly, the piece explores how we can resolve some of the emotional conflicts that arise from multicultural identity by viewing them as heritage rather than cultural baggage.  The performance has been choreographed by UK’s renowned Kathak exponent Urja Thakore, with music by the hugely popular Shammi Pithia and poetry by Ugandan poet Wobusobozi Amooti Kangere.

Āgraha is inspired by the extraordinary life of Indian freedom fighter Aruna Asaf Ali and the many contradictions that defined this compassionate radical. Through stunning contemporary dance, with influences from Kathak and flamenco, Āgraha explores deeply ingrained notions of binary identity, challenging us to break out of the boxes we are cooped into by society and ourselves.
Commissioned by Dance Hub Birmingham, Āgraha has been choreographed by renowned contemporary dancer Jose Agudo and the bespoke music score has been created by Bernhard Schimpelsberger.

A pure classical Kathak dance production, Devi (Goddess) uses the expressional and rhythmical qualities of the dance form to explore ideas of spiritual identity, and what it means to be spiritual. The piece has been choreographed by UK’s foremost Kathak dancer and choreographer Sujata Banerjee MBE.

Performance:  Thursday 27th February 7.30pm

Venue:  The Old Fire Station, 40 George Street, Oxford OX1 2AQ

Tickets:  £10-£14, book online here or buy at the Box Office

Sonia Chandaria Tillu is an award-winning Kathak dancer and Artistic Director of the Sona Lisa Dance Company. Disciple of UK’s leading Kathak expert Sujata Banerjee MBE, Sonia’s dance imbibes the rhythmical and musical richness of Kathak, while also extending the fabric of classical movements. Sonia’s work is influenced by her exposure to dramatic arts, ballet, yoga, kalaripayattu and ballroom dancing. Sonia has performed extensively within the UK at prestigious venues such as the Royal Albert Hall and Sadler’s Wells as well as internationally, including in the USA, Kenya, Spain and India.

Sonia says “The purpose of Sona Lisa Dance Company is to develop new audiences that span generations, ethnicities and cultures and this is exactly what ‘Untagged’ does. It takes an age-old art form and applies it to reflect the contemporary world, in this instance by interrogating notions of binary identity. I am really excited to be premiering the show at the OFS, ahead of its tour in Kenya and across the UK. Being OU alumni, I just love Oxford! I received a very warm response from the audiences here when I premiered a previous production here last June as part of Oxford’s Offbeat festival.”

Find out more about Sona Lisa Dance Company here

 

 

 

Dancin’ Oxford‘s annual festival of dance this year provides a packed and varied programme of performances, workshops and discussions, something for everyone to enjoy, in a range of venues.  Here for convenience is a list of all the performances: for details of practical workshops and taster sessions check out the Dancin’ Oxford website here or the links embedded to particular events.  Look out too for Dance Audience Club sessions on 29th February, 3rd March and 6th March; find out more about these friendly opportunites to think and talk about the dance you see with others here.  And if planning to take in several events, why not avail yourself of a Festival Pass which will get you reductions on ticket prices… find out about this here.  A reminder too that the exhibition of photographs by Colin Jones, Backstage at the Ballet, continues to the end of the Festival; further details here.

Moving with the Times:  Pegasus Theatre, Friday 28th & Saturday 29th February, 7.30pm

This annual platform features different companies in new work that is often explosive, moving and thought provoking.  This year’s companies are Amy Foskett Dance in Burning House, Thomas Page Dances in Commonality, and Drishti Dance in Sanket.  Find further information about the programme and how to book here

Festival Launch:  Westgate Centre, Saturday 29th February 12pm-5.00pm

A vibrant afternoon of free dance performances from professionals and local youth dance groups, including Infuse Dance’s BodyGuards, Step2Dance, Messy Jam, TPD Young Artists, Kapow Dance Circus Theatre, Pro-Motion and a special preview of Neon Dance‘s show Puzzle Creature.  Find out more here

Neon Dance Puzzle Creature: Oxford University Museum of Natural History, Sunday 1st March at 11.00am, 12.00pm, 1.00pm, 2.00pm, 3.00pm, complete performance 7.00pm

Experience 10 minute excerpts or a complete performance of this remarkable immersive contemporary dance piece from creative director Adrienne Hart, composer Sebastian Reynolds, designers Numen/For Use, and three exceptional dance artists. Find out more about the evening performance here, and afternoon Encounters here, and read Jenny Parrot’s report of the complete show in a recent performance here

Let’s All Dance Sleeping Beauty: Cornerstone Arts Centre Didcot, Sunday 1st March 1.00pm & 3.00pm

A family friendly version of this much loved ballet with Tchaikovsky’s sumptuous music, talented young dancers and gorgeous costumes.  Find out more here

Joelle Pappas Nocturne:  St Nicholas Church, Abingdon, Sunday 1st March 3.00pm

Lyrical contemporary dance from Oxford dance artist Joelle Pappas inspired by sculptures of Camille Claudel in a programme of French music and song with Diana Hinds (pianist) and Rory Carver (tenor).  Find out more here, and read Maggie Watson’s review of this atmospheric show here

Gecko and Mind the Gap in A Little Space:  Oxford Playhouse, Tuesday 3rd & Wednesday 4th March 7.30pm

Physical theatre company Gecko and performers from Mind the Gap, one of Europe’s leading learning disability theatre companies, come together in an exciting new show with stunning visual imagery.  Find out more here

Richard Chappell Dance Still Touch:  Pegasus Theatre, Friday 6th March 7.30pm

Choreographer Richard Chappell has collaborated with sculptor Anna Gillespie in an evocative work which explores touch through the relationship between three dancers and three life-size sculptures, find out more about this fascinating project here

Sonia Sabri Dance Same Same… but Different: The North Wall, Saturday 7th March 2.00pm

Another family show combining Kathak, hip hop, contemporary and street dance with live music and physical storytelling; playful and feel-good.  Find details here

Enjoy!

Backstage at the Ballet, an exhibition of photographs by Colin Jones, opened yesterday 11th February with a well-researched and entertaining presentation by Jane Pritchard, Curator of Dance at the Victoria &  Albert Museum, on Photographing Dance and Dancers.  Pritchard spoke interestingly and informatively about dancer-turned-photographer Colin Jones, the history of dance photography, and Jones’ photo-journalism, focusing on his work with dancers.  She drew attention to the wealth of social and historical information in his images, from evidence of the terrible quality of studio floors in the 1960s, to the way in which dancers used to spend their ‘down time’ knitting before there were mobile phones. (more…)

Attending the Dancing Human Rights event at The Old Fire Station on 1st February, curated by Dr Dana Mills as part of Oxford Brookes University’s Think Human Festival, was a deeply moving and thought-provoking experience.  Three very different pieces were shown and brought out different responses in me as I watched.

Eliot Smith’s solo excerpt from Pitman depicted the world of the coal miner with his lamp and shovel.  We felt his sweat and labour in the oppressive and cramped working conditions.  We saw the relentless drudgery but also the sense of pride and relief when at last he found the freedom to stand tall and stretch to full height again after a hard day’s work hunched underground. (more…)

In celebration of its 25th and last season of work, the Richard Alston Dance Company is embarking on an international farewell tour. The kind of endeavour you might normally associate with the break-up of a major band, or with Cher – who is perennially on her last tour, and I think has been saying farewell since at least the beginning of the last century, as is the whim of an eternal being. The scale feels only a bit different for Alston and his dancers. Final Edition: Oxford [1] is a culmination of many lives at work together, expanding the practices of modern, postmodern, and contemporary dance in the United Kingdom.

Because of his eponymous title the Etonian has a claim to canonical status and this tour could have become an overwrought monument to privilege and ego. Instead, what we witnessed in Oxford’s New Theatre on Wednesday night was a homage to a history of dance, branded, and shaped by Alston, advanced by collaborator Martin Lawrance, and most importantly, pulled off with immense style, presence, and love by a company of extraordinary dancers. (more…)

Another fascinating opportunity for discussion springing from the Backstage At The Ballet exhibition at The North Wall.  Researchers Dr Bronwyn Tarr and Joshua Bamford will bring Colin Jones’ photographs to life with an engaging discussion on their creative research into the psychological and physiological effects of dance and movement. Bridging the gap between science and dance – and photograph and the viewer – the conversation will invite the audience to explore how science can help uncover the power of moving with others.

Bronwyn and Joshua are based in The Social Body Lab at the Institute of Cognitive & Evolutionary Anthropology, University of Oxford, and both have experience as performers, as well as scientists. They are interested in uncovering the nuts and bolts behind the benefits of being part of a dancing community.

Joshua’s doctoral work aims to understand the social and cognitive processes involved in synchronised movement, through a range of audio-visual perception experiments.

Bronwyn (a TORCH Knowledge Exchange Fellow) is currently exploring how dance-movement therapy might help alleviate loneliness, and is collaborating with local artists to choreograph a performative piece on the embodied experience of feeling alone, and feeling connected.

Date:  Wednesday 4th March, 6.00pm

Venue:  The North Wall Arts Centre, South Parade, Summertown, Oxford OX2 7JN

Tickets:  Tickets for this event are free, but spaces are limited. Please email Nicky Laird, Gallery Manager, on lairdn@thenorthwall.com to book.

Further details on Backstage At The Ballet can be found here