The final week of April brought thought-provokingly contrasted dance performances to Oxford. On Tuesday 23rd at the New Theatre the BalletBoyz performed their latest programme Them/Us, shortly to be opening for their first West End season at the Vaudeville Theatre. This two-part programme involves all six male dancers in both pieces. Opening the evening Them was a collaborative choreographic venture by the dancers drawing on elements of their own individual movement, sharing them in a succession of often playful episodes and exchanges. Set in a twilight zone, a gleaming stainless steel tubular cube framework and sleek satin shell suits brought enlivening geometric dashes of light and colour, red, blue, green and purple. The cube defined shifting spaces which the dancers could manipulate, inhabit, swing from and climb up. Movement combined sharp crisp gesture with a lyrical contemporary idiom, integrating tumbling and floorwork in response to Charlotte Harding’s lively but dark toned score; suggestions of character and relationship were glimpsed and a feeling of camaraderie and group identity emerged, even if overall the episodic structure of the piece did not build a sense of narrative or situational development. The performers conveyed lithe fluidity and a smooth assurance, distinct from the rawness of previous BalletBoyz ensembles; no longer projecting a company narrative of emerging talent and inexperienced diamonds in the rough, but a polished professional group. (more…)

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Oxford Dance Writers is delighted to welcome experienced dance critic David Bellan, formerly writing for the Oxford Times, as a guest reviewer; here writing about the recently performed programme of new works by the Yuka Kodama Ballet Group in association with Oxford University Ballet Society.

It’s several years since I have reviewed this company of talented amateurs, but I was as impressed as ever.

They opened with A Night in the Tropics, with tuneful piano music by the exotic Louis Moreau Gottschalk – a half Jewish, half Creole virtuoso pianist admired as a child by Chopin and Liszt. The work falls into seven parts, allowing Kodama to highlight most of her cast, choreographing for each performer according to their abilities. It has a classical look. It was well danced, and clearly well rehearsed. Most impressive, for entirely different reasons, were the company’s two boys: Matt Pybus and Taiga Kodama-Pomfret. (more…)

A must for lovers of ballroom and theatrical dance, iconic show BURN THE FLOOR comes to Oxford’s New Theatre for one night only.  In the past two decades BURN THE FLOOR has revolutionised Ballroom style. Combining jaw-dropping choreography by director Jason Gilkison and ground breaking moves, the show brings its now famous, infectious and rebellious energy to the stage every single night.  Go to see it for jaw-dropping choreography and ground-breaking moves starring Strictly Come Dancing favourite Kevin Clifton, and the new Italian heartthrob, Graziano Di PrimaJohannes Radebe – currently a professional dancer on Strictly Come Dancing, previously  on Dancing with the Stars South Africa, rejoins the Burn the Floor company.

“Burn The Floor is the show that ignited a spark in me and changed me forever as a performer. Through Broadway, West End and touring all over the world this show has ripped apart the rule book and shaped me as the dancer I am today.” – Kevin Clifton

From seriously romantic Waltz, to a futuristic Foxtrot, the passion of the Tango and Paso Doble cut right through. You will revel in the emotional power of the Cha Cha, the Samba and Jive, and be left breathless by the smoking, irresistible Rumba.

With Kevin headlining this electrifying production, along with lights, costumes and eclectic live music, it will have you leaping out of the seat to join in.  Don’t miss your chance to experience the pure dance joy of Burn the Floor.

Performance:  Friday 24th May 7.30pm

Venue:  New Theatre, George Street, Oxford OX1

Tickets:  From £23.90 (transaction fee £3.65); book online here or from the Box Office

Find out more about the show here

Oxford Playhouse welcomes the internationally-acclaimed Clod Ensemble for the first time on Monday 20 and Tuesday 21 May with their new show On The High Road: an intoxicating explosion of music, movement and light.  This highly anticipated new production is a gripping, vivid piece of theatre which combines a stark monochrome design, kaleidoscopic movement and exhilarating music. The central image feels especially relevant in a world in which difference and intolerance, displacement, refuge and climate change are omnipresent, and we must work out how to live together.

A disparate group of people find themselves caught in a terrible storm On The High Road. Whether old or young, pilgrim or party-goer, they must all seek refuge under the same roof. As the night draws in, they dream, pray, dance, party and fight – waiting for the dawn to come. At once dance, theatre and gig – On The High Road’s turbulent blend of movement and music defies categorisation.

Directed by Suzy Willson, a dynamic company of outstanding dancers, actors and singers warp time and perspective to create an epic moving sculpture. We watch human beings as if under a microscope, attempting to share space within their homes, cities, states and continents.

Suzy Willson said: “We have always been fascinated by how the spaces we inhabit affect how we relate to each other, how we move and feel. In On The High Road we wanted to explore the relationships between patterns of movement and these spaces, within our own bodies, our homes, families, cities, and continents. We wanted to squeeze it all within a small white structure on the stage.”

Paul Clark’s original score counterpoints wind howls, downpours and thunderclaps with the brilliance of the human voice. Twisted classical textures stumble into drunken bar-room pianos, and mournful songs build to pulsating clubby rhythms. Featuring live performances from Irish folk singer Thomas McCarthy (Gradam Ceoil TG4’s Singer of the Year 2019), acclaimed soprano Melanie Pappenheim and renowned cabaret singer George Heyworth, one half of Bourgeois & Maurice, the production will offer a true gig experience.

Paul Clark said: ‘There are two main forces at work in the score; the sounds of a storm and the sound of the human voice. All of the music we hear emerges out of a soundscape made out of sampled and processed audio; wind howls, downpours, thunderclaps, rattling lamp posts. It is a hostile sonic environment, always threatening to overwhelm any human attempt to tame it or even be heard. But as the piece progresses three singers find a space for song in this maelstrom – dreamlike evocations of remembered music all haunted by the violent storm that roars away outside.’

Performances:  Monday and Tuesday 20th & 21st May, 7.30pm

Venue:  Oxford Playhouse, Beaumont Street, Oxfor OX1 2LW

Tickets: £22, £19, £15, £10 – Contact Ticket Office on 01865 305305 or book online at www.oxfordplayhouse.com.

Please note that strobe light effects are used during this performance.

Duration: 1 hour 15 mins with no interval

There will be a post show talk after Monday’s performance.

This was a stunning evening of new dance works, alongside extracts from Kenneth MacMillan’s newly revived ballet Playground.  The curtain raiser Who’s It?!, choreographed collaboratively by Edd Mitton and Jordi Calpe Serrats with students from the Centre for Advanced Training at Swindon Dance Centre, was an ingenious preparation for MacMillan’s deeply disturbing work with its references to children’s games. In the duets from Playground that followed, Oxana Panchenko as the Girl with make-up and Jonathan Goddard as The Youth portrayed an emotionally and sexually abusive relationship, enmeshed within violent and coercive social forces, in a ballet that pushes game-playing to a horrible conclusion. (more…)

BalletBoyz’ programme of two short works at the New Theatre on Tuesday showcased the hugely energetic talent of this all-male dance company. Them, a collaborative work between the dancers and composer Charlotte Harding, gave the cast an opportunity to display their considerable technical skills. Harding has worked with BalletBoyz before (she paired with choreographer Craig Revel Horwood for The Indicator Line), and this was an adventurous and exciting work built around the possibilities offered by a giant cuboid scaffold, which the dancers turned and manipulated about the stage. A prop, a piece of scenery, a climbing frame, or simply a space to dance in; it was all these things, and also a source of metaphorical and literal suspense as the dancers’ movement controlled, (or was controlled by) it. At one point, a dancer lay across its lower bar, and was lifted up, suspended like a rag doll; later, he gripped it with one hand and rose suspended in the air above the stage as the structure slowly turned over. (more…)

Fresh from a sold-out week run at the Barbican, Rhiannon Faith’s current work, Smack That (a conversation), has been touring the UK to critical acclaim, and will be performed at Oxford’s Burton Taylor Studio on 25th April.  Rhiannon Faith is a socially conscious contemporary dance artist whose work is an agent for discourse and change; she makes form-defying autobiographical shows that have guts, and that take guts.  Her creative process draws  stories from the communities and artists she works with. The result is work which uses dance and theatre (in their widest meanings) to take the audience on a narrative led journey, which is both challenging and accessible.

In Smack That Beverly is having a party and you are one of her guests. Each member of the all-female cast fearlessly takes on the persona of Beverly to convey real experiences.  The unusual setting creates a safe space for them to reveal the turbulence and challenges they have faced and celebrate their endurance with the audience. Expect games, dancing, humour and a very raw and honest account of domestic abuse.

Rhiannon Faith’s work often involves a wide range of collaborating partners including a psychologist, a neuroscientist, a domestic abuse charity, and most recently a philosopher on virtue ethics and moral psychology.  Smack That (a conversation) has also been published by Oberon Books as an instructional dance play.

Performance:  Thursday 25th May 7.30pm

Venue:  Burton Taylor Studio, Gloucester Street, Oxford OX1 2BN

Tickets:  £10 Book online here, or call the Oxford Playhouse Box Office on 01865 305305

Duration:  1 hour 20 minutes with no interval

Age Guideline:  18+

Find out more about Rhiannon Faith here