Ovid’s Metamorphoses – an epic poem exploring myths of transformation, love and loss – is the inspiration for a new work created by young Swiss dance company Le Marchepied. Their latest work – forming part of their tour of the UK – is the result of their collaboration with Ancient Dance in Modern Dancers (ADMD).  ADMD is a TORCH (The Oxford Research Centre in the Humanities) funded project that seeks to investigate the Roman dance form tragoedia saltata (Roman pantomime) and to “develop ways of articulating the knowledge derived from kinaesthetic engagement with ancient material.”

The performance itself was preceded by a free workshop in the Jacqueline du Pré Music Building, at St. Hilda’s College, Oxford.  The workshop was open to anyone who wanted to learn more about the form of trageodia saltata and how it may be used in a contemporary setting to generate movement material or interpret ancient texts.  Helen Slaney (Classics Fellow at St. Hilda’s College) of ADMD kicked off proceedings with an intriguing, informative introduction to the form of Roman pantomime.  Referencing texts by ancient satirist Lucian, Slaney detailed the necessity of narrative precision in the dance form and also stated particular movements – such as freezing, falling or reaching – that would have been used by performers to physically recount the mythological tales. (more…)

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Scholarly, artistic and professional, Avid for Ovid’s highly original creative work was on show in a series of performances as part of the Ashmolean’s wildly popular sell-out DeadFriday Halloween happening.

Accompanied by Malcolm Atkins, dancers Susie Crow, Marie-Louise Crawley and Ségolène Tarte used Roman pantomime to explore the grief and horror of death. As we sat on the floor of the Cast Gallery, a line of candles marking the edge of the performance area like footlights, we saw expressions of human and beyond-human emotion, the quality of each experience being powerfully affected by whether or not the dancers wore masks. Crow, who was unmasked, gave a profoundly moving portrayal of Aurora grieving for her son Memnon that fell firmly within the range of human empathy. On the other hand, when the dancers wore masks, Crawley’s dread-inspiring transformation into a tree and Tarte’s terrifying embodiment of a werewolf seemed almost to pierce the veil that hangs between the natural and the supernatural.

Among the academic papers, craft workshops, musical performances and a theatrical re-enactment of a Roman funeral, Avid for Ovid evoked both pity and terror in its audience: the ultimate Halloween experience.

Maggie Watson

1 November 2015

Getting a ticket to a dance programme arouses comfortable expectations of pleasure – of colour, patterning and conformity. In Oxford’s Burton Taylor studio last week, Donald Hutera’s GOlive programme was satisfyingly full of all of these – but it was also never predictable, oddly fragmented and often deeply unsettling. And in my head the after-images are of faces as much as of body shapes – a heat of emotional impact – a sense of hope – a touch of catharsis.

The very ordering of the programme forced strange juxtapositions. It began with what Shane Shambhu described as his “lecture-demonstration” – a cogent dance drama through which his personal narrative wove a coherent thread. Twenty-seven years of bharatanatyam dance gave his work an assured technical underpinning. But it was its immediacy and variety that made it so accessible to academic, pensioner and child in the fifty-strong studio audience. For this was a narrative that flowed by Nritta – by taps and clicks and thumps – through sounds vocal and guttural – as well as by the mime and dance of Natya, the shifting registers of formal delivery, of conversational English, of interactive name games and the musicality of Shane’s native Kerala tongue. Never before have I been more aware of dance as one member of so intimately interconnected a family of languages. (more…)

In continuation of the fascinating research work begun in 2013 on ancient Roman pantomime, Ancient Dance in Modern Dancers (ADMD) in association with Avid for Ovid (A4O) are pleased to invite you to an afternoon of talks and performance on Friday 28th November.

ADMD Colloquium 2

Lady Brodie Room, St Hilda’s College  1.30pm – 5.00pm

The theme of this year’s colloquium is Communicating Nonverbal Emotion. Confirmed speakers include Susan Jones (Oxford), Anne Woodford (École Normale Supérieure), and Audrey Gouy (Ca’ Foscari). A detailed programme will be available shortly at http://www.torch.ox.ac.uk/ancientdance. We also invite your participation in a round-table discussion on the future of the network.

A4O present Morphing in Progress

Al Jaber Auditorium, Corpus Christi College, Oxford   5.30pm – 7.00pm (Doors open 5.15)

A showing of new work under development by Avid for Ovid (Susie Crow, Ségolène Tarte, Marie-Louise Crawley & Malcolm Atkins).  The showing will be followed by a Q&A with A4O about their creative process. http://avidforovid.blogspot.co.uk

For more details or to register, please contact helen.slaney@st-hildas.ox.ac.uk or sign up via Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/events/744532448933358/  The event is free of charge but we would like to keep track of numbers for catering purposes. If you’re unable to join us for the whole event, you are welcome to attend either the talks or performance separately.

ADMD acknowledges the support of The Oxford Research Centre in the Humanities (TORCH).

Metamorphoses – dance interpretations of the poetry of Ovid is an evening of dance and music based on interpretations of Ovid’s Metamorphoses performed by members of the Avid for Ovid group who have been working  in collaboration with the Oxford University research project Ancient Dance in Modern Dancers.  The event is a showing of work in progress, and will involve audience participation in that artists and academics will be asking for feedback.  Dancers Susie Crow and Ségolène Tarte with composer Malcolm Atkins introduced by classicist Helen Slaney will demonstrate some of their practical processes and emerging studies.  The researchers are eager to find out what audience members see in the pieces and how the communicability of an ancient solo narrative dance form might be developed in a contemporary context. (more…)