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…)

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

 

 

 

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…)

Why host an event which presents dance work focusing on various human rights issues in 2020?  This is a volatile time for many of us in the world, although the concept and ethos of human rights enables us to reflect upon the fact that at any given time human beings are fleeing persecution and seeking to affirm their human rights.  And so, in our turbulent times it is urgent to ask—what is our commitment as artists and human beings to the idea and practice of human rights?

My own introduction to human rights came a long time before I knew what that concept entails.  My political education was on the pro-Palestinian Israeli left, and so I’ve come to learn of human rights from the wrong side of history.  Even when my every day was shielded by walls and checkpoints from events of huge historical consequence occurring sometimes less than a few miles away, I knew well these events are part of my own life. And I realized early on that no one is free until everyone is free, and our human fate is entangled in others and so we have responsibilities towards them. (more…)

What can contemporary dance tell us about human rights? What can hip hop say about equality and human dignity? Join an evening of dance and discussion to find out.  Curated by scholar of dance and political philosophy Dr Dana Mills, this programme at the Old Fire Station is part of Oxford Brookes University’s forthcoming festival Think Human – what does it mean to be human in 2020?.

Dancing Human Rights offers an exciting opportunity to watch live dance that explores the theme of human rights, with powerful performances from respected dance artists Blakely White-McGuire, Eliot Smith and Oxford based emerging group Body Politic Dance; and to celebrate art’s power to challenge the social and political turmoil we face around the world today.

Performance:  Saturday 1st February, 6.00pm

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

Tickets:  The event now is sold out but if you would like to attend, or for more details, please contact Dana on d.mills@brookes.ac.uk

For more information about this programme read the curator’s blog here

A beautifully intimate friendship, a shared curiosity and a lot of satisfying movement.

Following a lovely curtain raiser from the inclusive dance company Parasol Dance Group  full of talented young dancers, 111 begins with an empty scaffolding in soft lighting waiting to be occupied.

Joel Brown (a paraplegic dancer and singer-songwriter, currently dancing with Candoco Dance Company) enters the space, gets out of his wheelchair and begins a solo of floorwork. This solo was the first of many highlights from the work; Brown fluidly glides across the floor releasing into a series of rolls, balances and spirals. He then begins to tell us how the partnership with Eve Mutso (freelance dancer and choreographer, former Principal Dancer of Scottish Ballet) began, and about a series of notes he sent to her each starting with “Eve I have to tell you something.” (more…)

After a successful run at this year’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe, dancers Joel Brown and Eve Mutso are delighted to be invited to be part of IF Oxford, Science and Ideas Festival, inspiring conversations across Oxford.

111 (one hundred and eleven) is a powerful duet between these two exceptional dancers as they explore their different strengths and vulnerabilities. Joel is a paraplegic dancer, self-trained, who dances with Candoco – the UK’s leading inclusive dance company and Eve is former principal dancer with Scottish Ballet.  111 is the number of vertebrae Joel and Eve have between them…hypothetically. Eve moves like she has a hundred, Joel’s spine is fused and he jokes he only has 11.

“The power of intimacy burns through this beguiling duet from Eve Mutso and Joel Brown” ★★★★ THE LIST

”…poignant, moving and forward-facing choreography.” FJORD REVIEW

Joel Brown and Eve Mutso first met in 2015 in Scotland, when Scottish Ballet, Indepen-dance and Marc Brew Company were exploring creating a new work. From the first time they danced together, there was an instant rapport. 111 is the result.

“…visually striking… their arms combining in a hybrid semaphoring of graceful resourcefulness.” ★★★★ THE HERALD

“moving duet is something special” ★★★★ THE TIMES

Performance:  Tuesday 22 October 7pm

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

Tickets:  £10 – £14 Book online here or call the Box Office on 01865 263990

Duration:  2 hours approx.

The performance will begin with a set from Parasol Dance Group, and be followed by a open discussion with the performers, a medical researcher and inclusive youth project workers.

Audio description
There is pre-recorded audio description available for the show. If you would like to access this, please contact the If Oxford team: askus@oxscifest.org

You can find further information about the project here (more…)

On Sunday, Oxford Dance Forum celebrated Evolution, its three-year professional development programme for dance artists, funded by Arts Council England and Oxford City Council. Events were free to attend, but had sold out quickly and I was lucky to catch performances by Jenny Parrott, Naomi Morris, and Joëlle Pappas with musician Christopher Redgate, before a discussion led by dance dramaturg Miranda Laurence.

Jenny Parrott’s part-planned, part-improvised performance of With or without (tea and cake) in the OFS Café created an intimate and friendly atmosphere as she led us through a daydream laced with absurdity and gentle humour, built around ordinary domestic objects (a cup of tea; a ball of wool; a hat …). Initially her props were hidden beneath a cloth but she was visible, then in a neat reversal she removed the cloth so that we could see the objects, before covering her face. It was an enjoyable opening to this part of the afternoon programme. (more…)

In an exciting day at the Old Fire Station sharing the recent work of Oxford dance makers, Oxford Dance Forum (ODF) celebrates its Evolution Programme, acknowledging the end of this productive three year Arts Council England/Oxford City Council funded initiative, and marking the beginning of a new entirely independent phase for Oxford Dance Forum.

In December 2019 Claire Thompson, who has overseen ODF since 2006 as part of her role as Dance Officer for Oxford City Council, will be taking a step back to enable the Forum to become fully artist-led. Claire has been pivotal in fundraising for initiatives that support local dance artists as well as building partnerships both within Oxfordshire and other regions, and ODF members are extremely grateful for her work over the past 13 years, as well as for the contributions of many local dance artists who since 2006 have voluntarily given their time as members of the ODF Steering Group.

ODF’s aim is to support Oxfordshire dance artists in their ongoing research and development as makers, teachers, and performers, so please encourage those you know to come along to this event to celebrate its work to date, or consider donating to the ODF collective to help it to continue supporting Oxford’s vibrant and dynamic dance community.

Screenings of dance films, documentaries and performances will run through the afternoon in the dance studio and foyer alongside performances and sharings of Oxford dance artists’ work, see full programme below.

Date:  Sunday 13th October 1.30-9.00pm

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

Tickets:  All tickets are free, but booking is essential.  You can book online for individual events here, or call the Box Office on 01865 263990

as follows:

Mae
1.30pm & 4pm (15 mins) Dance Studio
An informal and intimate opportunity to listen to a specially created podcast by Mae based upon her explorations into creating sound, particularly the use of contact mics, as part of her Evolution funding. Mae will be present to share her feelings on dance experimentation whilst also showing film clips and objects used within the research.

Jenny Parrott, Joëlle Pappas and Christopher Redgate, and Naomi Morris
1.50pm & 4.20pm (1 hour approx) Cafe and Loft
An intriguing and entertaining promenade event of dance, live music, projections, and dialogue that takes place in the Cafe and Loft. Ages 18+ (contains nudity).

Miranda Laurence
3.05pm (45 minutes) Dance Studio
Join Miranda Laurence for a discussion exploring how to watch dance and get more out of it. This talk is open to all – dance makers, regular dance watchers, and those who may have little or no experience of watching dance.

Body Politic, Justice in Motion, Segolene Tarte, Sole Rebel Tap, and Unlock the Chains Collective & Kuumba Nia Arts
6pm (1.5 hours approx) Theatre
A rare opportunity to experience an eclectic mix of works created by 5 Oxford based dance artists and companies, presenting short excerpts in styles ranging from hip hop to butoh, tap to physical theatre, and ballet to performance poetry.

Oxford’s next Dance Scratch Night presented by Oxford Dance Forum (ODF) will take place at the Old Fire Station on Tuesday 24th September.  Another exciting opportunity to support the emerging work of local and regional dance makers.  Artists showing their work for this edition will be Gemma Peramiquel, Jenny Parrott and guest artist Attila Andrasi; and there will also be a chance to view a film (work in progress) by Naomi Morris & Phil Oakley.

Performance:  Tuesday 24th Sptember, 7.30pm

Venue:  Arts at the Old Fire Station, 40 George Street, Oxford OX1 2AQ

Tickets:  £5, available online here, or call the OFS Box Office on 01865 263990