ODF Presents… at The Old Fire Station is becoming a crucial annual fixture in Oxford’s dance calendar, showing new works (in-progress) developed with the support of Oxford Dance Forum.  In this year’s edition Ségolène Tarte, Ajos Dance and Scarlett Turner invite you into their world of movement, music and storytelling, offering a preview of eclectic and mesmerising new works:

Ajos Dance & Company‘s Payson is inspired by the Philippine traditional art of chanting epic poems about the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Fusing Filipino arts culture with western contemporary dance, the work is a cross-art collaboration between dancers and live musicians.  Payson is a colourful and dramatic new celebration directed and choreographed by JJ Formento with dance artist Samantha Harper-Robins and musician Gendy Nicolson and her Oxford-based Filipino band members.  Ajos Dance is a social enterprise fighting poverty in the Philippines through education, arts and local community projects.

Scarlett Turner‘s Come as You Are is a solo piece exploring gender neutrality, obscure sexuality and personal identity.  Scarlett Turner identifies the self struggles of gender stereotypes, non-binary and pan sexual identity through personal experiences from childhood to adulthood.  This solo investigates statement of social identity through contemporary dance, spoken word and live imagery.

Imagine an intimate mythology unfolding through classical form and everyday objects. In her new piece Body-No-Body, set to an excerpt of Simeon ten Holt’s hypnotic Canto Ostinato, Oxford based dance artist Ségolène Tarte invites audiences to take a fresh look at ballet and butoh, and at their emotional eloquence.  With this poignant performance meandering between mystical reverence, angst and enlightenment, the dancer shapes a strange universe and is shaped by it.  Let yourself slip into this mysterious yet familiar world… be transported, charmed, moved by a constellation of delicate hesitant steps, balletic grace and pure expressive movement

“ODF Presents…” is part of a three-year Arts Council England funded professional development programme ‘Evolution’ – which aims to support artists in the development of their own artistic practice and the creation of new work.

Performance:  Saturday 14th July 7.30pm

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

Tickets:  £10, £8 concessions

Call 01865 263990 or book online here

Find out more about Oxford Dance Forum here

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A performance that is entirely, purely, dance is a rare treat in Oxford, but it is what Anuradha Chaturvedi’s company Drishti Dance gave us at the Old Fire Station on Friday in Facet, as part of the Offbeat Festival.  Chaturvedi brought together professional and student dancers in a vivid and innovative double bill of two interlinked works that were quite simply about dance.

Kathak is an ancient, sophisticated and complex Indian classical dance form, redolent of a history that goes back beyond the Moghul kings of North India, with a vocabulary of detailed gestures, stamping and rhythmic spins that thrilled and enthralled the audience on Friday night; and what an audience it was!  The excitement in the auditorium beforehand was palpable, as we heard the sound of the dancers’ ankle bells as they gathered in the wings.  A little boy behind me exclaimed ‘they are like gods!’ – and so they were, in their gorgeous green, blue, orange, black and gold silks, bathed in a mist of coloured light. (more…)

Normative? is a piece with a dark and difficult context – it references recent persecution of the LGBTQ+ community in Chechnya, Russia, and asks a big question: “Is being normal really worth it?”. Thomas Page and his company certainly bought out the intensity of the subject matter, and there were thoughtful, touching details, such as the use of 27 dancers referencing 27 young gay men who were killed in 2017, and a moving soundtrack of spoken word including interviews and personal accounts.  The choreography mixed freeform semi-improvised movements with a structured style which had clear influence from vogueing.  The piece moved through various scenes – the whole group began by walking the stage as a sea of similar motion, but gradually dissipated into more markedly individual and contrasting characters. (more…)

Becoming an established fixture in Oxford’s arts calendar this year’s Offbeat Festival is the third, now bigger and better with over 60 shows across five spaces in the centre of Oxford from the 22nd to the 30th June.  The Festival aims to offer some of the best up-and-coming contemporary performing arts including  theatre, comedy, dance, music, spoken word and family entertainment.  Why not take a risk, dive in and encounter the fantastic creativity of artists from across the country in a stunningly varied programe of work, all new to Oxford.

Dance is represented by three short performances at the Old Fire Station as follows:

Wednesday 27th June 6.15pm:  Thomas Page Dances in Normative

“Categorised. Converted. Conformed.”  This intense work delves into the recent traumatic events of Chechnya, Russia and challenges the way societies create conformity.  Using contemporary dance infused with the virtuosic stylings of Vogue and Contortion this mesmerising performance creates a powerful reflection on the reality of today’s society. It will make you question “Is being normal really worth it?”

Tickets: £10 available on the door, or online here

Running time:  50 minutes

Thursday 28th June 6.15pm:  Forged Line Dance in Lina

A powerful and playful contemporary dance duet, inspired by the lives of brother and sister astronomers William and Caroline Herschel.  Both talented musicians and celebrated scientists, they studied the universe and mapped the stars from their back garden in 18th Century Bath. Lina delves into their complex relationship, where family ties are tested by individual ambition. Dancers swoop and soar like comets, taking us on an extraordinary journey of stars, music and family.

“This was the performance of two exceptionally talented dancers, delivering a choreographic narrative of tangible beauty and humanity…truly enchanting”– Bathcast

Tickets:  £10 available on the door or online here

Running time:  50 minutes

Friday 29th June 7.00pm:  Drishti Dance in Facet

Facet is a Kathak double bill featuring two interlinked works, exploring the evolving facets of the classical Indian form; a reflection on its ever changing aesthetics as it collides with modern values.  Aur-Ek Antaraal contemplates the poetical abstraction of contemporary Hindi poem ‘Aur Ek Antaraal’ penned by India based Dr Rashmi Chaturvedi.  Re-Textured is a study of rhythm, textures and structures. It creates space for reformulating movement vocabulary through absorbing  contemporary human experiences.

Tickets:  £10 available on the door or online here

Running time:  1 hour

Find out more about the Offbeat Festival and check out the complete programme here

Much loved and long established Oxford Youth Dance, led by Cecilia Macfarlane with Elly Crowther, present their latest programme of work at The Old Fire Station.  Flame is a compilation of powerful dances inspired by fire, created by the company and guests including visiting dancers from Japan; offering heat, energy and excitement that will keep the audience warm and send them off dancing too.  They will be dancing with the power and essential nature of fire, and the many myths and stories about how vital this element is in our lives.

Performances:  Saturday 19th May, 3.00pm and 6.00pm

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

Tickets:  £13 Adults, £11 Concessions

Book online here or call the Box Office on 01865 263990

Duration:  75 minutes including brief interval

Find out more about Oxford Youth Dance here and on Facebook here

“Spring is coming…” I wrote in posting an advance round-up of performance and other events for this year’s edition of Dancin’ Oxford Festival 1st – 11th March 2018. It would perhaps have been more appropriate to post “Winter is coming…” as the arrival of the “Beast from the East” took some casualties in the first weekend of programming. Heavy snowfall and consequent travel disruption led to the postponement to a later date (to be announced) of the one day Dance and Academia conference, with several guest speakers unable to get there. That same day (Saturday 3rd March) Company Chameleon’s performance at Pegasus Theatre was also cancelled.

Other companies who had arrived in Oxford a day or two earlier before the snow were able to continue with scheduled performances in true “the show must go on” style, and with encouragingly healthy audiences. At the end of Theatre Ad Infinitum’s Friday evening performance of Odyssey at The North Wall, performer George Mann gave a heartfelt thanks to those that had made it. I found this lively retelling of Homer’s great story of journey and homecoming well worth crunching through silent snowy streets for. (more…)

A reminder of the forthcoming Dance Scratch Night presented by Oxford Dance Forum (ODF) in partnership with Arts at the Old Fire Station) on 27th March.  These occasions provide a great opportunity to see work-in-progress by local dancers and groups, and contribute to a feedback discussion with the artists (guided by a facilitator).  Most of the artists presenting are recipients of ODF financial support (through the Evolution programme), which has helped them to develop these dances.

This occasion includes pieces by Ségolène Tarte, Smidgen Dance Company, Jenny Parrott & Unlock the Chains Collective.

Do come along to support the artists, and enjoy a great evening of emerging dance.

Performance:  Tuesday 27th March, 7.30pm

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

Tickets:  £5 through the OFS box office in advance online here or on the door.