Oxford’s long established butoh dance theatre group Café Reason first showed its  ecologically focused work Tipping Point at the University of Hertfordshire last year, the outcome of this collaborative company’s collective exploration and creative response to “the threats facing our fragile planet”. In January 2020 the company unveiled it in Oxford over two sold out nights, testimony to a solid and sympathetic audience support base, but also to the topical urgency of its theme, increasingly in the public eye as we followed the horrific development of Australia’s bush fires. Corpus Christi College’s Al Jaber auditorium proved an apt setting, its reuse of ancient wall providing a dramatic irregular boundary and contrast to an otherwise technologically functional modern space. (more…)

Ana’s Time, a celebration in film, poetry and music of Ana Barbour’s contribution to the arts, took place at Film Oxford the day before what would have been her fifty-second birthday. The audience, which included many of her collaborators, shared laughter and tears as a showing of some her short films brought back memories of Barbour as a performer and creative artist.

Barbour’s film output demonstrates even more than her live performances her capacity to imagine and then present to others her extraordinary vision of the world. Borderlands, opens to the sound of marching feet, before fingers, and then hands, seem to tiptoe over a mossy wall. There is a troubling humour about her presentation of the human body in the landscape as apparently disembodied body parts squirm through vegetation. Footage, a film around a line-up of bare feet, and Eye-I, in which an eye watches from the side of the screen, are witty but unsettling; in Crow’s Playmates, Barbour seems to levitate above the billowing grass, while in My Time (2011) she confronts the problem of her ageing body. The irony is that Barbour did not live to grow old. (more…)

Film Oxford hosts a welcome retrospective event on much loved local artist Ana Barbour who died last year.  The programme will include a curated playlist of her films, a short film by Dariusz Dziala with live music by Bruno Guastalla presenting ‘behind the scenes’ footage of Ana working on dance projects, and poetry by Ayala Kingsley.

Date:  Wednesday 10th October 7.00pm

Venue:  Film Oxford, 54 Catherine Street, Oxford OX4 3AH

The event is free, but donations towards Film Oxford’s dance film work will be much appreciated.  If you wish to attend please contact Dariusz Dziala on 07929 059974 or Malcolm Atkins on 07872 991287

Find out more about Ana Barbour’s work here

 

Café Reason Butoh Theatre is an experimental performance group specialising in butoh, the iconoclastic dance form that originated in postwar Japan.  Established in Oxford in 1997, Café Reason is the only permanent butoh company in the UK outside London and has achieved a fine reputation for its innovative theatre, site-specific and improvised performances.  An abandoned dolls’ house and an unclaimed bag of costumes were the unexpected starting points for the group’s enigmatic new show Dolls’ House which premieres at the Pegasus Theatre on Friday 16th January.  Through the compelling medium of butoh, with live music and film, it explores the dream symbol of “the House” and reveals the inhabitants’ secret lives and eternal dilemmas.  Dark, moving and humorous, the physical performance is underpinned by live music from a trio of multi-instrumentalists, complementing their compositions with digital effects and found sound to create a haunting soundscape.

Dolls’ House is a collaboration between Café Reason, film maker Dariusz Dziala, and musicians Malcolm Atkins, Bruno Guastalla and Pete McPhaill.  This truly original theatre experience has lighting design by Josh Tomalin.  Dancers are Jeannie Donald McKim, Ayala Kingsley, Fabrizia Verrechia, Ana Barbour and Cath Blackfeather: also appearing are Alex Donaghy, Andreia Paixao, Alan Frank and Paula Esposito.

Performances:  Friday 15th, Saturday 16th January 7.30pm

Venue:  Pegasus Theatre, Magdalen Road, Oxford OX4 1RE

Tickets:  £13, £9 concessions, £6 under 18s

Book online here or call 01865 812150

Find out more about Café Reason here and follow them on Facebook here

Twitter:  @CafeReason #dollbutoh

Café Reason returns this weekend with the 13th in their series of informal platform performances Diamond Nights.  At this Diamond Night, as the company will be trying out material for their upcoming new production The Heart’s Desire – created in collaboration with voice artist Anne L. Ryan – some of the evening will take the form of an open rehearsal. It will be a chance to see part of this work-in-progress and for audience to give some feedback to help the group develop the piece before its full performance at The Old Fire Station on June 13 and 14.  The occasion is also still open for artists who may have work they would like to present and share. (more…)

Diamond Night 24th November 2012 – Writing for the first time for Oxford Dance Writers, Lizzy Spight gives us a different perspective on a stimulating evening…

Another very enjoyable evening full of little gems and diamonds being worked on. The space is intimate enough for the audience and the performers to get close to each other and for sensing the exchange between both. It creates an atmosphere of openness and being involved with the work in progress of each artist. (more…)

Café Reason’s 10th  Diamond Night.   24th November 2012

Six different works covering dance, poetry, projection, live music, film and voice in Café Reason’s 10th Diamond Night  organised this time by Paola Esposito and Fabrizia Verrechia.  There was a good turn out for the cosy space of Oxford Brooke’s drama studio.  Good to see this support for new work.

The first piece by Anne Ryan was a short vignette in which a face peers out from a frame.  A soundtrack of recorded voice traces a range of emotions expressed in the subtle changing nuances of the framed face. Simple, elegant and strong. (more…)

Experienced improviser and composer Malcolm Atkins shares his recent practice working with dancers, and raises intriguing questions about the relationship between dance and music…

Improvised music for improvised dance

As part of my practice of accompanying dance I regularly improvise for Café Reason Butoh Dance Theatre Classes. These improvisations which are solo responses to exercises and pieces developed in class, have evolved over the years I have been doing this. I was asked to record some by the class organisers and have started doing this and making them available as free downloads on a bandcamp site I set up in my name.

I have made them freely available so that anyone attending the class can develop their ideas between classes by being reminded of what they were working on but also to demonstrate that spontaneous musical improvisation in support of dance can create a very particular musical atmosphere which is often determined by the style of dance and the way the dancer stimulates and responds to a dynamically created musical accompaniment. (more…)

Diamond Nights at Brookes Studio Theatre 28th January 2012 – Susie Crow writes:

The seventh edition of Café Reason’s regular “Diamond Nights” was an intimate evening of poetic experiments in theatricality.  Introduced by Ana Barbour and lit by Pete Green, the performance began with Ayala Kingsley’s Trunk.  In near darkness assistants drew aside a black velvet curtain to reveal a trunk which began to creak and twitch, its lid tentatively ajar to reveal slivers of torchlight; then streams of bubbles, followed by two grey clad hands as exploring creatures.  Gradually the trunk opened to reveal Ayala as an enigmatic siren bathing and ultimately paddling off on a sea of fabric with her bath-brush… a succession of winning images worth developing.

Flavia Coube’s solo Child juxtaposed her insightful portrayal of childishness with a haunting song by Joanna Nielson which gave an edge of darkness.   In a baggy dress with oversized checks, and hair held by an unruly pink bow Flavia’s comical persona was communicated through wide eyes and ungainly limbs.  Admirable articulation in the fluid and expressive detail of every part of body and face gave this solo clarity and touching authenticity.

A powerful opening to Ségolène Tarte’s Splice as her shadowy figure found its agitated way to a central hanging rope and pool of light.  This work in progress has expanded since previous performances, building its emotional resonance as Ségolène has developed a vulnerable and shifting relationship with the rope, almost lending it life and a character of its own.  She is finding a personal dance language which integrates her balletic grace and vocabulary with strongly defined expressive movement.

Cellist Bruno Guastalla and Macarena Ortuzar continued their fruitful collaboration with Slate.  Sophisticated software allowed the live and recorded cello to be fragmented and randomly fed back and layered, creating an atmospheric sound world into which Macarena crept down the stairs.  Bent back with a layer of skirt over her head, she felt her way into the space with tremulous fingers.  At times she seemed headless, I lost the sense of which was her body’s back and front.  Once fully revealed the image conveyed by her demure cream frock was subverted with movement of delicacy and anguished grotesquerie, suggesting deep and painful stories.

Dariusz Dziala’s video short Cabbage was a lighthearted and surreal collage of images set to a Polish folk song, dazzling in its witty unpredictable invention and inclusion of dance footage both historic and of Café Reason dancers.  Here was editor as choreographer, making surprising combinations of literal and abstracted images dance.

Finally A Walk, a structured group improvisation by Jeannie Donald McKim, Fabrizia Verrechia, Flavia, Ségolène and Ayala with Bruno on cello and singer Janna Ferrett, triggered by Ivor Cutler’s Life in a Scotch Sitting Room, with playful interaction and exchange of a variety of hats.  Hats off to the Café Reason team this evening for conjuring up such arresting dream worlds…