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…)

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‘I’m always accused of dealing only with sex and violence but what I really deal with is life and death.’  Thus quoted Monica Mason, opening the St Hilda’s College/DANSOX Conference Kenneth MacMillan: Making Dance Beyond the Boundaries held on Saturday 16th March 2019.

Dame Monica, former Principal Dancer and Director of the Royal Ballet Company, was just one of many sharing their memories of MacMillan and his creative approach at this smörgåsbord of delights blending academic research, choreography and performance. On a wet and windy day, in political and climatic times that can sometimes feel reminiscent of the dark events triggered at Mayerling, we were treated to talks by MacMillan’s widow Deborah on how MacMillan worked with designers, Guest Lecturer Natalie Wheen on his innovative use of music, choreologists on how Benesh notation helps to preserve his choreography, and academic specialists on his historical imagination. The conference concluded with excerpts from a reconstruction of Playground by Yorke Dance. (more…)

Audiences can’t resist the “joyously unpredictable” (Guardian) programmes danced by Ballet Black, returning for their third visit to Oxford Playhouse.

Led by Artistic Director Cassa Pancho, this company celebrates dancers of black and Asian descent, showcasing technique, precision and grace in specially commissioned pieces. As part of their latest double bill, Cathy Marston, renowned for her expressive and beautifully crafted work, has choreographed a new narrative ballet for the Company. Inspired by Can Themba’s South African fable The Suit, this is the first dance adaptation of the affecting short story.  Completing the evening is Arthur Pita’s Olivier nominated A Dream Within A Midsummer Night’s Dream, a heady piece of dance-theatre for which Pita also earned a Critics’ Circle and South Bank Award nomination following its premiere in 2014.

Performance:  Wednesday 7th November 7.30pm

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

Tickets:  £25/£20/£15/£10  Book online here or call the Box Office on 01865 305305

Age Guideline 12+

Duration: 1 hour 35mins with interval

Find out more about Ballet Black here

Read previous ODW reviews of Ballet Black performances here and here

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

Swan Lake remains at the heart of the classical ballet repertoire. Its choreography by Marius Petipa and music by Tchaikovsky have ensured its place in any dance company worth its claim to pre-eminence. And the music’s 19th century blend of the classical with the romantic has ensured audiences with a love of great music if only a passing interest in dance. Nevertheless, it has to be said that the growth of contemporary choreography and the increased number of smaller dance companies have rather reduced the appetites of both dancers and audiences for this extremely demanding, long, old, and often tired ballet. I include myself among those who have felt they had seen enough Swan Lakes to happily miss the next one. It is with this in mind that I say how suddenly I have been swept off my feet and made to believe again in the evergreen nature of the work, its music, its potential for surprise. (more…)

Images Ballet Company is the performing group of the graduating ballet students at London Studio Centre, and their appearance at Cornerstone last night was an exciting opportunity to see new dancers and new (or nearly new) works. Artistic Director Jennifer Jackson presented a programme of dances by four choreographers (Hubert Essakow, Erico Montes, Bim Malcomson, and Morgann Runacre-Temple), which demanded lyricism, attack, humour and acting ability, and the dancers rose to the occasion magnificently. (more…)

Coming to the area for the first time, Images Ballet Company is proud to present a programme of entertaining dance, reflecting the diversity and beauty of Ballet today, that will appeal both to ballet lovers and those new to dance.  Directed by Jennifer Jackson, Images Ballet Company is one of four touring 3rd year companies from major vocational school London Studio Centre. The aspiring professionals of the company take centre stage to showcase theatrical and vibrant ballet with stylish costumes and a rich musical palette.

Working with Images for her third successive year, acclaimed choreographer Morgann Runacre-Temple has re-created Mozart’s Women: The Kingdom of Back, her exquisitely detailed portrait of three women in Mozart’s life, with a new cast. Bim Malcomson explores of the humour of being human.  Former Royal Ballet and Rambert soloist, Hubert Essakow presents encounters between live music and dance, while Royal Ballet artist Erico Montes’ choreography and process has richly enhanced the dancers’ feeling for flow and epaulement.

Music is central to this year’s show.  Viola and guitar duo Elliott Perks and Tom Ellis have arranged Schumann’s Marchenbilder to be played live for Cut Out, Hubert Essakow’s dances with space and gravity.  Bim Malcomson has used music from Joby Talbot’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland for Red Queen Brouhaha, her witty exploration of ideas from Lewis Carroll’s imaginative world. In the centenary year of votes for women in this country, Erico Montes has been drawn to the music of a little known African American composer, Florence Price, for his Sonata in Colour.

Louie Whitemore and Andrew Ellis have brought their expertise in costume and lighting to finesse the visual landscape.

A note from Artistic Director, Jennifer Jackson;

“The dancers you see tonight specialise in classical ballet in their professional training at London Studio Centre. Three second year students are joining the graduating class on tour and all have been involved in working with choreographers, designers, musicians, production staff, repetiteurs and teachers over the past three months to create the programme. Each ballet grows from a unique creative process through which the dancers develop as versatile collaborative artists, honing professional skills that are required to meet the diverse expressive and performative demands of the ballet today. It is a great privilege to work with these artists and alongside the excellent educators at London Studio Centre. I am hugely thankful for their contributions and support of Images’ work and our exploration of ballet as creative artistic practice.”

Performance:  Wednesday 13th June, 7.30pm

Venue:  Cornerstone Arts Centre, 25 Station Road, Didcot OX11 7NE

Tickets:  Book online here, or call the Box Office on 01235 515144

Find out more about Images Ballet Company here

About London Studio Centre:

Founded in 1978 by Bridget Espinosa, London Studio Centre offers a comprehensive Theatre Dance Course for students who are dedicated to the pursuit of excellence in all aspects of the theatre. LSC is thrilled to announce the validation of its enhanced Theatre Dance course, which continues to offer students a broad and versatile training but further allows students to specialise in Classical Ballet, Contemporary Dance, Jazz Dance or Music Theatre.

Graduate students have embarked on successful careers, joining companies such as Rambert Dance Company, Matthew Bourne’s New Adventures, Michael Clark Company, Richard Alston Dance Company, Henri Oguike Dance Company, Phoenix Dance Theatre, The Royal Ballet, English National Ballet, Scottish Ballet, Spirit of the Dance, JazzXchange, Stomp, ZooNation, the Royal Shakespeare Company and Royal National Theatre, as well as performing on Broadway and the West End in musicals including Wicked, Chicago, Matilda, Hamilton and Cats.

Many students have also worked on numerous television programmes and films and in the commercial sector. Many graduates also are working as independent, creative artists in dance and theatre.

Find out more about the school here