Oxford’s Offbeat is a festival of brand-new theatre, comedy, dance, family shows, spoken word and music.  A collaboration between Oxford Playhouse and Arts at the Old Fire Station now in its 3rd edition, it offers a host of opportunities to see something which wouldn’t usually come here.  It’s a blind date with a show you could fall in love with – right on your doorstep.

Take a chance on something exciting. This year’s festival runs from Monday 17th to Saturday 29th June with performances across the Old Fire Station and Burton Taylor Studio.  Here is a list of the dance shows:

Eleven, twelve, thirteen – Friday 21st June 6.00-7.00pm, Old Fire Station.  Ages 12+. Tickets £10, book online here

Eleven, twelve, thirteen explores the importance of numbers in our lives, from the significance of the number 11 in the world around us through to the iconic era of the Sufis during the 1200s and a light-hearted exploration of the troublesome thirTEENS. The production comprises a variety of original pieces that innovatively combine dance, music and the spoken word, and sprout unique collaborations between UK’s finest young British Asian artists across genres. Sona Lisa Dance Company is a Birmingham (England) based dance company set up by Artistic Director Sonia Chandaria Tillu in 2018, building a dance style and vocabulary based on one of the oldest classical Indian dance forms, Kathak, but speaking to contemporary audiences.

“…I also admired Sonia Chandaria Tillu for the way in which she contained and then released energy… the performance only lasted an hour, but I could have watched these dancers all night.” – Maggie Watson (Oxford Dance Writers) review on Sonia as a guest performer in FACET for Drishti Dance at the Offbeat Festival 2018

Find out more about the production and Sona Lisa Dance Company here

Jane – Saturday 22nd June at 12pm, 1.30pm and 3.30pm, Gloucester Green. Each performance lasts 20 minutes.  All ages, free – just come along.

A new dance theatre piece from Moxie Brawl looking inside the head of pre-Raphaelite artists’ muse Jane Morris. Playing with power, femininity with a touch of art history.  With bright blue costumes that turn into puppets, mesmerising choreography and cheeky performers, this show will brighten up your day as we tell Jane’s story.

‘Gloriously unsubtle’ – The Observer

Findo out more about Moxie Brawl here

A Moment – Tuesday 25th, Wednesday 26th, Thursday 27th June 8.30-9.30pm, Old Fire Station.  Suitable for all ages.  Tickets £10, book online here

‘I used to be interested in clothes, clubs, buying records. And men. Now my life…what life?’  Two performers explore what it was to be gay in the 80s when the UK was full of fear and ignorance, in a response to Bren Gosling’s ‘Moment of Grace’. An intimate duet moving through themes of paranoia, intimacy and oppression. The work also gives thanks to those who made it possible to say “HIV is no longer a death sentence.”

Thomas Page Dances is part of Offbeat’s supported artist programme.

★★★★ “In a different league” – The Sunday Express

Find out more about the production and Thomas Page Dances here

Sound Cistem – Wednesday 26th, Thursday 27th, Friday 28th June 7.00-7.50pm, Old Fire Station Studio. Ages 14+.  Tickets £5, book online here

“These are our bodies. What do you see?”  Two transgender performers say f**k you to the binary, and invite you to their radically queer dance party!  Set in nightclubs, Sound Cistem is an exuberant dance show about the cisgender gaze on the transgender body. Through riotous, glittering disco, shame is rejected and a self-love manifesto made. Unafraid to punch hard, Sound Cistem asks you to see the beauty in these bodies: and your own too.  This is a work in progress.

Plaster Cast Theatre is part of Offbeat’s supported artist programme.

Praise for their previous work:  ★★★★ “Unflinching” – The Scotsman
★★★★ “Gripping” – The List  ★★★★ “Extremely powerful” – North West End
★★★★★ Spectacular” – The Mancunion

Find out more about the production and Plaster Cast Theatre here

The final week of April brought thought-provokingly contrasted dance performances to Oxford. On Tuesday 23rd at the New Theatre the BalletBoyz performed their latest programme Them/Us, shortly to be opening for their first West End season at the Vaudeville Theatre. This two-part programme involves all six male dancers in both pieces. Opening the evening Them was a collaborative choreographic venture by the dancers drawing on elements of their own individual movement, sharing them in a succession of often playful episodes and exchanges. Set in a twilight zone, a gleaming stainless steel tubular cube framework and sleek satin shell suits brought enlivening geometric dashes of light and colour, red, blue, green and purple. The cube defined shifting spaces which the dancers could manipulate, inhabit, swing from and climb up. Movement combined sharp crisp gesture with a lyrical contemporary idiom, integrating tumbling and floorwork in response to Charlotte Harding’s lively but dark toned score; suggestions of character and relationship were glimpsed and a feeling of camaraderie and group identity emerged, even if overall the episodic structure of the piece did not build a sense of narrative or situational development. The performers conveyed lithe fluidity and a smooth assurance, distinct from the rawness of previous BalletBoyz ensembles; no longer projecting a company narrative of emerging talent and inexperienced diamonds in the rough, but a polished professional group. (more…)

Fresh from a sold-out week run at the Barbican, Rhiannon Faith’s current work, Smack That (a conversation), has been touring the UK to critical acclaim, and will be performed at Oxford’s Burton Taylor Studio on 25th April.  Rhiannon Faith is a socially conscious contemporary dance artist whose work is an agent for discourse and change; she makes form-defying autobiographical shows that have guts, and that take guts.  Her creative process draws  stories from the communities and artists she works with. The result is work which uses dance and theatre (in their widest meanings) to take the audience on a narrative led journey, which is both challenging and accessible.

In Smack That Beverly is having a party and you are one of her guests. Each member of the all-female cast fearlessly takes on the persona of Beverly to convey real experiences.  The unusual setting creates a safe space for them to reveal the turbulence and challenges they have faced and celebrate their endurance with the audience. Expect games, dancing, humour and a very raw and honest account of domestic abuse.

Rhiannon Faith’s work often involves a wide range of collaborating partners including a psychologist, a neuroscientist, a domestic abuse charity, and most recently a philosopher on virtue ethics and moral psychology.  Smack That (a conversation) has also been published by Oberon Books as an instructional dance play.

Performance:  Thursday 25th May 7.30pm

Venue:  Burton Taylor Studio, Gloucester Street, Oxford OX1 2BN

Tickets:  £10 Book online here, or call the Oxford Playhouse Box Office on 01865 305305

Duration:  1 hour 20 minutes with no interval

Age Guideline:  18+

Find out more about Rhiannon Faith here

Lucy Suggate and James Holden’s performance of Pilgrim, an investigation into what it is to lose yourself in music, is unforgettable. The theatre was dimly lit, the light diffused by a tinge of pink and blue, with chairs arranged around the edge of the room to leave as much performance space as possible. It was a wet night, and our shoes left damp patches on the dance floor as we edged around it to our seats, but fortunately Lucy Suggate is a ‘terpsichore in sneakers’ – literally – wearing tracksuit bottoms and a long dark shirt buttoned to the neck, which in time she removes revealing a gleaming mosaic-encrusted evening top. (more…)

What’s so special about losing yourself in movement and music?

This is the question that Lucy Suggate and James Holden are trying to answer with Pilgrim. This new show combines Suggate’s irreverently entertaining dance style with Holden’s otherworldly electronic score to create an experience that will entrance all lovers of music and dance.

Lucy Suggate is a choreographer whose been making fascinating dance theatre since 2003. In that time, she’s honed her creative and bold style, creating numerous five star shows that overflow with grace, humour and passion. An international success, she comes to Oxford now with a performance that’s sure to entrance you with its poise, vulnerability and rhythm.

For Pilgrim, she is joined by the spine-tingling music of James Holden. A musician and DJ whose been making hit music since 1999, Holden’s first album was described by the Guardian as “astonishing”. His intricate rhythms make the perfect landscape for Suggate to explore and lose herself in.

To summarise: we think that this partnership is incredibly exciting and that Pilgrim is that special kind of dance show that will take your breath away. Don’t miss it.

Date:  Friday 6th January, 7.30pm

Venue:  Burton Taylor Studio, Oxford Playhouse, Gloucester Street, Oxford OX1 2BN

Tickets:  £10 (discounts £8)

Call Ticket Office on 01865 305305 or book online at http://www.oxfordplayhouse.com

Critic turned critic-entrepreneur Donald Hutera is creating and curating opportunities for dancers to perform who might otherwise have few occasions to show their work. Oxford is a first for GOlive and there is a further outing at the Chesil Theatre in Winchester on July 24. The venues are small — the original GOlive venue at the Lion & Unicorn Theatre in Kentish Town holds 60 people and the Burton-Taylor studio seats 50 — but their intimacy works well for the small-scale works Hutera is presenting. One of the advantages of this proximity is the value given to the subtleties of communication; there are elements of this evening’s program that provide a master class in the art of integrating the head and eyes in the moving body, a vital aspect that is all too often overlooked in dance training. (more…)

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…)