‘In 40 years of doing this, I’ve never done it,’ says Deborah Hay in Becky Edmund’s 2014 film Turn Your Fucking Head. I watched it earlier this year at JW3 in London and the absurdity of this quote made me laugh out loud.  For the (relatively little) I know of her work and (comparatively large) respect I have for it, this quote sums up the indefinable nature of experimental contemporary dance.  In Hay’s case, a specific dance practice which has evolved over four decades, and has led her to consider the body and choreography very differently.

After seeing the film, I was both fascinated and perplexed by her work, especially by this idea of her confident not-knowing. This book, Using The Sky, develops her research – a quest which shows both an unfaltering belief in her pursuit, and an honesty and openness to uncertainty. It is also wickedly funny. (more…)

DANSOX lectures are wonderful occasions. On Wednesday, the critic Alastair Macaulay shared memories, commentary and new insights with an audience of local residents, members of the University and distinguished visitors from the dance world. He began by setting his subject within its historical and cultural context, before launching into a wide ranging discussion of ballets ranging from the classical abstraction of Symphonic Variations to the humour, romance and narrative of La Fille Mal Gardée. (more…)

The next DANSOX event (supported by The Oxford Research Centre for the Humanities, TORCH) brings another distinguished artist to Oxford to St Hilda’s College.  In Mapping Motion: impulse, object and trajectory – reflections on music and choreography, internationally renowned choreographer Kim Brandstrup will conduct a workshop/presentation with Royal Ballet dancers Marcelino Sambé and emerging choreographer Kristen McNally to explore choreographer’s methods and sources.

Music inhabits the mysterious no man’s land between mathematical construction and human emotion – nothing is so abstract in its means and yet so immediate in its effect. Choreography exists in the same sphere, where choreographic choice seems to obey both logics. The creative challenge is to navigate between the two – so that the spectators are never really sure or even aware what drives the piece – whether it is the formal or the human, the conceptual or the narrative – whether all is planned or a product of chance.”  Kim Brandstrup.

Venue: St Hilda’s College, Oxford, Jacqueline du Pré Building

Date:  Tuesday, May 19, 2015 – 5:30pm to 7:00pm

Followed by refreshments

Free and open to all, but booking essential

Book at https://eventbrite.co.uk/event/16378395221/

More information about DANSOX and TORCH here

Frederick Ashton’s Ballets:  Style, Performance, Choreography, by Geraldine Morris, Dance Books, 2012

Original, informed and scholarly, this book could transform the way in which Ashton’s ballets are performed today.  On p.60, Morris quotes Nijinska’s complaint:  The dancers turn everything into what they can already do and consequently ‘falsely transmit the choreographic score …’.  Morris addresses this problem with regard to Ashton’s work, which, she argues, we are in danger of losing if we fail to recognise the individual style that is intrinsic to his choreographic output. (more…)

Long awaited from a highly respected practitioner and dance scholar…

Frederick Ashton’s Ballets: Style, Performance, Choreography

by Geraldine Morris

In this ground-breaking study of style in six ballets by Sir Frederick Ashton, Geraldine Morris examines the contribution they have made to twentieth century dance and art. Central to the discussion are questions about performance and its connection with style. What do we mean by style in dance? How do we identify it? How can it be retained? Can choreographed movement be distinguished from the danse d’école? Does any of this matter? (more…)