‘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…)

The DANSOX Conference Kenneth MacMillan: Making Dance Beyond the Boundaries was an opportunity to reflect on and discover more about one of the twentieth century’s greatest choreographers. It was attended by distinguished practitioners and scholars in dance, and generously open to the wider University and general public.

Dame Monica Mason and Deborah, Lady MacMillan gave insights into what it was like to work with Kenneth MacMillan, his interest in contemporaneous events in society and the arts, his willingness to engage with designers new to the theatre, and his relationship with and support from Ninette de Valois. (more…)

Dance Scholarship Oxford (DANSOX) presents a one-day conference on the life and work of the great twentieth-century choreographer Sir Kenneth MacMillan (1929-1992). MacMillan stands among the great innovators of his time in theatre, film, art, music, and dance. This not-to-be-missed conference will discuss his work, the challenges of preserving the record, and explore little known early work, his literary and musical choices, design, and choreographic method. Guest speakers include: the artist and widow of Sir Kenneth, Lady MacMillan; the former Principal and Director of the Royal Ballet, Dame Monica Mason; the music expert, Natalie Wheen; and choreologist, Anna Trevien. Dancers, artists, and filmmakers who worked with Kenneth will join the conversation. A performance/lecture of the reconstruction of Playground with Yorke Dance will conclude the conference.

Date:  Saturday 16th March 10.00am-6.00pm

Venue:  Jacqueline du Pré Building, St Hilda’s College, Cowley Place, Oxford OX4 1DY

Tickets: Free and open to all, please book tickets here at Eventbrite

 

There was much to celebrate tonight at St Hilda’s, when five years of fascinating DANSOX events programmed by Professor Susan Jones coincided with the 125th anniversary of the college that so generously hosts these events. It was a wonderfully inclusive evening that centred round a screening of Lynne Wake’s New Wave Ballet, a documentary film about the early ballets of Kenneth MacMillan, before a packed audience that included members of the college and wider University, participants in the local dance community, practitioners and dance scholars from further afield, Dame Monica Mason, and Deborah, Lady MacMillan.

Wake’s introductory talk vividly described how eager she had been to see Edmée Wood’s films of Royal Ballet productions, her initial disappointment at the poor quality examples that she found, her excitement at discovering the original recordings, and the work involved in their restoration for the Royal Opera House. Her documentary is an outstanding example of the use of archival footage to bring back to life the essence of dances that might otherwise be lost, by showing film alongside interviews with the actual dancers, who know the works from the inside.

Next, Dame Monica spoke about her experiences working with MacMillan, as a dancer and as his répétiteur, noting the wide range of his artistic interests, his willingness to take risks and work with new collaborators, and his ability to reprove but then move on. Almost five years to the day since she spoke at the first DANSOX event celebrating the centenary of The Rite of Spring, she described what it was like to be the Chosen Maiden, dancing between the criss-crossing legs of the corps de ballet as they lay face down on the stage, or being passed from hand-to hand high overhead (an image reminiscent to me of Greek vase paintings of the sacrifice of Iphigenia). I remember seeing her in the role in 1982, and still carry pictures of her performance in my head.

At the reception following the brief question and answer session, St Hilda’s Vice Principal Dr Georgina Paul thanked DANSOX patron Sheila Forbes (the former Principal of St Hilda’s) and proposed a toast to DANSOX’ other patron, Dame Monica, to mark the fact that she is now an Honorary Fellow of the College.

Maggie Watson

19 February 2018

Dance Scholarship Oxford‘s first event of 2018 is a real treat; a film night featuring a screening of New Wave Ballet, Lynne Wake‘s documentary film about the early work of twentieth-century choreographer Kenneth MacMillan, newly reversioned for last autumn’s anniversary festival Kenneth MacMillan: A National Celebration.  The film includes historic and lovingly restored footage of some of the ballets as well as interviews with original interpreters.  The showing will be followed by a talk by Lynne Wake on the making of the film, and Dame Monica Mason will also talk about the experience of working with Kenneth MacMillan.  Not to be missed!

Date:  Monday 19th February 5.30pm

Venue:  Jacqueline du Pré Music Building, St Hilda’s College, Cowley Place, Oxford, OX4 1DY

Free and open to all followed by drinks reception, but booking advised

Book here:  https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/dansox-presents-film-night- new-wave-ballet-tickets-41209915968

Further information about DANSOX and its programme of events can be found here

The Dancing Lives conference at Wolfson College offered an exceptional opportunity for archivists, academics and dance practitioners to discuss and discover new ways to research and write about dance and dancers’ lives.

The speakers for first panel, on Historical Dancing, demonstrated the vast range of material that dance historians draw upon to investigate the past. Mike Webb and Jennifer Thorp used Jeffrey Boys’s manuscript annotations in his almanac of 1667 to paint a picture of the social dancing scene in seventeenth century London; Michael Burden used caricatures vividly to recreate and interpret the scandalous adventures of Mademoiselle Mercandotti, and Julia Bührle showed how the technological invention of the lithograph helped to make Marie Taglioni a ‘superstar’. While the first four speakers showed how creatively scholars use documents, images and ephemera to advance our knowledge, the plenary session, in which Sue Jones expertly interviewed Jennifer Homans, began to explore what the dance itself can reveal. (more…)

How do people write about the lives of dancers and choreographers?  How does dance as a silent form represent life stories?  The Oxford Centre for Life-Writing and Dance Scholarship Oxford (DANSOX) are hosting a one-day colloquium Dancing Lives on Saturday 8th July exploring this.  The day will feature: Jennifer Homans, Founder and Director of The Center for Ballet and the Arts at New York University, in conversation with Professor Sue Jones; Dame Monica Mason, former ballet dancer, teacher, and artistic director of the Royal Ballet, on travelling and dancing; contributions from Michael Burden, Mike Webb, Jennifer Thorp, Jane Pritchard, Judith Mackrell, Michael Huxley, Funmi Adewole, and Ramsay Burt; and a closing performance by Simone Damberg Würtz & Liam Francis from the Rambert Contemporary Dance Company.

Date:  Saturday 8th July, 9.00am-6.30pm

Venue:  Wolfson College, Linton Road, Oxford OX2 6UD

Tickets:  £20, or £10 for unwaged delegates. Booking here: http://bit.ly/OCLW-Dance

There are a small number of B&B rooms available at Wolfson College for 7th and 8th July. These can be booked here using the Promotional Code: DANCE2017

For more details please contact The Oxford Centre for Life-Writing here

Download the full colloquium programme here