In November 2019 Oxford Dance Writers (ODW) celebrated its 10th anniversary with a reception at the North Wall Arts Centre to mark the occasion. The evening provided a joyful opportunity for members of the wider Oxford dance and performing arts community to come together and catch up.  A panel of guest speakers discussed dance writing each from their own specific perspective.  Dance critic and historian Nadine Meisner entertained us with stories of the dance reviewer’s rackety life, but also described her experiences drawing together her authoritative biography of Marius Petipa published in the summer.  Dance artist Nicholas Minns, reflected thoughtfully on his emergence as a dance blogger and online critic covering a wide spectrum of dance performance, and the writers influencing him in developing a distinctive voice and perspective.  Professor Susan Jones, the driving force behind Dance Scholarship Oxford (DANSOX) which has scheduled so many fascinating events (talks, seminars, lecture demonstrations, residencies) in recent years, gave insight into the place and potential of dance within Oxford University, and its enriching contribution to innovative interdisciplinary research projects and outreach. Oxford University Press mounted an impressive display of its varied publications on dance for those attending to browse and purchase.

ODW emerged from Ballet in Small Spaces’ The Solos Project in 2009 as an initiative to encourage critical writing and online discussion of dance, and generate informed reviews of the work of local dance artists.  Since then it has become a valuable record of dance performance activity in and around Oxford, listing forthcoming events as well as reviewing, bearing witness to dance in Oxford; generating an archive of the diverse and idiosyncratic dance history of a particular place.  Aiming to be a space for informed debate it has played a significant part in raising the profile of dance in Oxford, and developing its audience.  ODW has run three Dance Writers of the Future competitions to encourage younger writers.  It tracks and reports on academic dance initiatives such as Dance Scholarship Oxford and Dance and Academia events, and regularly reviews dance publications both academic and popular.  It has had the support of Oxfordshire venues who provide press tickets for ODW reviewers, and of publishers who have provided review copies of dance books.

Over the last ten years 40 writers have been featured, with substantial contributions from Susie Crow and Maggie Watson.  As well as academics (such as Miranda Laurence, Dana Mills) contributors have included local dance artists (including Ana Barbour, Jane Connelly, Rachel Gildea, Lisia Newmark); occasional guest writers (Nicholas Minns of writingaboutdance.com, Rebecca Nice, Emily May, art historian Barbara Berrington, former Oxford Times dance critic David Bellan); local dance lovers (such as Jess Ryan-Phillips, Susannah Harris-Wilson, Susanna Reece); and young writers who have entered our competitions.   ODW reaches a significant number of dance professionals and enthusiasts in the Oxfordshire area, and despite its mainly local focus the site also has an international following.

ODW now extends its grateful thanks to all who have contributed writing and who have supported the site in other ways over the years.  A special thanks to Maggie Watson who has recently completed with distinction an MA in Ballet Studies at the University of Roehampton, for so regularly contributing thoughtful, perceptive and empathetic reviews of a wide range of performances and publications.  With particular reference to our anniversary celebration, special mention must go to our wise and encouraging speakers, to Oxford Dance Forum for its generous support, to The North Wall for hosting us in such welcoming fashion, and to Oxford University Press for its enticing display of dance publications which prompted much pre Christmas buying.  And a final shout out for local dance and visual artist Naomi Morris for her beautiful images for ODW publicity materials.

We look forward to continuing… watch this space!  Your interest and comments will be greatly valued.

Wishing you all the best for 2020 and the coming decade,

Susie Crow

 

You can find information about Nadine Meisner’s biography Marius Petipa: The Emperor’s Ballet Master here or why not drop into the OUP Bookshop at 116-117, High St, Oxford OX1 4BZ.

Read Nicholas Minns’ latest reviews on his blog writingaboutdance.com here

Find out about Dance Scholarship Oxford, DANSOX, here

and about Dance and Academia here

Information about Oxford Dance Forum and its activities can be found here

Miranda Laurence is a dramaturg, working mostly with dance makers. In this role she accompanies a director or choreographer during the process of creating a new work, attending to the rhythm of all elements in the piece, and actively noticing responses from the viewer’s perspective.  Miranda is currently undertaking a self-led professional development project in dance dramaturgy funded by Arts Council England.

Here for Oxford Dance Writers Miranda gives a revealing insight into her role in assisting the development of new work within the privacy of the dance studio.

I’m sitting in the faded splendour of Swindon Dance’s main studio, which is adorned with huge vintage mirrors, curlicued window frames and chunky old-fashioned radiators. As usual, I’m tucked away in a corner, sitting on the floor, taking in the size, shape, feel and details of the space around. Out on the floor, two dancers (Thomasin Gülgeç and Estela Merlos) undergo their warm-up, twisting and weaving fluidly through the space, mirroring each other or going off on tangents. I think: “am I earning my money as a dramaturg by watching these dancers warm up? How should I warm myself up?” (more…)

The concentrated format of recent editions of Dancin’ Oxford has made it seem more like a festival, generating excitement through a swift succession of varied events and usually one night stands; however with that comes the difficulty of invidious choices, what to see and attend, and regrets at performances missed.  Particularly an issue for dance where much regular activity is squeezed into the evenings and weekends rather than the normal working day, and dance lovers and practitioners must therefore choose between doing and viewing.  Cheering to report that despite this a couple of shows by popular local performers managed to sell out, making me for one less guilty about not having been able to support them from the audience.  I chose to focus on the interaction of science and dance, a dominant theme of this year’s festival, with plenty of opportunities for questions and discussion. (more…)

How can dancers and scientists collaborate, and why would they? Can dance inspire new scientific research, and can science give meaning to new choreography?  This year’s conference programmed by DANCE & ACADEMIA: Moving the Boundaries in partnership with Dancin’ Oxford 2015 and Oxfordshire Science Festival presents Science and Dance – Finding Commonalities, to be held at The Jam Factory on Sunday 8th March.  This lively and interactive day brings together as facilitators and presenters a distinguished groiup of artists and academics, and will give movement practitioners, academics, scientists and anyone interested in any aspect of movement or dance an opportunity to stretch their mental and physical muscles, exploring shared and diverging understandings of science and dance and how these might fit together.

Facilitators on the day include:

Subathra Subramaniam is a choreographer, dancer and educator. She is the artistic director of Sadhana Dance. Suba’s choreography navigates the confluence of arts and science drawing from her belief that dance can play a part in the public understanding and engagement with scientific concepts. Her work combines contemporary choreography and Bharata Natyam, an ancient South Indian dance form.

Bronwyn Tarr recently completed her doctoral thesis at University of Oxford, Social and Evolutionary Neuroscience Research Group, in which she managed to formally integrate her interests in social behaviour and dance. She advocates the use of dance as an ecologically and culturally valid platform for scientific research into topics of motor-coordination, music psychology, social agency and even autism therapies.

The Captured Thought is a collaboration between Nicky Clayton, Professor of Comparative Cognition and also Scientist in Residence at Rambert, and Clive Wilkins, Artist in Residence, both based in the Department of Psychology at the University of Cambridge. The opportunity for an artist to collaborate uniquely with a scientist arose out of a chance encounter on one of life’s dancefloors. A tango dance floor in fact…

Also joining the panel will be Morten Kringelbach, Associate Professor and Senior Research Fellow, Department of Psychiatry, and Kirsten Shepherd-Barr, Associate Professor of Modern Drama, both of the University of Oxford.

Conference date:  Sunday 8th March, 10.30am-4.30pm with Panel Discussion 5.00-6.00pm

Venue:  The Jam Factory, 27 Park End Street, Oxford OX1 1HU

Tickets: £18, £15 concessions (includes lunch); Panel Discussion only: £5

Book online via Tickets Oxford here or call the Playhouse Box Office on 01865 305305

All welcome.

Find out more about Dancin’ Oxford 2015 here

Once again Oxford puts on its dancing shoes for its annual festival Dancin’ Oxford.  This year’s edition starts on Wednesday 25th February and ends on Monday 9th March; its lively and wide ranging programme includes not only performances but workshops and activities to join in.  The Festival’s public launch will take place on Saturday 28th February between 10.00am and 4.00pm with free outdoor performances in the city centre, including Broad Street and Bonn Square, and featuring previous festival favourites Granny Turismo, Body Politic and Being Frank.

Companies performing in the Festival include:

The Pneûma Project at St John the Evangelist Church, Wednesday 25th and Thursday 26th February

Moving With the Times, the annual showcase of work by Oxford based dance makers and performers, this year featuring Cecilia Macfarlane, Melissa Holding, Hilary Kneale, Justice in Motion, Marina Collard, and Alan Hutson and Nicola Moses-Thrower of Unlock the Chains Collective; Pegasus Theatre Friday 27th and Saturday 28th February (more…)

Dance and Academia: Moving the Boundaries is an Oxford-based project which aims to facilitate dialogue between practitioners and academics in any field who have an interest in any aspect of dance or movement. It aims to be a genuinely interdisciplinary platform where intersections between research and practice in dance can be explored.  To chime with this year’s Dancin’ Oxford Festival, Dance and Academia presents Dance Discourse in Merton College in the heart of Oxford University.

How do we approach meaning in text and movement?  Miranda Laurence has convened an interactive afternoon of exploration in movement and thought, where all attendees will be invited to join the discussion, and where the content of the day may take its own course. To guide participants through this process, three guest facilitators will open up conversations, using starting points from text, poetry, and movement tasks to generate debate, pose questions, and provide some tools for our explorations (more…)

Dance and Academia: Moving the Boundaries presents:

‘Dance, Body, and Identity’

Convenor: Miranda Laurence
In partnership with Oxford Dance Forum and Dancin’ Oxford 2013

This one-day symposium brings together dance practitioners, academics and professionals from different fields, to explore concepts of Dance, Body and Identity. The day will be structured to allow much time for reflection and discussion, in an inclusive and friendly environment.   All welcome.

Saturday 9th March 2013, 10am-5.30pm

Old Fire Station, George Street, Oxford (more…)