The Bournemouth three year Residency of the Cohan Collective began in 2018 with a two-week Intensive, followed by a Development Week in 2019, and finally a three-week creative period in summer 2020.  In a normal year the final phase would have culminated in a live showing before a selected audience, but this year, because of the pandemic, the artists shared their work in a Zoom meeting.

We saw two works; one created for film and therefore complete, the other for the stage and so by force of circumstance not yet in its final form.  The sharing event was well planned, with opportunities for questions and discussion.  After an introduction by the  event moderator, Yolande Yorke-Edgell, Founder Director of the Cohan Collective alongside Sir Robert Cohan and composer pianist Eleanor Alberga, explained the purpose of the project: to enable artists to become their best creative selves through exploration and collaboration, with the support of mentors, and with the time and space to be both vulnerable and adventurous.  The moderator then posted the link to a film of the first work in the chat, so that we could all watch it simultaneously, before returning to the Zoom call for discussion.

We saw the first work, choreographer Edd Mitton’s The Quickening, without costumes, sets or lighting, filmed at the final point of preparation in the studio, before that vital shift when it should have transferred to the stage.  Three female dancers (Freya Jeffs, Sharia Johnson, and Abigail Attard Montalto), in black practice clothes, their heads initially swathed in white scarves that covered their faces, seemed to swim slowly in the air, drifting in space to Edmund Hunt’s composition for violin, double bass and piano.  The slow floating movements, to music that sounded like breaths of air punctuated by notes from a five-tone scale, evoked an atmosphere of the supernatural.  A man (Jordi Calpe Serrats) sits and seems to sense invisible presences, but not to see them.  He reaches out to hold them as they move around him marking the limits of his space as if they live within the four walls of his room.  He lies down, perhaps sleeping, and they carefully circle him anti-clockwise, extending their hands and hovering over him as if to draw him upwards with invisible threads.  They might be waking him, or they might be stealing his soul; they are like three witches, or spirits, or something that falls between reality and imagination.  They never quite touch him, until one clamps her outspread hand to his chest with the impact of an electric shock, and at last she dances with him.  In the end, they cradle him, and then let him slide to the ground and roll away, before each retreats to her own corner, leaving him downstage right, carefully moving his hand across the surface of the floor as if he can sense traces of ghostly footprints.

The second work, What Remains, by choreographer Dane Hurst and filmmaker Pierre Tappon to music by Ryan Latimer, made use of different locations and special effects, but the focus was nevertheless on the dance itself.  Romany Pajdak, dressed in white and looking utterly defenceless stands in a narrow alley way hemmed in by the high brick walls on either side.  We see clips of her running (towards someone, or away from them?) and Hurst, her partner, fades in and out of the picture as if he is walking in and out of her mind.  They dance a duet that contests the narrow space as if they are trapped in a dysfunctional relationship. Then Hurst dances a solo in the dark, filmed partially from above, before we see Pajdak again, in a derelict attic, where she discovers Hurst lying on the floor.  They circle each other warily, like cats, and when they dance together they are often not face-to-face, but one behind the other.  In the final scene, Pajdak, her back against a wall, tips and swings in two dimensions like a pendulum, until she subsides to the ground.

In the first Question and Answer session someone asked whether The Quickening was about Coronovirus.  Although neither work was specifically about the pandemic, both dances seemed influenced by related themes:  loneliness, isolation, vulnerability, and an ever-present invisible threat.  The absence of physical touch in parts of The Quickening and of eye contact in parts of What Remains echoed the lack of connection that so many people have recently suffered.

In discussion we heard about the ways in which the choreographers, composers, musicians, dancers, and their mentors, often working remotely from one another, had successfully addressed this year’s particular challenges.  Sir Robert Cohan spoke at the end, emphasising the difference between being an artist for oneself (which is easy) and being an artist for your community, creating work and experiences for an audience that they can understand:  the true artist finds new ways to see life and emotion, and our society needs artists, if we are to grow as human beings.  Through this residency, the Cohan Collective, together with partners  Yorke Dance Project, Pavilion Dance South West and Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra and other supporters, has provided the professional guidance that prepares composers, choreographers, musicians, dancers and filmmakers to fulfil this essential role: it is good news that this year’s Birmingham Residency, although, perforce, postponed, is scheduled for 2–14 August 2021.

Maggie Watson

18th October 2020

You can find out more about the Cohan Collective here

Hosted by Dance Scholarship Oxford (DANSOX), Fertile Ground visits Oxford for the first time with a dynamic programme of dance, film and live music. Twilight Dances is a dance and music collaboration between Fertile Ground and Montréal based Quatuor Voxpopuli.  Fertile Ground’s current cohort of four young female professional dancers from the North East take to the stage in a new work created by Artistic Directors and former Rambert dancers Malgorzata Dzierzon and Renaud Wiser.  Performed to Schubert’s String Quartet No.14, Twilight Dances explores the eternal quest for the one thing that we cannot have – immortality.

The evening opens with a new musical performance composed by Voxpopuli’s Artistic Director Patrick Mathieu and a new film commission Trying to Make Sense – Make Sense of It by celebrated movement and theatre artist Wendy Houstoun.

Performance:  Wednesday 23 October, 7:30pm

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

Tickets: £15 regular/£5 students.  Book online here or call the Playhouse Box Office on 01865 305305

Find out more about the work of Fertile Ground here

Find out more about Wendy Houstoun here

 

Oxford’s next Dance Scratch Night presented by Oxford Dance Forum (ODF) will take place at the Old Fire Station on Tuesday 24th September.  Another exciting opportunity to support the emerging work of local and regional dance makers.  Artists showing their work for this edition will be Gemma Peramiquel, Jenny Parrott and guest artist Attila Andrasi; and there will also be a chance to view a film (work in progress) by Naomi Morris & Phil Oakley.

Performance:  Tuesday 24th Sptember, 7.30pm

Venue:  Arts at the Old Fire Station, 40 George Street, Oxford OX1 2AQ

Tickets:  £5, available online here, or call the OFS Box Office on 01865 263990

 

Don’t miss this chance to see Lukas Dhont‘s thought provoking and award winning film Girl this week at The Mill Arts Centre, Banbury.
Determined 15-year-old Lara wants to become a ballerina. With the support of family, she throws herself into this quest for everything at a new school. Lara’s frustrations and impatience are heightened as she realizes her body doesn’t bend so easily to the strict discipline because she was born a boy.
Showing:  Wednesday 11th September 7.30pm
Venue:  Main Auditorium, The Mill Arts Centre, Spiceball Park Road, Banbury OX16 5QE
Tickets:  From £8 from the Box Office on 01295 279002 or book online here
 
Rating: 15  Please note that this film is subtitled.
Find out more about the film here

Ana’s Time, a celebration in film, poetry and music of Ana Barbour’s contribution to the arts, took place at Film Oxford the day before what would have been her fifty-second birthday. The audience, which included many of her collaborators, shared laughter and tears as a showing of some her short films brought back memories of Barbour as a performer and creative artist.

Barbour’s film output demonstrates even more than her live performances her capacity to imagine and then present to others her extraordinary vision of the world. Borderlands, opens to the sound of marching feet, before fingers, and then hands, seem to tiptoe over a mossy wall. There is a troubling humour about her presentation of the human body in the landscape as apparently disembodied body parts squirm through vegetation. Footage, a film around a line-up of bare feet, and Eye-I, in which an eye watches from the side of the screen, are witty but unsettling; in Crow’s Playmates, Barbour seems to levitate above the billowing grass, while in My Time (2011) she confronts the problem of her ageing body. The irony is that Barbour did not live to grow old. (more…)

I made a last minute decision to go and see Watkins Dance Company. As a result I was late and missed most of the first piece but I’m glad that I went and saw the show. It was a shame that it did not appear to have been very well publicised.  The programme included three pieces by choreographer Anna Watkins; Human Animal, Mrs Oath, a film made in collaboration with Film Oxford and ACE, and Solitude. The evening had a theme about the equality and oppression of women in celebration and acknowledgement of the 100 year anniversary of women getting the vote. (more…)

A World of Signs and Types is a danced geography of the Oxford community of Littlemore and its collective unconscious. This is a collaborative and community based artistic experiment including dance, music, writing, and film created to conjure up a pure visceral experience from the subconscious while being presented with the recorded unconscious. Two sleepers alight upon multiple portals to the community, rest upon relics of the past, and synchronistically meet at the heart of the community while spoken dreams carry us through, distort, and cast contrasting shadows upon what is seen. The assembled dreamscape colorfully invites the viewer to an intuitive journey through music, dance, and spoken word.

A World of Signs and Types, devised and created by dancer/choreographer Michelle Azdajic, film maker Chris Atkins and musician/composer Malcolm Atkins, will be shown with improvised live musical accompaniment as part of Littlemore Hopes and Dreams, a fantastic concert that will include the Littlemore Mass (composed for Littlemore using melodies from different Oxford communities); songs chosen by the Response Singing Group; and songs chosen by the Littlemore Over 60s Lunch Club.

All are welcome to this special summer concert.

Performance:  Sunday 25th June, 3 pm

Venue: St Mary and St Nicholas Church, 12 Dudgeon Drive, Littlemore Oxford OX4 4QL

For more information contact Rev’d Margreet Armitstead by email here, or telephone 01865 748003

Find information about this event on Facebook here

This film can also now be accessed on YouTube here.