Siobhan Davies’ film Transparent, screened by DANSOX at St Hilda’s College Oxford on Monday 15 May, is a personal retrospective that forms part of her on-going enquiry into the nature of dance and its position among the arts. The thirty-five minute film offers a vast array of images in the form of transparencies laid upon a back-lit panel, which her hands delicately manoeuvre and adjust, concealing, revealing, overlaying or juxtaposing pictures in a glorious palimpsest of ideas and associations. Her moving collage seems to gather together every kind of influence on her work. It is as if by literally looking through the acetates, which include representations of the human form and the natural world in photographs, paintings, drawings, and sculptures, Davies endeavours to look through herself and understand what it is that makes her dance.

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On Thursday 24th November, DANSOX and the Oxford Centre for Life-Writing presented a joint event in the Jacqueline du Pré Music Building, St Hilda’s College, Oxford. DANSOX director Professor emeritus Sue Jones introduced the Centre’s founder, Dame Hermione Lee, who interviewed writer, academic, and former dancer Jennifer Homans about her biography Mr. B: George Balanchine’s 20th Century.

Homans had spent ten years working on the book: in 2017 at the Dancing Lives conference at Wolfson College, Oxford, she spoke of her quest to explore Balanchine’s work with a view revealing the man himself through the dances that he created. Five years on, this was an opportunity to discover more about that process and about how Homans had addressed the problems that she had encountered.

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An informative and stimulating DANSOX event, hosted at St Hilda’s College on 9th November, heralded Shobana Jeyasingh’s new work, Clorinda Agonistes, which played to full houses at Oxford Playhouse last week.

Speaking at DANSOX, Jeyasingh described her work’s lengthy gestation period. The inspiration that she drew from hearing Claudio Monteverdi’s operatic scena Il combattimento di Tancredi e Clorinda led her to research the story derived from Torquato Tasso’s epic poem Gerusalemme Liberata that lay behind it. Initially drawn by Monteverdi’s use of recitative, which Jeyasingh felt had an emotional effect similar to the vocalisation of syllables in classical Indian dance, she discovered a story that in spite of its late mediaeval orientalising tropes offers new resonance and meaning for audiences today.

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DANSOX joins forces with the Oxford Centre for Life-Writing to present two distinguished scholars in conversation, Jennifer Homans and Professor Dame Hermione Lee, launching Jennifer Homans’ important new biography, Mr B: George Balanchine’s 20th Century. An unmissable discussion of one of ballet’s most influential figures.

George Balanchine did for dance what Picasso did for painting: he changed the art and the way we see the human form. Homans follows Balanchine from his childhood in Tsarist St Petersburg, through the upheavals of the Russian Revolution, two World Wars, and the cultural Cold War, to New York, where he co-founded and ran the New York City Ballet.

  • Jennifer Homans is the dance critic for the New Yorker. Her widely acclaimed Apollo’s Angels: A History of Ballet was a bestseller and named one of the 10 best books of the year by the New York Times Book Review. Trained in dance at George Balanchine’s School of American Ballet, she performed professionally with the Pacific Northwest Ballet. She earned her BA at Columbia University and her PhD in modern European history at New York University, where she is a Scholar in Residence and the Founding Director of the Center for Ballet and the Arts.
  • Hermione Lee is a biographer and Emeritus Professor of English Literature in the English Faculty at Oxford University.

Date: Thursday 24th November, 5.30pm

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

Followed by drinks reception; free and open to all.

Register here: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/jennifer-homans-on-20th-century-choreographer-george-balanchine-tickets-440915097927

Find out more and purchase Jennifer Homans’ book here

Read Maggie Watson’s account for Oxford Dance Writers of the 2017 DANSOX and Oxford Centre for Life-Writing collaborative event which also featured Jennifer Homans here

Ahead of their performances at the Oxford Playhouse the following week, renowned choreographer Shobana Jeyasingh with dancers and artists of the company are invited by DANSOX (Dance Scholarship Oxford) to discuss and demonstrate the creative process for their exciting new work Clorinda Agonistes. The piece is inspired by the heroine of Claudio Monteverdi’s celebrated work, Il Combattimento, and the Tasso poem, based on the proud and fiery Muslim warrior Clorinda who defiantly refuses to reveal her name.
Followed by a Q&A session.

Date: Wednesday 9th November 5.30pm

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

Reserve a seat: email susan.jones@ell.ox.ac.uk

Dance Scholarship Oxford (DANSOX) hosts no less than three exciting summer intensives this July. International artists, writers, choreographers and guests explore themes of creativity and dance-making in relation to other arts. Alice Oswald and Saju Hari explore epic through different media; Thomas Page Dances develops current research on Commonalities; emerging dancers at Rambert School and the Royal Scottish Conservatoire make new dance narratives by and about women.  Guest lecturers include international dance critic Alastair Macaulay and eminent biographer Lyndall Gordon. Visitors are welcome to drop in at any time to watch the processes unfolding, but do book places for the public sharing events listed below.

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

Alice Oswald with Saju Hari and Dancers 11th-14th July

Oxford’s Professor of Poetry Alice Oswald collaborates with internationally renowned contemporary Indian dance and martial arts expert Saju Hari, developing work for the Archive of Performances of Greek and Roman Drama All-Night Epic project to come in 2023.

Public Sharing including Q&A: 14th July 5.30pm

Thomas Page Dances: Commonalities 15th-20th July

Thomas Page Dances develops new dance work and discusses the themes of commonality in relation to dance theories, histories and practice.

Public Keynote Guest Lecture given by Alastair Macaulay: ‘Commonalities, Communities, Utopia’ 15th July 11.30am

Public Sharing of the work with Thomas Page Dances including Q&A: 20th July 5.30pm

Deborah Norris, Rambert School and Guests: Women and Choreography 21st-25th July

This exciting choreographic intensive brings together a group of students of the Rambert School and the Royal Scottish Conservatoire in classes and workshops with guest teachers Kate Flatt, Jennifer Jackson and Susie Crow, and to make new work.

Public Keynote Guest Lecture given by Lyndall Gordon: Charlotte Brontë (Villette) 21st July 5.30pm

Public Sharing of Woman-Made! An evening of new short ballets created by women including Q&A

25th July 5.30pm

To book for Keynote Lectures and Public Sharing events please email Professor Sue Jones here

DANSOX conferences at St Hilda’s College, Oxford are now a regular landmark in the UK dance research year.  DANSOX works in association with TORCH (The Oxford Research Centre in the Humanities) and constitutes Oxford’s interface between dance practice and dance research; a space to investigate the ways in which practice constitutes research and, conversely, where research becomes practice.  Although Oxford University has neither a dance department nor dance studio, DANSOX plays a vital role at a time when other UK institutions and centres of academic excellence in dance and their collections are under threat.

The DANSOX 2022 Day of Dance: Transnational Conversations symposium was a collaboration with TORCH Humanities and Cultural Programme and the Network Britain and the Soviet Union: Cultural Encounters; the day interrogated the ways in which dance communicates across borders, cultures and generations through written records, images, recordings and bodily memory.  Open to all, and attended by an array of distinguished scholars, writers, and practitioners from major dance institutions, the day included performances, workshops, lectures, and experimental applications of virtual reality (VR) to performance.

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Dance Scholarship Oxford (DANSOX) and TORCH (The Oxford Research Centre for the Humanities) collaborate to present Day of Dance: Transnational Conversations, a rich mix of dance practice, research and discussion involving leading dance artists and distinguished scholars, and centring on Bronislava Nijinska‘s seminal work Les Noces.

Programme:

10.00am-12.00pm Welcome and Liam Francis choreography session – making new work.

1.15-2.00pm Keynote: Jane Pritchard on Nijinska’s Les Noces

Throughout the day from 1.00pm- 6.00pm, those attending can drop in on a showing of Future Rites by Alexander Whitley Dance Company in the Rooftop Suite

2.05-2.50pm Deirdre Chapman leads dancers in a demonstration and workshop of choreography from Les Noces

3.00-3.30pm Marcus Bell presentation Rites of Spring

3.30-4.00pm Meindert Peters presentation Kafka and Arthur Pita

4.00-4.30pm Hélène Neveu Kringelbach presentation Avant-garde dance in Senegal

5.00-6.00pm Book launch of Lynn Garafola‘s biography La Nijinska: Choreographer of the Modern with Judith Mackrell

6.10-7.15pm Keynote: Alexander Whitley on Future Rites? with dancers, followed by discussion

7.15pm Reception

Date: Friday 10th June 10.00am-7.45pm

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

Tickets: Free of charge; to register for the event please use this link.

If you would like to watch the livestream of the day please use this link.

For further info please contact susan.jones@ell.ox.ac.uk & marcus.bell@st-hildas.ox.ac.uk

Finally, if you would like to attend the inaugural meeting of TORCH Network
Britain and the Soviet Union: Cultural Encounters you can sign up for a group discussion led by Gabriela Minden – on the London performances of Les Noces by Ballets Russes in June 1926, a month after the General Strike – by following this link.

The final event in Dance Scholarship Oxford’s current series Interrogating the Dance ‘Classics’ is a discussion with Dr Arabella Stanger of her new book Dancing on Violent Ground: Utopia as Dispossession in Euro-American Theater Dance. This fascinating and thought-provoking event is free and open to all, but seats are limited due to COVID-19 restrictions, so advance booking is essential. It will also be live streamed, and available to watch after the event.

Date: Tuesday 19th April 5.30pm BST

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

Booking: To register for this event please email Professor Sue Jones or Marcus Bell

Find out more about DANSOX here

Alastair Macaulay delivered the first face-to-face DANSOX lecture of 2022 against a background of loss and tragedy.  The loss was the death of the critic Clement Crisp at the age of 95; the tragedy, the invasion of Ukraine by Russia.  Macaulay dedicated his lecture to the memory of the former, and  acknowledged his initial difficulty in speaking to a topic that might have seemed trivial against the background of the latter. 

He then delivered a talk that proved quite the opposite.  Taking inspiration from Arlene Croce’s assertion in 1973 that ‘Swan Lake is not a drama about birds – it’s a drama about freedom’, Macaulay cogently argued that it is a ballet about power and subjugation; bondage and liberation; trust and betrayal, which extends beyond the personal tragedies of Odette and Siegfried into the wider social and political domain.

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