Oxford’s Offbeat is a festival of brand-new theatre, comedy, dance, family shows, spoken word and music.  A collaboration between Oxford Playhouse and Arts at the Old Fire Station now in its 3rd edition, it offers a host of opportunities to see something which wouldn’t usually come here.  It’s a blind date with a show you could fall in love with – right on your doorstep.

Take a chance on something exciting. This year’s festival runs from Monday 17th to Saturday 29th June with performances across the Old Fire Station and Burton Taylor Studio.  Here is a list of the dance shows:

Eleven, twelve, thirteen – Friday 21st June 6.00-7.00pm, Old Fire Station.  Ages 12+. Tickets £10, book online here

Eleven, twelve, thirteen explores the importance of numbers in our lives, from the significance of the number 11 in the world around us through to the iconic era of the Sufis during the 1200s and a light-hearted exploration of the troublesome thirTEENS. The production comprises a variety of original pieces that innovatively combine dance, music and the spoken word, and sprout unique collaborations between UK’s finest young British Asian artists across genres. Sona Lisa Dance Company is a Birmingham (England) based dance company set up by Artistic Director Sonia Chandaria Tillu in 2018, building a dance style and vocabulary based on one of the oldest classical Indian dance forms, Kathak, but speaking to contemporary audiences.

“…I also admired Sonia Chandaria Tillu for the way in which she contained and then released energy… the performance only lasted an hour, but I could have watched these dancers all night.” – Maggie Watson (Oxford Dance Writers) review on Sonia as a guest performer in FACET for Drishti Dance at the Offbeat Festival 2018

Find out more about the production and Sona Lisa Dance Company here

Jane – Saturday 22nd June at 12pm, 1.30pm and 3.30pm, Gloucester Green. Each performance lasts 20 minutes.  All ages, free – just come along.

A new dance theatre piece from Moxie Brawl looking inside the head of pre-Raphaelite artists’ muse Jane Morris. Playing with power, femininity with a touch of art history.  With bright blue costumes that turn into puppets, mesmerising choreography and cheeky performers, this show will brighten up your day as we tell Jane’s story.

‘Gloriously unsubtle’ – The Observer

Findo out more about Moxie Brawl here

A Moment – Tuesday 25th, Wednesday 26th, Thursday 27th June 8.30-9.30pm, Old Fire Station.  Suitable for all ages.  Tickets £10, book online here

‘I used to be interested in clothes, clubs, buying records. And men. Now my life…what life?’  Two performers explore what it was to be gay in the 80s when the UK was full of fear and ignorance, in a response to Bren Gosling’s ‘Moment of Grace’. An intimate duet moving through themes of paranoia, intimacy and oppression. The work also gives thanks to those who made it possible to say “HIV is no longer a death sentence.”

Thomas Page Dances is part of Offbeat’s supported artist programme.

★★★★ “In a different league” – The Sunday Express

Find out more about the production and Thomas Page Dances here

Sound Cistem – Wednesday 26th, Thursday 27th, Friday 28th June 7.00-7.50pm, Old Fire Station Studio. Ages 14+.  Tickets £5, book online here

“These are our bodies. What do you see?”  Two transgender performers say f**k you to the binary, and invite you to their radically queer dance party!  Set in nightclubs, Sound Cistem is an exuberant dance show about the cisgender gaze on the transgender body. Through riotous, glittering disco, shame is rejected and a self-love manifesto made. Unafraid to punch hard, Sound Cistem asks you to see the beauty in these bodies: and your own too.  This is a work in progress.

Plaster Cast Theatre is part of Offbeat’s supported artist programme.

Praise for their previous work:  ★★★★ “Unflinching” – The Scotsman
★★★★ “Gripping” – The List  ★★★★ “Extremely powerful” – North West End
★★★★★ Spectacular” – The Mancunion

Find out more about the production and Plaster Cast Theatre here

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The final week of April brought thought-provokingly contrasted dance performances to Oxford. On Tuesday 23rd at the New Theatre the BalletBoyz performed their latest programme Them/Us, shortly to be opening for their first West End season at the Vaudeville Theatre. This two-part programme involves all six male dancers in both pieces. Opening the evening Them was a collaborative choreographic venture by the dancers drawing on elements of their own individual movement, sharing them in a succession of often playful episodes and exchanges. Set in a twilight zone, a gleaming stainless steel tubular cube framework and sleek satin shell suits brought enlivening geometric dashes of light and colour, red, blue, green and purple. The cube defined shifting spaces which the dancers could manipulate, inhabit, swing from and climb up. Movement combined sharp crisp gesture with a lyrical contemporary idiom, integrating tumbling and floorwork in response to Charlotte Harding’s lively but dark toned score; suggestions of character and relationship were glimpsed and a feeling of camaraderie and group identity emerged, even if overall the episodic structure of the piece did not build a sense of narrative or situational development. The performers conveyed lithe fluidity and a smooth assurance, distinct from the rawness of previous BalletBoyz ensembles; no longer projecting a company narrative of emerging talent and inexperienced diamonds in the rough, but a polished professional group. (more…)

Fresh from a sold-out week run at the Barbican, Rhiannon Faith’s current work, Smack That (a conversation), has been touring the UK to critical acclaim, and will be performed at Oxford’s Burton Taylor Studio on 25th April.  Rhiannon Faith is a socially conscious contemporary dance artist whose work is an agent for discourse and change; she makes form-defying autobiographical shows that have guts, and that take guts.  Her creative process draws  stories from the communities and artists she works with. The result is work which uses dance and theatre (in their widest meanings) to take the audience on a narrative led journey, which is both challenging and accessible.

In Smack That Beverly is having a party and you are one of her guests. Each member of the all-female cast fearlessly takes on the persona of Beverly to convey real experiences.  The unusual setting creates a safe space for them to reveal the turbulence and challenges they have faced and celebrate their endurance with the audience. Expect games, dancing, humour and a very raw and honest account of domestic abuse.

Rhiannon Faith’s work often involves a wide range of collaborating partners including a psychologist, a neuroscientist, a domestic abuse charity, and most recently a philosopher on virtue ethics and moral psychology.  Smack That (a conversation) has also been published by Oberon Books as an instructional dance play.

Performance:  Thursday 25th May 7.30pm

Venue:  Burton Taylor Studio, Gloucester Street, Oxford OX1 2BN

Tickets:  £10 Book online here, or call the Oxford Playhouse Box Office on 01865 305305

Duration:  1 hour 20 minutes with no interval

Age Guideline:  18+

Find out more about Rhiannon Faith here

The Olivier-nominated dance/theatre company LOST DOG tour their smash-hit production Juliet and Romeo to Oxford this autumn. Juliet & Romeo opened to packed houses and critical acclaim at a two week run at Battersea Arts Centre in London earlier this year. Broadly based on Shakespeare’s deeply pessimistic teenage love story, this “highly entertaining, extremely amusing and occasionally quite tender evening of theatre and dance” (Times) is performed by Lost Dog’s Artistic Director Ben Duke and Solène Weinachter. This clever, funny production explores contemporary culture’s celebration of youth and how it creates unrealistic expectations around love, sex and relationships. (more…)

A fascinating and thought-provoking performance coming to The North Wall this week.  Stroke Odysseys is an ambitious piece of dance theatre performed by an ensemble of stroke survivors, supported by professional dancers, singers and musicians.  The show explores intertwined journeys of recovery from stroke and asks what impact the act of storytelling through dance and song may have on the brain’s ability to heal itself.

This new production by award-winning choreographer Ben Duke and composer Orlando Gough is commissioned by Rosetta Life – a charity that changes the way we perceive the frail and disabled.  The performance is supported by an education programme of talks and workshops led by experts including dancers, musicians, neurologists and stroke survivors.

Venue:  The North Wall Arts Centre, South Parade, OX2 7JN
Performance:  Thursday, 25th October 7.30pm
Tickets:  £16 (concessions £14)  Book online here, or call the box office on: 01865 319450

Following the success of Rapunzel and Snow White, award winning balletLORENT returns to Oxford Playhouse with the final show in their trilogy of fairytales, Rumpelstiltskin, directed by Liv Lorent.  Full of action and humour, this emotionally rich story retold by Carol Ann Duffy is set in a rural world of sheep, straw, wool and spinning; where the alchemist Rumpelstiltskin is outcast until he is revealed to be ‘the true prince that he was’.  With choreography by Liv Lorent and the company involving a local intergenerational cast, a score by Doctor Who composer Murray Gold, costumes designed by Michele Clapton (Game of Thrones), narration by actor Ben Crompton, this is dance theatre for 21st Century family audiences.

Phil Eddolls (set design) and Malcolm Rippeth (lighting design) once again join the world class collaborators team, along with associate lighting designer Michael Morgan, to create a visually stunning setting for Rumpelstiltskin.

“It is a thing of magic and beauty, not so much a cautionary tale but one of hope and reconciliation.” David Whetstone, Newcastle Evening Chronicle (*****)

“It’s a fitting, sumptuous and beautifully realised production to bring the five years of the trilogy to its culmination and well deserved the enthusiasm and standing ovation with which it was greeted.” Peter Latham, British Theatre Guide

“Fabulous show – beautiful to watch, wonderful storytelling and choreography; a very special evening..” Northern Stage Audience Member

“I haven’t enjoyed a show so much for a long time. I was delighted and left in tears by your production.” Northern Stage Audience Member

Performances:  Friday 1st June 7.00pm, Saturday 2nd June 2.00pm & 7.00pm

Venue:  Oxford Playhouse, Beaumont Street, Oxford OX1 2LW

Tickets:  £10-£21, book online here or call the Box Office on 01865 305305

Duration:  Approximately 1 hour 40 minutes with interval

Age guideline:  7 plus

Find out more about the company and the production here

“Spring is coming…” I wrote in posting an advance round-up of performance and other events for this year’s edition of Dancin’ Oxford Festival 1st – 11th March 2018. It would perhaps have been more appropriate to post “Winter is coming…” as the arrival of the “Beast from the East” took some casualties in the first weekend of programming. Heavy snowfall and consequent travel disruption led to the postponement to a later date (to be announced) of the one day Dance and Academia conference, with several guest speakers unable to get there. That same day (Saturday 3rd March) Company Chameleon’s performance at Pegasus Theatre was also cancelled.

Other companies who had arrived in Oxford a day or two earlier before the snow were able to continue with scheduled performances in true “the show must go on” style, and with encouragingly healthy audiences. At the end of Theatre Ad Infinitum’s Friday evening performance of Odyssey at The North Wall, performer George Mann gave a heartfelt thanks to those that had made it. I found this lively retelling of Homer’s great story of journey and homecoming well worth crunching through silent snowy streets for. (more…)