Lewys Holt is billed as an “interdisciplinary dance artist”.  His double bill of two extended performance pieces cannot really be described as primarily dance solos – involving, as they do, not only Holt’s particular movement, collapsing and reconstituting itself in wayward unexpected ways, but also articulate verbal narrative and interjections of projected images, sound and music.  A studio setting provides a small performing space demarcated by a black curtain with simple white chair and table; but shifting camera work allow viewers to glimpse behind and around it the clutter of a working space and its prosaic furnishings, with radiators, coarse chipboard, and miscellaneous equipment pushed aside – in contrast to the unrealistic abstracted framing of theatre’s conventional black box.  A masked collaborative technical team visible filming from different angles or following Holt within the performing space are occasionally drawn into his rambling monologue to answer questions and offer comments or suggestions.  


ABOUT US is a remarkable embodiment of ordinary human experience that reveals the universal through the personal, and places dance firmly in the political sphere. Jacky Lansley is a dancer and choreographer, who uses sound, music, lighting, film and narrative to convey layers of meaning collaboratively, and she began working of this piece in the aftermath of the Referendum on membership of the European Union.

As we entered the gallery, and sat on the chairs arranged around three walls (the fourth was used for projection), we realised that the performers were already among us, intent and focussed, drawing us into their world, which is also ours. (more…)

Dance? Mime? Theatre? Peut-Etre . . .

When I was asked to review a children’s show called Tidy Up, I immediately anticipated an hour or so of theatrical fun. I also gleefully anticipated that my children, aged five and nine, would receive a subliminal message that tidiness is COOL! I was not disappointed.

The three Tidy Up performers had a giggling North Wall audience in the palms of their hands from the very beginning, accompanying the slapping of their hands on their bottoms with cheeky, over the shoulder winks. With the performers enjoying themselves, the fun was infectious. (more…)

On the evening of the 4th of May, the Oxford-based DEC Drawing Dance group will be performing for Headington & Marston Artweeks at All Saints Church, Headington offering a unique artistic experience.  Dancers, musicians and visual artists interact in composed and improvised performance using live video projection of painting and drawing in the moment.  In celebration of Artweeks DEC will also be projecting artwork submitted by local children as a stimulus.  Accoustic music group AMV specialize in the inauthentic playing of early music, with witty and tuneful interpretations of songs old and new.  Come along and experience a playful and poetic evening of  cohesion of  music, dance and art. (more…)

To the Female Choreographers’ Collective programme “The Experiment” at the Laban Theatre last Tuesday 23rd April.  FCC’s Holly Noble and Jane Coulston convened a programme of six works, three by male choreographers and three by female, to be anonymously performed, to test the hypothesis that choreographic work is influenced by gender, and to discover if there might be any bias in the audience towards male and female authored works.  The audience filled in anonymous questionnaires about their dance viewing habits and impressions of the works being presented.

The curious can now find out the identities of the featured artists which have been revealed on the FCC website:

A substantial labour of data analysis now lies ahead for the FCC to discover what their lively audience made of the evening; however some forthright comments have already been posted about it on online dance magazine Bellyflop:


Meanwhile the debate about sexism in dance and the invisibility of work by female choreographers has now reached beyond the confines of the dance world thanks to a powerful article by Observer dance critic Luke Jennings:


Scroll down after reading to a succession of thoughtful and passionate postings in response… Add you own or post a comment about this here on Oxford Dance Writers…

This Friday 2nd November, a chance to see Lost Dog‘s Place Prize winning duet It Needs Horses at the Corn Exchange in Newbury, alongside the company’s newest work Home for Broken Turns.  Blackly comic and highly physical dance theatre performed by an international cast of performers from some of Europe’s most reputable dance and physical theatre companies, including Hofesh Schechter Company, Fabulous Beast and Gecko.  It Needs Horses tells the tale of a down at heel circus duet and their increasingly desperate attempts to entertain the crowd… (more…)

Rising –  Aakash Odedra Company, 26 September, Burton Taylor Studio, Oxford Playhouse

Aakash Odedra is an extraordinary dancer and it is not surprising that other choreographers have chosen to create works on his body.  In Rising we saw a solo by Aakash Odedra himself followed by three others by Akram Khan, Russell Maliphant, and Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui.


Diamond Nights at Brookes Studio Theatre 28th January 2012 – Susie Crow writes:

The seventh edition of Café Reason’s regular “Diamond Nights” was an intimate evening of poetic experiments in theatricality.  Introduced by Ana Barbour and lit by Pete Green, the performance began with Ayala Kingsley’s Trunk.  In near darkness assistants drew aside a black velvet curtain to reveal a trunk which began to creak and twitch, its lid tentatively ajar to reveal slivers of torchlight; then streams of bubbles, followed by two grey clad hands as exploring creatures.  Gradually the trunk opened to reveal Ayala as an enigmatic siren bathing and ultimately paddling off on a sea of fabric with her bath-brush… a succession of winning images worth developing.

Flavia Coube’s solo Child juxtaposed her insightful portrayal of childishness with a haunting song by Joanna Nielson which gave an edge of darkness.   In a baggy dress with oversized checks, and hair held by an unruly pink bow Flavia’s comical persona was communicated through wide eyes and ungainly limbs.  Admirable articulation in the fluid and expressive detail of every part of body and face gave this solo clarity and touching authenticity.

A powerful opening to Ségolène Tarte’s Splice as her shadowy figure found its agitated way to a central hanging rope and pool of light.  This work in progress has expanded since previous performances, building its emotional resonance as Ségolène has developed a vulnerable and shifting relationship with the rope, almost lending it life and a character of its own.  She is finding a personal dance language which integrates her balletic grace and vocabulary with strongly defined expressive movement.

Cellist Bruno Guastalla and Macarena Ortuzar continued their fruitful collaboration with Slate.  Sophisticated software allowed the live and recorded cello to be fragmented and randomly fed back and layered, creating an atmospheric sound world into which Macarena crept down the stairs.  Bent back with a layer of skirt over her head, she felt her way into the space with tremulous fingers.  At times she seemed headless, I lost the sense of which was her body’s back and front.  Once fully revealed the image conveyed by her demure cream frock was subverted with movement of delicacy and anguished grotesquerie, suggesting deep and painful stories.

Dariusz Dziala’s video short Cabbage was a lighthearted and surreal collage of images set to a Polish folk song, dazzling in its witty unpredictable invention and inclusion of dance footage both historic and of Café Reason dancers.  Here was editor as choreographer, making surprising combinations of literal and abstracted images dance.

Finally A Walk, a structured group improvisation by Jeannie Donald McKim, Fabrizia Verrechia, Flavia, Ségolène and Ayala with Bruno on cello and singer Janna Ferrett, triggered by Ivor Cutler’s Life in a Scotch Sitting Room, with playful interaction and exchange of a variety of hats.  Hats off to the Café Reason team this evening for conjuring up such arresting dream worlds…

Cafe Reason are hosting another ‘Diamond Nights‘ at the Brookes Drama Studio, Headington Hill campus this Saturday 28th January.
A variety of experiments and works in progress by members of Cafe Reason and invited guests with dance, theatre, live music, word and video.
They look forward to seeing you there.
Please arrive 7.45 for 8.00 start as the door opens straight on to the stage.
Donation (£3-5) appreciated.
For directions please check the Cafe Reason website:  http://www.cafereason.com

The first of what will hopefully be many Scratch Nights at The Pegasus.  One of the best things about taking part in this was the opportunity to see other artists’ work.  The evening was organised to enable sharings and audience feedback.  In total there were 8 works with a maximum of 8 minutes allocated to each act.

The evening was structured to show 2 performances followed by audience feedback to the choreographer/performers.  Claire Thompson, of Arts Officer of Oxford City Council and chair of Oxford Dance Forum took the role of introducing the pairs of acts and leading/facilitating the feedback sessions.   Each choreographer had been able to put forward specific questions about their work so the feedback could be tailored to suit each of their  needs rather than providing general, random opinions or unhelpful advice.  This structure worked well and enabled both performers and audience to focus.

I was performing in Paulette Mae’s choreography with Anja Meinhardt and Paulette in an excerpt from ‘A Suitcase for all Seasons’.  Paulette’s work explores attachment and is an interesting fusion of dance vocabularies.  We were 2nd on and this meant I was not able to catch the first act –Nomi McLeod who was spectacularly treating the audience to aerial work on a rope up close.

The next pair were Leslie Tomkins performing an individual and moving solo and Amarita performing flamenco to a projected still backdrop and a practise recording of her flamenco teacher in Spain.  ‘This is very unusual and in a theatre performance I would use live musicians.  In flamenco the musician follows the dancer’s tempo so it is strange to follow a fixed pre-recorded track’.  Leslie talking about his piece said he quite likes to ‘alienate the audience’ while audience members commented that his absorption drew them in towards him.  The two contrasted well with Leslie’s inward looking and relaxed style and Amarita’s strong outward presence and precision.

Segolene Tarte in ‘Splice’ presented a very different use of the rope –as a prop and dance partner.  (how amazing to have 2 rope pieces in one evening!).  She brought a light, playful touch which was also at times mysterious and full of emotional resonance.  Making good use of space and clear form she also took on a variety of body qualities which showed an ability to extend well beyond ballet technique.

Emma Webb stood in her apron and wellies amongst domestic debris and talked and made me laugh.  Making poignant the reality of home and ‘waiting’.  ‘I wait’ she says and there is news of a body on the beach which may or may not be her husband.  She leaves her wellies and her apron and reveals her beautiful dress and her dance.  We do not know if it was her long awaited husband or someone else.  This was a strong piece with plenty of potential.  The use of text and humour with the dance worked well.

The last pair of the evening were Jo Lott’s ‘Tender’ danced by Helen Wadge and David Hudson and ‘Water’ by Helen Tennison and Lucy May Constantini.  ‘Tender’ was an athletic display of contemporary dance which only began to express its softness towards the end.  Jo explained the piece is normally a trio rather than a duet and will have a filmed projection in the finished work.  The audience enjoyed the energy of the dancers and the choreography.

The very last piece was my absolute favourite.  Very refreshing and inspiring.  Starting from the apparently simple idea of ‘water’ it opened up an amazing world of possibilities and ideas extending from that one source.  While one performer sat quietly and spoke to us about the properties of water – scientific terminology, densities, uses, function within the body, the process of drowning, the other dancer moved across the stage behind her in an embodiment of ice.  Then the roles began to change and speaker became dancer and dancer speaker.  More and more facts about the world and water and a story and a desperate chalking out on the floor of shrinking ice caps.   Yet, as someone said so poetic.  What a treat!  I felt really excited to have seen this work and look forward to seeing how and where they extend it.

As a Scratch Night, a space for showing work in progress, we are going to be able to see many of these pieces in their more developed forms during the dance festival:

Flamenco Intimo  3rd March at The Pegasus: Amarita and guests

Moving with The Times , 9/10 March at Pegasus: Nomi McLeod,  Emma Webb and Jo Lott’s dancers

A Suitcase for All Seasons, 17th March at The Old Firestation ; Paulette Mae and dancers.

The Scratch Night had a very good turn out, a warm and sympathetic audience and a nice feeling of shared experience backstage.  Euton managed all the tech slots throughout the day and operated lights and sound on the night.  I also saw him stacking up all the chairs after the show.  We are very lucky to have him and Pegasus on the side of dance in Oxford!

Ana Barbour