A Suitcase for All Occasions – 17th March 2012 at the Old Fire Station

I was not sure what to expect from Paulette Mae’s A Suitcase for All Occasions. It was very well attended, and the atmosphere built up outside as we all waited in the foyer to be let in. The programme seemed to suggest- from Mae’s background and the information we were given- that the three dances would focus on the meaning and unnecessary nature of the material possessions we want and accumulate. The first dance, P.S., seemed more about mother and daughter losing connections than the significance of a dress that the daughter wanted. (more…)

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Between, at the Burton Taylor Studio, Friday 24th March

When we entered the Burton Taylor (the tiny studio attached to the Oxford Playhouse, usually given over to student theatre) it was quite dark, apart from a thin shaft of light, and quite empty, apart from the figure of a woman lying in the middle of the floor. We ranged ourselves against the walls, standing. The feeling of anticipation and curiosity is incredible. Suddenly a torch is raised – another woman is caught by its beam in the corner, struggling with a silver coat. The torch bearing man moves round and as it catches the light again the silver glows fiercely, the woman gasps. (more…)

Open Dance Theatre Rehearsal

Paulette Mae, who is currently devising the dance theatre piece A Suitcase for all Occasions for the Dancin Oxford Festival, would like to invite you to an Open Rehearsal on Monday March 12th, 4-5pm at the Pegasus Theatre, Magdalen Road, Oxford, OX4 1RE.

The piece explores our attachment to people, objects and space and the power of attachment to transform our personal worlds onto extraordinary landscapes.

Drop in behind the scenes and experience the final stages of dance theatre in the making. See how material gathered from personal stories, images and words are refined and brought to life.

As well as being a fly on the wall, there will be the opportunity to share your experiences of the material/process and ask the dancers – Ana Barbour, Anja Meinhardt and Paulette Mae – any questions towards the end of the rehearsal.

Places limited, so booking recommended. If you would like to book a place or find out more please email paulettemae@ymail.com

The work being rehearsed is for an upcoming triple bill of dance theatre at Arts at the Old Fire Station on 17th March, 8pm. More information can be found at http://www.dancinoxford.co.uk

Kathakbox: Living Multicultural Possibilities

Thursday 1st March 2012, Pegasus Theatre, Oxford, 8pm

by Sitara Thobani

The Pegasus Theatre was filled with praise and joyful appreciation as the Sonia Sabri Company presented Kathakbox, part of the Dancin’ Oxford 2012 line up. Weaving together dance and spoken word, the production was a wonderful reflection of multicultural Britain as experienced in urban centres across the UK, not only for its chosen subject matter but also for its actual performance aesthetic. Dancers from styles as diverse as North Indian Kathak, Western Contemporary and urban street dancing combined their talents with vocalists specialising in singing, beatboxing and bol – the often tongue-twisting syllables called out by the tabla player that accompanies Kathak dance. Indeed, even though the show was organised into distinctive segments – solos, duets and sections in which the entire group performed at once – that were gripping in their own right, the production was truly greater than the sum of its parts.

Kathakbox was an interrogation of identity and pluralism, which so often confine people to narrow categories and force them to ‘tick the right box’. And while the show was at times extremely literal – in one of the introductory sequences, the dancers scrambled and struggled to find their place in the ‘right’ box that had been traced on the stage floor  – its humour and the warm personalities of the performers made it resonate with the audience in a powerful way. Laughter, cheers and cries of amazement from the audience could be heard throughout the evening, especially when Shane Bansil the beatboxer, Sarvar Sabri the tabla player, and Nathan Geering the b-boy displayed their impressive talents.

Kathakbox had something to offer an audience that was as diverse as its cast.  Although its name and the classical Kathak training of its choreographer and performer, Sonia Sabri, at times linked the show to the Indian classical dance style, the production incorporated so much more and created something entirely new, not reducible to a label or singularity of style.  Each performer played a role that, at least to the viewer, seemed entirely personal, making the performance feel sincere and relatable. It was impossible not to be swept away by their dance, their conviction and their stories. Sitting in the audience, it did not feel as if we were simply watching the show but that we were living it alongside with the performers. To conceive of the show without any one of these performers seems impossible, which is a strong testament to the fine balance they have achieved. It also speaks to each performer’s ability to connect with the audience and build a relationship over the duration of the show. While much work remains to be done to realize the harmony that Kathakbox captured so inspiringly on stage within larger society, watching and being part of the show was bound to leave audiences with a sense of possibility and a determination to try.

 Sensual Africa, Tavaziva Dance Company

Pegasus Theatre, Oxford, Saturday 25th February 2012, 8pm

by Caroline Potter

I went into this Saturday’s performance of Sensual Africa by Tavaziva Dance Company with mixed expectations. On the one hand I had heard good things about this company and expected a high level of professionalism from the choreographer and company dancers. As someone who has previously performed both contemporary and West African dance styles, I was also looking forward to seeing this company’s interpretation of African-contemporary fusion. On the other hand, the show’s marketing, which depicted the two Malawi-based tribes that inspired the piece as ‘untouched, pure, raw, natural, unearthed, mysterious and rich in culture and life’, made me (wearing my anthropologist hat) nervous that the show’s content might be nothing more than post-colonial exoticism of the worst kind.

On the first front, the company did not disappoint. The main show opened with musician Douglas Thorpe (himself also a professional contemporary dancer) hooking the audience in with a commanding percussive performance. Even from behind three drums and a mask, his gaze and bodily presence pierced the space during well-timed silences between an otherwise galloping crescendo of sound, punctuated by sharp slaps of the drumheads that demanded the audience’s attention. My fears of over-the-top exoticism were largely allayed when the first dancer took to the stage; the costuming, music (from this point on largely audio-recorded) and movement sequences signalled immediately that this was contemporary dance: African-inspired, but not attempting to pose as ‘African dance’ as such. I breathed a sigh of relief and sat attentively forward, eagerly watching the piece unfold.

The eight dancers (six women and two men) moved with powerful, punchy impact and never eased off from challenging both the audience and each other throughout the performance. The clarity of movement in every joint and the feverish, yet controlled energy generated by every dancer was compelling from the beginning. The dancers’ seemingly limitless vigour and unwavering stamina, combined with technical prowess, was a pleasure to watch throughout the roughly hour-long performance. The costumes – neutral-coloured short-legged unitards with minimal trim for the men, and two-piece sports bra and bike shorts with a single drape cloth and burnt orange accents for the women – were visually pleasing and effectively showed off the intense physicality of the movements. Additional production elements made the performance space feel thick: voices and calls that occasionally permeated from the wings, the periodic release of a hazy smoke that hung in the air, and the occasional accent of a live drum from off stage. The lingering patterns of sweat that two dancers left on the stage following floor sequences further emphasized the palpable heat generated by the performance.

My chief criticism stems from the non-development of the choreography. While exciting throughout, I never had a sense of journeying through the initiation ceremonies that supposedly inspired the piece. The interpersonal dynamics, conveyed especially through multiple duets of same- and opposite-sex partnerships, never moved away from struggle (manipulation/abuse of one dancer over another) or sexual play (lust/lascivious exploration between dancers)… were no other dynamics of sensuality (tenderness, vulnerability, acceptance, care) to be found during the choreographer’s research trip? The end of act one seemed a cohesive if somewhat underdeveloped end point, with the reappearance of a drum head and the drummer’s hands from the wings to accompany two masked dancers – the audience could have been forgiven for thinking that the show was then over, particularly in the absence of a programme (which gave the only indication of the 20-minute interval). The second act, although full of movement that was compelling for its own sake, did not lead me in any new direction. As one fellow audience member put it, it seemed that the choreographer was less concerned with conveying the process of ceremonial transformation than the moment of adolescent sexual becoming…to which his partner astutely responded that 80 minutes felt like a long time to linger in one moment.

Choreographic equilibrium aside, Bawren Tavaziva and the company’s talented dancers are to be lauded for bringing this energizing, high-quality performance to the Pegasus stage. An added bonus was the ‘curtain warmer’ performed by Oxford youth dancers, choreographed in line with the main show’s theme by two Tavaziva dancers. While lacking some of the technical clarity of the professionals, the youth dancers’ synchrony of dynamics, forceful intention and commitment to the movements was a compelling taster of the excitement to come. Tavaziva seems to have struck the right balance between displaying their own impressive talents and fostering the talents of others, and I for one hope to see the company continue its development in future tours.

Dance Writers of the Future 2012

Following the successful Dance Writers of the Future project initiated by Ballet in Small Spaces in 2009, Oxford Dance Writers announces a second competition to find talented young writers on dance.  This year’s competition focuses on Dancin’ Oxford 2012, whose programme of exciting dance events, activities and performances from 18th February to 28th March provides multiple opportunities for reflective writing and critique.

  • Entrants are asked to submit a piece of original critical writing about an event taking place as part of the Dancin’ Oxford 2012 programme.  This could be a review of a performance, an account of a workshop experienced, discussion of a talk or conference presentation etc.
  • Length to be approximately 400 words.
  • Entries to be sent to Susie Crow of Oxford Dance Writers either by email, or hard copy by mail – see contact details below.  Please include with your entry your full contact details, including postal address, telephone and email, also date of birth.  Incomplete submissions cannot be accepted.
  • Deadline for submissions 5.00pm Monday 2nd April.
  • A panel of experienced professionals will judge entries and select winners in two categories; under 18 years and 18-22 years.
  • Prizes will include pairs of tickets for forthcoming dance performances in Oxford, including Matthew Bourne’s Nutcracker, and dancers of English National Ballet and Flawless in Against Time at the New Theatre, and joint subscriptions to Dancing Times and Dance Today.
  • A selection of entries including the winners will be published online on the Oxford Dance Writers website, and the competition will be publicised in Oxford Times and nationally through Dancing Times who will publish two winning entries online.

Guidelines for writers:

“Good dance criticism is a multi-faceted endeavour.  It involves – at a minimum – description, interpretation and value judgement.”  – Roger Copeland

The judges will be looking for:

  • Flair, imaginative response
  • Evidence of some informed understanding
  • Inclusion of specific detail and useful information
  • Quality of written English

For the full Dancin’ Oxford 2012 programme:

http://www.dancinoxford.co .uk

For information and samples of writing from the previous competition:
http://www.balletinsmallspaces.co.uk/dance%20reviews.html

For further information about the competition, and to submit entries:

Susie Crow, Oxford Dance Writers

28 Victoria Road, Oxford OX2 7QD

Tel:  01865 557098              Email:  susiecrow@gmail.com

It’s that time of year again!

The 2012 edition of Oxford’s very own dance festival, Dancin’ Oxford, opens on Saturday 18th February and continues through until Wednesday 28th March, with an exciting programme of theatre performances, open air events, workshops, exhibition and talks, including the Digital Dance Trail and the Dance and Academia one day symposium.  Guest companies include festival favourites Tavaziva Dance Company in Sensual Africa, aerial dance Compagnie Retourament in their spectacular Danse des Cariatides, Sonia Sabri Company in Kathakbox, and Blanca Li Company in Electro Kif.  Contributions from Oxford based artists include Flamenco Intimo, A Suitcase for all occasions by Paulette Mae, and the Moving with the Times showcase of work by Oxford dance artists, to say nothing of the ever popular Dance-A-Thon programme of taster workshops and a day of intergenerational dance led by the established Oxford company Crossover.

Don’t forget to purchase a Festival pass to gain reductions on ticket prices and other benefits.

For full details of the Dancin’ Oxford programme:

http://www.dancinoxford.co.uk

Enjoy!