“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…)

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Last Thursday, on a snowy night, St Hilda’s College Oxford warmly welcomed the local dance community to learn more about Fred Astaire, arguably the greatest dancer of the twentieth century. New York Times critic Alastair Macaulay gave an entertaining, witty and enlightening talk, as he showed us a series of filmed dance excerpts, while placing Astaire’s work in its cultural and choreographic context. (more…)

Aptly following its recent showing of the documentary film New Wave Ballet, another DANSOX event exploring legendary dance performances on film.  DANSOX welcomes as distinguished guest lecturer Alastair Macaulay, Chief Dance Critic of the New York Times, who will discuss the legendary Fred Astaire’s life and work with illustration and film footage. Not to be missed!

Date:  Thursday 1st March 2018 5.30pm

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

Free and open to all, followed by drinks reception
Reserve a seat via: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/dansox-lecture-alastair-macaulay-on-fred-astaire-tickets-41211053370

There was much to celebrate tonight at St Hilda’s, when five years of fascinating DANSOX events programmed by Professor Susan Jones coincided with the 125th anniversary of the college that so generously hosts these events. It was a wonderfully inclusive evening that centred round a screening of Lynne Wake’s New Wave Ballet, a documentary film about the early ballets of Kenneth MacMillan, before a packed audience that included members of the college and wider University, participants in the local dance community, practitioners and dance scholars from further afield, Dame Monica Mason, and Deborah, Lady MacMillan.

Wake’s introductory talk vividly described how eager she had been to see Edmée Wood’s films of Royal Ballet productions, her initial disappointment at the poor quality examples that she found, her excitement at discovering the original recordings, and the work involved in their restoration for the Royal Opera House. Her documentary is an outstanding example of the use of archival footage to bring back to life the essence of dances that might otherwise be lost, by showing film alongside interviews with the actual dancers, who know the works from the inside.

Next, Dame Monica spoke about her experiences working with MacMillan, as a dancer and as his répétiteur, noting the wide range of his artistic interests, his willingness to take risks and work with new collaborators, and his ability to reprove but then move on. Almost five years to the day since she spoke at the first DANSOX event celebrating the centenary of The Rite of Spring, she described what it was like to be the Chosen Maiden, dancing between the criss-crossing legs of the corps de ballet as they lay face down on the stage, or being passed from hand-to hand high overhead (an image reminiscent to me of Greek vase paintings of the sacrifice of Iphigenia). I remember seeing her in the role in 1982, and still carry pictures of her performance in my head.

At the reception following the brief question and answer session, St Hilda’s Vice Principal Dr Georgina Paul thanked DANSOX patron Sheila Forbes (the former Principal of St Hilda’s) and proposed a toast to DANSOX’ other patron, Dame Monica, to mark the fact that she is now an Honorary Fellow of the College.

Maggie Watson

19 February 2018

Dance Scholarship Oxford‘s first event of 2018 is a real treat; a film night featuring a screening of New Wave Ballet, Lynne Wake‘s documentary film about the early work of twentieth-century choreographer Kenneth MacMillan, newly reversioned for last autumn’s anniversary festival Kenneth MacMillan: A National Celebration.  The film includes historic and lovingly restored footage of some of the ballets as well as interviews with original interpreters.  The showing will be followed by a talk by Lynne Wake on the making of the film, and Dame Monica Mason will also talk about the experience of working with Kenneth MacMillan.  Not to be missed!

Date:  Monday 19th February 5.30pm

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

Free and open to all followed by drinks reception, but booking advised

Book here:  https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/dansox-presents-film-night- new-wave-ballet-tickets-41209915968

Further information about DANSOX and its programme of events can be found here

Following on from the examination of creative process in Rawaa, DANSOX provides an opportunity to examine and discuss the process of building an interpretation for performance. In a fascinating lecture presentation Performing Beckett renowned Irish actress Lisa Dwan discusses her recent work and invites discussion of her repertoire – especially Not I and other stunning dramatisations of Samuel Beckett.  She explores how her dance training enabled her to refine the all-encompassing performance technique and control required to engender the challenging physical requirements of Beckett’s plays.

Date:  Thursday 16 November 2017 5:30pm 

Venue:  Jacqueline du Pré Building, St Hilda’s College

The event is free and open to all but booking essential at Eventbrite here

For further information about Dance Scholarship Oxford events see also http://www.torch.ox.ac.uk/dansox: or contact Professor Susan Jones: susan.jones@ell.ox.ac.uk

Another fascinating DANSOX (Dance Scholarship Oxford) event hosted by St Hilda’s College Oxford bringing together thinking and practice, providing a rare opportunity to glimpse the process of creating a new ballet in an interdisciplinary workshop with writer, Marina Warner, choreographer Kim Brandstrup, pianist and composer Joanna MacGregor, and professional dancers.

Rawaa comes from Arabic – the root for words
 meaning ‘to water’ and ‘to relate’ and provides the dominant metaphorical motif of the ballet’s mood and movement.  Affinities emerge between poetic metre, musical pulse, and water management (water wheels, aqueducts) in Arab culture.  The ballet will offer a counterpoise to the orientalism of Scheherazade, exploring the inner lives and drives of legendary women performers from the Middle East who have attained mythic status.

Venue:  Jacqueline du Pré Music Building, St Hilda’s College, Cowley Place, Oxford OX2 9AZ

Dates:  Sunday 12th – Tuesday 14th November 9.30-6.30pm  Open to the public on Tuesday 14 November at 5.30pm to view the workshop in action.

The event is free and open to all but booking is essential; register here to attend. Open at other times by request – contact Professor Susan Jones.