It is a great privilege to see one of the great ballets of the 21st century so early in its history. I did not witness the original production of Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake, nor of The Rite of Spring; but I have seen the very first production of Christopher Wheeldon’s The Winter’s Tale and that is a truly special thing.

To explain why this particular ballet is so special is very difficult. It was danced beautifully of course, to a standard of excellence which we have come to expect from the Royal Ballet, and the costuming and scenery were meticulous, as they so often are. And yet, I have struggled immensely to write this review. In desperate times I draw on my old friend, cliché: words cannot begin to describe the exquisite nature of this ballet; it has to be seen to be believed! (more…)

It seems there comes a point in every choreographer’s career when one decides to tackle The Rite of Spring.  To create one’s own Rite of Spring, in the shadow of such heavyweights as Nijinsky, Bausch and MacMillan, is brave to say the least. Michael Keegan-Dolan’s The Rite of Spring for his company Fabulous Beast Dance Theatre is not only brave in this regard: it is daring in its deviance from the traditional narrative and in some of the striking, and dare I say, more outlandish decisions, which are also a feature of the second piece in the performance, Petrushka. (more…)

The Castaways by Barak Marshall tells the story of a cast of twelve characters trapped in a strange, unexplained, seemingly underground limbo. How they have arrived here and how they are to escape are not clear. Their predicament is nonetheless enthralling.

The characters’ individual stories are played out for us in clever choreographed pastiches, and narrated by a cartoonish, mocking emcee: the jilted bride murdering her way though endless fiancés, the would-be lovers too timid to admit their feelings, the destructively passionate Latin couple and other such familiar tropes. The characters seem to have stepped straight off the pages of a particularly sinister children’s story book, although one under-lined by very adult themes of love, war, fear and bitterness. (more…)

Following consultation with our judges, David Bellan dance critic of Oxford Times, Penny Cullerne-Bown Principal of East Oxford School of Ballet, Susie Crow of Oxford Dance Writers and this year’s special guest, dance critic of The Times Donald Hutera, Oxford Dance Writers has great pleasure in announcing the result of the third Dance Writers of the Future Competition.  The prize for the 17 to 22 years category has been awarded to Emily Romain, for her vivid and perceptive review of Barak Marshall’s work The Castaways, performed by Rambert at the New Theatre on March 19th.  Emily is a recent graduate of Oxford University and an aspiring choreographer looking to further her studies in dance.  Her winning entry will be posted here on Oxford Dance Writers and on the website of The Dancing Times.  We look forward to bringing you further pieces of her writing here, and wish her much luck in her future career.  The judges also wish to offer a special commendation to Sergei Kundik, the youngest entrant in this category, for his evocative and heartfelt account of the dance piece This Bitter Earth.

Oxford Dance Writers would like to express its gratitude to the judges for giving this their time and expert consideration, and to Dancin’ Oxford, The Dancing Times, Oxford Playhouse, New Theatre and Oxford University Press for their generous support.  But above all thank you to all entrants for your interest; we very much enjoyed reading your thoughts and impressions, and would encourage you all to keep on observing, thinking and writing about dance; Oxford Dance Writers looks forward to welcoming your further comments and contributions about what you see – keep in touch!

 

Last year Dream Again Dance Company scored a success with  Dull Roots Spring Rain performed to enthusiastic houses.  On Thursday 27th February this Oxford University based group presents their latest work at the O’Reilly Theatre as part of Keble Arts Festival 2014.  Ourselves, by choreographer Emily Romain, explores the push and pull of individuals and groups and is set to beautiful music by Einaudi and Richter. (more…)

Dull Roots / Spring Rain, performed by the Dream Again Dance Company at the O’Reilly Theatre, Keble College, Oxford on 6 February 2013

It is a great achievement for a group of students to form a dance company and be ready to perform original work within a few months. The evening consisted of three new works, danced in swift succession, the first by Martha Masoero, the second by Emily Romain, and the third a collaboration between the two choreographers, performed by a cast of female dancers. Although only the second work was a “story ballet”, the first and the third had narrative threads that gave them their structure. They were linked by shared themes and the allusion in their titles to the opening lines of The Waste Land. Programme notes informing the audience of the significance of each work, rather than letting it emerge from the performance perhaps revealed a lack of confidence. All three felt like early works, in which the choreographers were trying things out, and the dancers still seeking their own performance styles, and the result was an interesting and enjoyable evening. (more…)

It’s always good to see students taking the initiative in the arts, and this is a great example. It takes little independent thinking to put on a Shakespeare play, though I’m not saying it’s easy, and still less so to do Pinter or Sarah Kane. To found an undergraduate contemporary dance company, apparently organising from scratch, must have required a good deal of determination, and for this Dream Again’s Artistic Director, Emily Romain, is to be very highly commended. But despite showing potential, the first show from the all female group, a mixed bill based loosely on themes from the myth of Persephone, seems less than it could have been, had music choices and some specifics of the choreography been better. (more…)