Attending the Dancing Human Rights event at The Old Fire Station on 1st February, curated by Dr Dana Mills as part of Oxford Brookes University’s Think Human Festival, was a deeply moving and thought-provoking experience.  Three very different pieces were shown and brought out different responses in me as I watched.

Eliot Smith’s solo excerpt from Pitman depicted the world of the coal miner with his lamp and shovel.  We felt his sweat and labour in the oppressive and cramped working conditions.  We saw the relentless drudgery but also the sense of pride and relief when at last he found the freedom to stand tall and stretch to full height again after a hard day’s work hunched underground. (more…)

Why host an event which presents dance work focusing on various human rights issues in 2020?  This is a volatile time for many of us in the world, although the concept and ethos of human rights enables us to reflect upon the fact that at any given time human beings are fleeing persecution and seeking to affirm their human rights.  And so, in our turbulent times it is urgent to ask—what is our commitment as artists and human beings to the idea and practice of human rights?

My own introduction to human rights came a long time before I knew what that concept entails.  My political education was on the pro-Palestinian Israeli left, and so I’ve come to learn of human rights from the wrong side of history.  Even when my every day was shielded by walls and checkpoints from events of huge historical consequence occurring sometimes less than a few miles away, I knew well these events are part of my own life. And I realized early on that no one is free until everyone is free, and our human fate is entangled in others and so we have responsibilities towards them. (more…)

The 2019 Dancin’ Oxford Festival brings a powerful and varied programme of dance to the city. It features shows and workshops for children, teenagers, dance enthusiasts and for the dance curious.  This year we are introducing our Festival Hub, in the Oxford Playhouse’s Lucy Room, where dance lovers can pop in for free tea, coffee and a chat.

The Festival, now in its 13th year, is funded by Oxford City Council and Arts Council England. Claire Thompson, Oxford City Council Arts Officer said ‘Although the Festival has no central theme several of this year’s companies have mental health issues at the heart of their work, which reflects current contemporary concerns. The shows are far from being all doom and gloom and offer thought provoking dance of the highest quality. We have a new venue for the Festival Launch on 2 March which will be held on a dance stage inside Westgate Oxford. We are delighted with this new location which will offer great views for everyone.’

The Festival Launch is an exciting and awe-inspiring afternoon of dance featuring breathtaking shows from professional and local youth dance companies. There will also be opportunities to join in a Zumba Party and learn African and Street Dance moves.  The annual Moving with the Times platform comprises 3 specially commissioned pieces by Dancin’ Oxford and Pegasus Theatre and features emerging companies, with work this year by Jann Esterhuizen Company, Joe Lott Company and returning Richard Chappell Dance.

Stuart Walters’ Rock Bottom is a moving dance solo based on the dancer’s own struggles with depression and addition. Two Oxford based companies are also looking into mental health. Body Politic, now on its first national tour, examines the fragility and vulnerabilities in men and young boys and Dance Creative offers the raw story of a daughter and her mother with early onset dementia.

Uchenna Dance will bring a flamboyance and colour with its blend of African and contemporary dance with The Head Wrap Diaries.  The Chit Chat Chalk Show will help children discover what makes them unique.

You can find full details of all the events and participatory workshops here, but below is a listing of performance events and discussion at a glance:

Moving with the Times platform- Richard Chappell Dance, Jann Esterhuizen Company, Joe Lott Company, contemporary dance

Friday 1st & Saturday 2nd March 7.30pm,  Sat. mat 2.30pm, Pegasus Theatre

Festival Launch – including performances by Company Chameleon, Messy Jam Dance Co, Step2Dance, Hakeem Omnibudo and his Impact Academy Dancers.

2nd March 12pm – 5pm, Leiden Square, Westgate Oxford

Festival Hub – speakers Emma-Jane Morbey AD Body Politic, Claire Thompson Director Dancin’ Oxford Festival, Paula Redway Cultural Development Manager at Oxford City Council, Susie Crow Ballet in Small Spaces and Oxford Dance Writers, Segolene Tarte Oxford Dance Forum, Angela Conlan Director Dance Creative.

Monday 3rd – Saturday 9th March 12 – 2pm, Oxford Playhouse

The Head Wrap Diaries – Uchenna Dance, fusion African and contemporary dance forms

2nd March 7pm, Kingsmere Community Centre, Bicester

Boys and Girls – The Pappy Show

2nd March 7.30pm, The North Wall

Mixtape – Dotdotdot Dance, contemporary flamenco

5th March 8pm, The North Wall

Rock Bottom – Stuart Waters, solo dance

6th March 7.30pm, Old Fire Station

A Million Memories – Dance Creative, interactive event with dance, music and poetry

7th March at 6pm, History of Science Museum

Works by Rafael Bonachela, Sharon Eyal and Benoit Swan Pouffer – Rambert2, contemporary dance

Friday 8th & Saturday 9th March, Friday 8 pm, Sat 2.30 & 7.30pm, Oxford Playhouse

Father Figurine – Body Politic, hip-hop dance and spoken word

8th March 7.30pm, The Mill Arts Centre, Banbury

The Chit Chat Chalk Show – Hawk Dance Theatre and The Knotted Project, children’s show

9th March 11am & 2pm, The North Wall

Ticketed events: from £3 for taster workshops;

Oxford Playhouse www.ticketsoxford.com 01865 305305,

www.pegasustheatre.org.uk 01865 812 150, www.thenorthwall.com 01865 319450,

www.themillartscentre.co.uk 01295 290 002, www.hsm.ox.ac.uk