Normative? is a piece with a dark and difficult context – it references recent persecution of the LGBTQ+ community in Chechnya, Russia, and asks a big question: “Is being normal really worth it?”. Thomas Page and his company certainly bought out the intensity of the subject matter, and there were thoughtful, touching details, such as the use of 27 dancers referencing 27 young gay men who were killed in 2017, and a moving soundtrack of spoken word including interviews and personal accounts.  The choreography mixed freeform semi-improvised movements with a structured style which had clear influence from vogueing.  The piece moved through various scenes – the whole group began by walking the stage as a sea of similar motion, but gradually dissipated into more markedly individual and contrasting characters. (more…)

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This riotous and colourful production had a lot to recommend it. The Rumplestiltskin fairytale was given a new twist, with the title role a more rounded character and sympathetic backstory than in traditional renditions. This was a clever device (with credit to Carol Ann Duffy as Scenario Writer), as the storyline became less about old-fashioned heroes and villains, and more about values such as family, community and embracing difference and diversity. (more…)

Based on T.S.Eliot’s Four Quartets, this piece was an impressive performance from a young dancer-choreographer and his fellow artists. The structure was of four separate chapters (one for each section of a poem) which worked well, although there was room for even more space for the audience to assimilate each individual section. The programme described the overall narrative as ‘from a place of being lost to a state of empowerment and acceptance’ and this certainly came across: the figures seemed to be searching and grasping at the start, and by the end they had become more animated, grounded and secure. (more…)

Cut and RunChoreographer: Martin Lawrance

The fierce cut and jib of this work was evident from the first moment: music and movement battled for dominance, both rhythmic and rigorous. The choreography had a disjointed quality; the many pauses – some fleeting and others broad – prevented a sense of fluid motion. However this suited the music, which had pounding yet uneven rhythms and was often a cacophony of sound. The dancers rarely moved together; instead they seemed to fight, to exist alone, and to defy and reject each other. The level of technical command was impressive: each movement (or sudden stillness) was precise and controlled, and the dancers negotiated dizzying transitions between standing, lying, rolling and turning. (more…)

This show promised huge energy, masculine physicality and comedy, and it didn’t disappoint. Playing out the power shifts between an older and younger man, the piece cleverly portrayed an ever-changing relationship. At once reliant and rejecting, the pair circled each other endlessly (both literally and metaphorically), each trying to gain – or retain – dominance.

The opening sequence set a striking, almost macabre tone: a series of frozen tableaus depicting the power play between the two characters was set against a dramatic score and even more dramatic lighting.   From this intense beginning, a much lighter and more accessible office comedy then played out. A pared-down but very funny script was performed seamlessly by Joshua Thomson and Gavin Webber; there was such a sense of flow and ease that I wondered how much of this was improvised – clearly the two men were having a lot of fun, playing games and sparring with one another. (more…)

The first edition of Oxford Dance Forum’s ODF Presents… at The Old Fire Station showcased work-in-progress by five Oxford based dance artists and companies, as part of a three year Arts Council England funded professional development programme.

Ana Barbour:  Rope, Rock, R…

The opening piece of the evening unwound from a quiet, subtle beginning to great sweeps of movement and sound. The idea of examining the way that a lifeless object such as a length of rope can move and change shape, was an intriguing one, and an original way to develop a performance piece. There was some interesting use of multimedia, with projected images which Ana interacted with quite directly at times, at other times providing a less prominent backdrop.  It felt as though a large span of emotions and characteristics was explored in a short time, from intricate delicate movements and a soft, almost caressing interaction with the hanging rope on stage, to a cheeky, flirtatious moment of tango, and the violent rage of the rock star. Throughout all of these elements, Ana maintained a relationship with the audience; from defiant stares to small smiles and moments where she was facing away from us, one felt included in the journey that played out. The quick switch between different temperaments and movement styles in an instant was impressive, as was her innovative use of the props and media.  (more…)

C-A-G-E-D performed by  Thomas Page Dances was a thought-provoking performance from a young choreographer who clearly has some strong ideas, and a company of very capable dancers.

In terms of the tone of the movement, there were some effective sections including the very start of the piece, and much of the second half – these showed a contrast between sharp, almost robotic accents and sinuous, natural movements.  These were, for me, the most interesting moments: the choreography developing organically and looking almost improvised, rather than the more gymnastic cartwheels and rolls at other points which felt a little engineered and out of place.  There was a very clear sense of strong emotions being portrayed, in particular panic, anxiety, a palpable tension, and loneliness and isolation. (more…)