It is a very good sign when, at the end of a dance piece, as the audience applauds, you assume only twenty minutes has passed and are surprised to discover it is more like forty. This was my pleasant experience at the end of Two old instruments, a simple, elegant and charming piece, presented by Ballet In Small Spaces, which brings to the fore the fundamental interplay between dancer and musician; an interplay so essentially at the heart of dance as a performance art. (more…)

The marvellous thing about work evolved between artist performers is that nuances and subtleties can be retained throughout the creative process from conception to execution. The intuitions of a collaborative response are unmediated by the blunt words of explanation: rather they flow in endless synergy between the participants, refined by repetition and honed by the urge to communicate in that special medium which is best known to each.

And this, I suspect, is what lay behind Two old instruments, a collaboration between Jonathan Rees on his old-fashioned gamba and Susie Crow with her experienced body. And the result was frankly extraordinary: in its range, its variety and its sustained exploration – through thirteen movements – of manuscript ideas by Carl Friedrich Abel (1723-1787). The manuscript fragments are themselves described in the programme as ‘essentially a set of written out improvisations, formally very free in most cases, with no clues in the manuscript as to a “correct” order for the pieces to be played in, or indeed as to the mood of many of them’.

So what did Rees and Crow improvise around another’s improvisations that made them so peculiarly their own? (more…)

Visible Music; playing the past, dancing the present brings together top performers from Ballet in Small Spaces and Barefoot Opera, in performances in Bristol, London, and at Oxford’s The North Wall on  25th, 27th and 29th April.  This intimate and pleasurable evening of dance and music in collaboration conjures forgotten pasts into present life through danced realisations of unusual repertoire.  The salon pieces of 18th century composer and viola da gamba virtuoso Carl Friedrich Abel range in character from exuberant and playful to wistful and melancholic.  They are the inspiration for Two old instruments in which Jonathan Rees and Susie Crow of Ballet in Small Spaces reflect on history and memory.  Dances, Oracles, Mysteries features pianists Julian Jacobson and Mariko Brown, singer Jenny Miller and dancers Chiara Vinci and Francesco Mangiacasale in evocative response to Debussy piano pieces, songs, and the composer’s little-known ballet Khamma, blurring the boundaries between performing disciplines to create a subtle but exhilarating narrative.

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Two opportunities to see what Oxford dance makers are up to before the summer holidays; Susie Crow of Ballet in Small Spaces in collaboration with viola da gamba player Jonathan Rees at URC on Saturday 20th July, and Oxford Dance Forum’s Work-In-Progress Sharing event featuring work by Paulette Mae, Ségolène Tarte and Anuradha Chaturvedi, Jenny Parrott and Leslie Tomkins at the Old Fire Station on Friday 26th July.  More details… (more…)