Performing Epic or Telling Tales is a monograph companion to the edited volume Epic Performances from the Middle Ages into the Twenty-First Century (OUP, 2018). The monograph offers authors Fiona Macintosh and Justine McConnell an opportunity to investigate and seek to account for the increased popularity of story-telling and narrative in live theatre since the turn of the twenty-first century. It is not a book about dance, but the earlier edited volume contained contributions by dance scholars, and this monograph includes a chapter on ‘Telling Tales with the Body’.

Macintosh and McConnell start from the premise that twentieth-century theatre saw an anti-narrative turn (seen, for example, in the work of Samuel Beckett), and they seek to chart and hypothesise reasons for the subsequent (re-)turn to narrative that they perceive in theatrical works, including dances, since the millennium. In their Preface, they propose that this twenty-first century ‘narrative’/storytelling (re-)turn is often a turn to Graeco-Roman epic. However, their definition of ‘epic’ in the context of performance extends beyond ancient Greece and Rome, embracing other cultures and story-telling traditions, and oral modes of creating, improvising and performing, as they reflect on the ways in which epic can cast an alternative gaze upon contemporary society.

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There is never a dull moment in this collection of interviews with dancers associated in one way or another with the various companies collectively described as the ‘Ballets Russes’. The book tells their story from the Diaghilev period, through the de Basil, Blum and Denham years, right up to the final days of the Marquis de Cuevas’ company, and concludes with an ‘Afterword’ with John Neumeier. Tamara Karsavina, who died in 1978, is included, by means of an interview with her friend the dancer Rachel Cameron, but it is the later generations, from Alexandra Danilova (born 1903) to Maina Gielgud (born 1945) that are best represented. (more…)

The ultimate ballet film returns to the big screen digitally restored, having been championed by Martin Scorsese, for whom it was a great inspiration after he saw it as a child.  Based on Hans Christian Andersen’s sinister fairy tale, THE RED SHOES fuses glamour, back stage detail and stunning dance sequences into an audacious, intoxicating melodrama about the competing claims of life and art.

Introducing the young Scottish ballerina Moira Shearer whose flaming red hair becomes a dominant visual motif, and featuring legendary dancers and choreographers in performance, THE RED SHOES survived damning reviews and producer betrayal to take its place as a milestone in film history, profoundly shaping public perceptions of ballet.  Possibly Technicolor’s finest hour…

Showing in conjunction with the University of Oxford Department for Continuing Education course, ‘Adaptation: From Page to Screen’, and introduced by course tutor Kiri Walden. (more…)