“Modern dance is a bottomless pit of possibilities and I have only scratched the surface” (Paul Taylor)

This year’s DANSOX Summer School was, of course, conducted online. At a time when the coronavirus has made us acutely aware of our bodily fragility, I was particularly struck by a focus on the corporeal in these seven lectures, the first two concentrating on American choreographer Paul Taylor, the second of which is discussed in detail here. All of the lectures remain available on YouTube via the St Hilda’s website.

I must confess to not having heard of Taylor – but was relieved to hear from the webinar that followed that I was not alone. As well as Alastair Macauley’s guest lecture, I highly recommend his obituary of Taylor in the New York Times – the comments are a joy to read and show how highly regarded Taylor was in his native land. (more…)

The second DANSOX summer school was a triumph. Delivered remotely in the middle of a pandemic that has driven theatrical and academic activities online, it was a wonderful opportunity for an international audience to enjoy seven pre-recorded lectures on dance by practitioners, early career researchers, and a leading dance critic. The programme fell into two halves: a two-lecture memorial to Paul Taylor, followed by five lectures investigating the inter-textual and interdisciplinary nature of dance, and a concluding live Webinar on Zoom chaired by Professor Sue Jones.

Alastair Macaulay’s opening lecture was actually the last talk to be uploaded after which it was well worth returning to listen again to all the lectures in their correct order: Macaulay’s talk prepared the ground, sowing seeds for themes that the other speakers, whether by accident or design, picked up upon, including modernism and post modernism; the corporeal and abstraction; musicality; classicism; the visual arts, and the choreographer as dramatic poet. (more…)

Following the success of the inaugural Dance Scholarship Oxford (DANSOX) Summer School in 2019 at St Hilda’s College Oxford, a second, this time virtual Summer School is being programmed by Professor Susan Jones.  Events will be available to view on the Jacqueline du Pré Music Building’s YouTube channel from 16th July 2020.

DANSOX Virtual Summer School 2020 includes two strands:

Celebrating the work of the distinguished American dancer and choreographer Paul Taylor (1930-2018):

Alastair Macaulay (international dance critic and writer): lecture on the life and work
Parisa Kobdeh (ex-Paul Taylor dancer): on practice and technique.

New Scholarship on Dance: text and practice

Joseph Kay (composer) on musical notation and dance notation
Susie Crow (choreographer and writer): aspects of the ballet class
Marcus Bell (DPhil student, St Hilda’s) on Pina Bausch and the classics
Megan Smith (2020 English Finalist, Oxford): literary criticism meets fiction and performance in John Haskell’s The Complete Ballet: A Fictional Essay in Five Acts (2017)
Anna Chamberlain (2020 Art History Finalist, Oxford): Hilde Holge, German Expressionist dance and photography.

Find out more about DANSOX here and get ready for the Summer School by watching some past events here.

A Little Space is an artful collaboration between Gecko and Mind the Gap; exploring all the ways it means to be alone.  The show is fantastic physical theatre, in that it explores the complex emotional and institutional features of its main theme using a full range of theatrical tools.  The cast begin inside an apartment, where a group of people gather, speaking to each other through the rise and fall of their hands and shoulders, shifting weight, traveling through breath, and chattering casually with deft gestures.  From here we dive through the floorboards of the apartment, into memory, trauma, fear, and fantasy.  The boundary lines between each is successfully blurred.  But this abstraction doesn’t veer into the anti-emotional territories of other vignette fans: late modern (Cunningham) or early American post-modern dance (Yvonne Rainer).  Instead, A Little Space stays with feeling until the work begins to take on a haunting sense of associative logic.  This allows the show to attend to the aggregate sensations of joy, fear, hope, paranoia, and loneliness that accompany being alone, a complex physical state for many people currently, in a moment where large swathes of the world’s population are considering to self-isolation. (more…)

In celebration of its 25th and last season of work, the Richard Alston Dance Company is embarking on an international farewell tour. The kind of endeavour you might normally associate with the break-up of a major band, or with Cher – who is perennially on her last tour, and I think has been saying farewell since at least the beginning of the last century, as is the whim of an eternal being. The scale feels only a bit different for Alston and his dancers. Final Edition: Oxford [1] is a culmination of many lives at work together, expanding the practices of modern, postmodern, and contemporary dance in the United Kingdom.

Because of his eponymous title the Etonian has a claim to canonical status and this tour could have become an overwrought monument to privilege and ego. Instead, what we witnessed in Oxford’s New Theatre on Wednesday night was a homage to a history of dance, branded, and shaped by Alston, advanced by collaborator Martin Lawrance, and most importantly, pulled off with immense style, presence, and love by a company of extraordinary dancers. (more…)