Swan Lake remains at the heart of the classical ballet repertoire. Its choreography by Marius Petipa and music by Tchaikovsky have ensured its place in any dance company worth its claim to pre-eminence. And the music’s 19th century blend of the classical with the romantic has ensured audiences with a love of great music if only a passing interest in dance. Nevertheless, it has to be said that the growth of contemporary choreography and the increased number of smaller dance companies have rather reduced the appetites of both dancers and audiences for this extremely demanding, long, old, and often tired ballet. I include myself among those who have felt they had seen enough Swan Lakes to happily miss the next one. It is with this in mind that I say how suddenly I have been swept off my feet and made to believe again in the evergreen nature of the work, its music, its potential for surprise. (more…)

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The Russian State Ballet of Siberia’s version of the Snow Maiden was a rare opportunity to see a full ballet company with orchestra in Oxford. The story of the girl made of snow, who longs for the capacity to love, only to melt away when she achieves her heart’s desire, inspired a play, an opera and a ballet in nineteenth century Russia. The version brought to the New Theatre tonight, well-danced to a composite Tchaikovsky score, cleverly combines traditional effects, such as dry ice, with modern projection technology (snow falls; water ripples; the sun transforms the winter landscape into spring), to give a very enjoyable theatrical experience. (more…)

A traditional Christmas treat in live transmission at Oxford’s Phoenix Picturehouse.  The Royal Ballet‘s glorious production of The Nutcracker, created by Peter Wright in 1984, is the production par excellence of an all-time ballet favourite. It is Christmas Eve and Drosselmeyer the magician sweeps young Clara away on a fantasy adventure in which time is suspended, the family livingroom becomes a great battlefield, and a magical journey takes them through the Land of Snow to the Kingdom of Sweets.

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker score was commissioned by the director of the Russian Imperial Theatres, following the resounding success of The Sleeping Beauty in 1890. Marius Petipa created the scenario, which is based on a fairytale by E.T.A. Hoffmann, and Lev Ivanov provided the choreography. The Nutcracker was first performed in 1892 at the Mariinsky Theatre in St Petersburg. It initially had a poor reception, but its combination of enchanting choreography and unforgettable music has since made it one of the most loved of all ballets.

In Peter Wright’s classic production for The Royal Ballet, the stage sparkles with theatrical magic – a Christmas tree grows before our eyes, toy soldiers come to life to fight the villainous Mouse King and Clara and the Nutcracker are whisked off to the Kingdom of Sweets on a golden sleigh. Tchaikovsky’s score contains some of ballet’s best-known melodies, from the flurrying Waltz of the Snowflakes to the dream-like Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy – all brilliantly set in Wright’s choreography. Julia Trevelyan Oman’s designs draw upon 19th-century images of Christmas, making this magical production perfect for the festive season.

Date:  Thursday 8th December 7.15pm

Venue:  Phoenix Picturehouse, 57 Walton St, Oxford OX2 6AE

Tickets:  Book online here or call 0871 902 5736

This transmission will be repeated on Monday 12th December at 12.00, book online here

A chance to see live transmission of  The Royal Ballet performing at the top of its game in a great production of a major work.  Giselle is the quintessential Romantic ballet.  It transformed the dance world when it was first performed in Paris in 1841 and remains at the centre of the classical repertory.  Although choreography and designs have undergone many changes over the years, the essence of Giselle remains the same, a love affair that begins in the real world and continues beyond the grave.  Sir Peter Wright’s production for The Royal Ballet is based on Marius Petipa’s classic version (after original choreography by Jules Perrot and Jean Coralli), which was first staged in St Petersburg in 1884.  The ballet’s title role offers one of the great challenges of the ballet repertory, as Giselle transforms from an innocent peasant girl, duped into love, to a forgiving spirit who saves her lover from death. For the ballerina this is a role of two contrasting halves: in Act I she must appear naïve and artless, her dancing alive with an earthy enthusiasm; in Act II she transforms into light and air, her dancing so ethereal as to seem weightless. In Wright’s production, the dual aspect of the ballet is perfectly achieved: the first act dramatized in rich, naturalistic detail and the second with a spectral, moonlit beauty.  Marianela Nuñez and Vadim Muntagirov star as Giselle and Count Albrecht; designs are by John Macfarlane and the tuneful score is by Adolphe Adam.

Performance:  Wednesday 6th April 7.15pm

Venue:  Phoenix Picturehouse, 57 Walton Street, Oxford  OX2 6AE

Tickets from £8-£20

Book online here or call 0871 902 5736

Another wonderful opportunity coming up at the Phoenix Picturehouse on Sunday 23rd November to see Russian ballet repertoire rarely seen in the West; this time a performance of The Pharaoh’s Daughter first broadcast in 2012 by the Bolshoi Ballet.  Young Englishman Lord Wilson is travelling through Egypt when a powerful storm breaks out. He is forced to take shelter in the nearest pyramid, where the daughter of one of Egypt’s most powerful pharaohs lies entombed. Lord Wilson falls asleep and begins to dream that the princess has come to life…

The plot of this lavish production is loosely based on Théophile Gauthier’s novel Le Roman de la Momie. French choreographer Pierre Lacotte was exclusively commissioned in 2000 by the Bolshoi Theatre to resurrect Marius Petipa’s mighty Egyptian fresco, and he succeeded brilliantly in giving new life to this forgotten masterpiece.

With its exotic setting, impressive parades, spectacular variations and crowd scenes, this grand 19th-century Orientalist fantasy is one of the most remarkable productions in the Bolshoi’s repertoire. The main roles are here danced by Bolshoi principals Svetlana Zakharova, Nina Kaptsova and Ruslan Skvorstov.

Performance:  Sunday 23rd November 2014, 3.00pm

Venue:  Phoenix Picturehouse, 57 Walton Street, Oxford OX2 6AE

Book online here

Box Office 0871 902 5736 :

English National Ballet return to the New Theatre Oxford this Autumn with Coppélia, one of the great nineteenth century ballets, here in Ronald Hynd’s production with choreography after Marius Petipa, with colourful designs by Desmond Heeley, and set to Delibes’s irresistibly melodic score performed by English National Ballet’s full orchestra.

Dr Coppélius, the toymaker, has created the lifelike Coppélia doll and wishes for nothing more than to bring her to life. He thinks his dream has finally come true, but he has merely been caught up in Franz and Swanhilda’s lovers’ tiff.  Love triumphs over all in this comedy of mistaken identity and the finale is a breathtaking celebration of the lovers’ marriage.  Coppélia is an enchanting, effervescent family ballet, perfect for young and old alike. (more…)

First staged in St Petersburg in 1890, The Sleeping Beauty is regarded as the pinnacle of classical ballet: a perfect marriage of Petipa’s choreography and Tchaikovsky’s music, and a glorious challenge for every dancer on stage. It is also the Royal Ballet’s signature work.  To mark the company’s 75th birthday in 2006, Monica Mason and Christopher Newton revitalised its landmark 1946 production, which re-established Petipa’s choreography as recorded by Imperial Ballet régisseur Nicholas Sergeyev, to a scenario and staging developed by Ninette de Valois, founder of the Royal Ballet.  With Oliver Messel’s gorgeous original designs wonderfully reimagined by Peter Farmer, and additional choreography by Anthony Dowell, Christopher Wheeldon and Frederick Ashton, today’s The Sleeping Beauty not only captures the mood of the original but shows that this is very much a living work for the Royal Ballet, growing and changing with the company while celebrating its past. (more…)