A performance that is entirely, purely, dance is a rare treat in Oxford, but it is what Anuradha Chaturvedi’s company Drishti Dance gave us at the Old Fire Station on Friday in Facet, as part of the Offbeat Festival.  Chaturvedi brought together professional and student dancers in a vivid and innovative double bill of two interlinked works that were quite simply about dance.

Kathak is an ancient, sophisticated and complex Indian classical dance form, redolent of a history that goes back beyond the Moghul kings of North India, with a vocabulary of detailed gestures, stamping and rhythmic spins that thrilled and enthralled the audience on Friday night; and what an audience it was!  The excitement in the auditorium beforehand was palpable, as we heard the sound of the dancers’ ankle bells as they gathered in the wings.  A little boy behind me exclaimed ‘they are like gods!’ – and so they were, in their gorgeous green, blue, orange, black and gold silks, bathed in a mist of coloured light. (more…)

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Critic turned critic-entrepreneur Donald Hutera is creating and curating opportunities for dancers to perform who might otherwise have few occasions to show their work. Oxford is a first for GOlive and there is a further outing at the Chesil Theatre in Winchester on July 24. The venues are small — the original GOlive venue at the Lion & Unicorn Theatre in Kentish Town holds 60 people and the Burton-Taylor studio seats 50 — but their intimacy works well for the small-scale works Hutera is presenting. One of the advantages of this proximity is the value given to the subtleties of communication; there are elements of this evening’s program that provide a master class in the art of integrating the head and eyes in the moving body, a vital aspect that is all too often overlooked in dance training. (more…)

Getting a ticket to a dance programme arouses comfortable expectations of pleasure – of colour, patterning and conformity. In Oxford’s Burton Taylor studio last week, Donald Hutera’s GOlive programme was satisfyingly full of all of these – but it was also never predictable, oddly fragmented and often deeply unsettling. And in my head the after-images are of faces as much as of body shapes – a heat of emotional impact – a sense of hope – a touch of catharsis.

The very ordering of the programme forced strange juxtapositions. It began with what Shane Shambhu described as his “lecture-demonstration” – a cogent dance drama through which his personal narrative wove a coherent thread. Twenty-seven years of bharatanatyam dance gave his work an assured technical underpinning. But it was its immediacy and variety that made it so accessible to academic, pensioner and child in the fifty-strong studio audience. For this was a narrative that flowed by Nritta – by taps and clicks and thumps – through sounds vocal and guttural – as well as by the mime and dance of Natya, the shifting registers of formal delivery, of conversational English, of interactive name games and the musicality of Shane’s native Kerala tongue. Never before have I been more aware of dance as one member of so intimately interconnected a family of languages. (more…)