A small boy and a man sit facing each other, cross-legged, on one of 21 large oblong boxes. At first, the man seems to be telling a story that is brought to life behind them as a single warrior monk appears centre stage; or perhaps the man is a divine being, or a puppeteer who can manipulate events. Before we can decide, the wooden boxes begin to move, thumping and thudding forwards as they roll towards us on their long sides, revealing openings, like coffins without lids from which living people emerge.

This is an extraordinary collective work for a group of male performers who have none of the physical homogeneity of a corps de ballet, yet seem to think and move as one, as they appear and disappear among, between and inside the boxes. (more…)

Celebrating its 10th anniversary, Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui’s Sutra is one of Sadler’s Wells’ most exhilarating productions and has toured around the globe to sell-out audiences and mass critical acclaim.

The award-winning collaboration between choreographer Cherkaoui, sculptor Antony Gormley and 19 Buddhist monks from the Shaolin Temple in China has been seen by over 160,000 people worldwide, achieving standing ovations wherever it has been seen.  This breathtaking spectacle of athleticism explores the philosophy and faith behind the Shaolin tradition and its relationship with kung fu within a contemporary context.

With Antony Gormley’s striking set of 21 wooden boxes and Polish composer Szymon Brzóska’s specially commissioned score performed live, Sutra is an incomparable work that has captured the hearts and imaginations of people the world over, as one of the stage’s most sophisticated productions and a true work of art.

★★★★★
Exceeds even out highest expectations
The Times

★★★★★
This unique, profoundly imagined show takes the concept of cultural exchange to a whole new level
The Guardian

Performances:  Friday 23rd and Saturday 24th March, 7.30pm

Venue:  New Theatre Oxford, George Street, Oxford OX1 2AG

Tickets:   £11.90-£34.90 plus £4 transaction fee; book online here

Richard Alston Dance Company returned to Oxford this week for one evening at the New Theatre. The programme opened with Martin Lawrance’s Cut and Run, to music by Michael Gordon and Damian LeGassick for ten dancers dressed in ‘urban wear’ with metallic decoration that glinted in the dim light. Starting and stopping, dodging and colliding, they broke out of the purple patch of illumination that seemed at first to confine them, and spread across the darkened stage. An interval of silence, then the lights changed to orange, adding a fresh sense of urgency to their frantic race, until the work concluded, with the dancers once more bathed in a purple glow. (more…)

Spring is coming, and with it Oxford’s very own festival of dance Dancin’ Oxford in its 2018 edition.  Lots of fascinating peformances to come with an emphasis on physical theatre and storytelling as well as some tantalising workshops and taster sessions.  See below for Oxford Dance Writers list of performance events and dates in Oxford with links to further information and booking details.  Check out the Dancin’ Oxford website for details of additional performances in Didcot and Banbury, as well as workshops and classes and the Dance and Academia conference. (more…)

The ever musical Richard Alston Dance Company returns to Oxford with a full programme of new and established works packed full of energy and contrasts, featuring a brand new piece by Associate Choreographer Martin Lawrance alongside two by Richard Alston.

In Cut and Run Lawrance takes his inspiration from contrasting music by two contemporary classical composers, Damian Legassick and Michael Gordon, from the Icebreaker album Terminal Velocity. The fast frenetic rhythms of the music with cool sombre undertones, take the dancers into a world of shadows and swift dodges.  The costumes for Cut and Run have been designed by Filipino fashion designer Jeffery Rogador with whom Lawrance collaborated whilst working with Ballet Manila last year. They have an urban edge and a colour palette of black, silver and gold which the lighting designer Zeynep Kepekli will make shimmer on stage with her beautiful use of light.

The programme also includes Carnaval by Alston, performed to Robert Schumann’s music of the same name, played live by outstanding pianist Faith Leadbetter.  Costumes are by BAFTA Award winning designer Fotini Dimou.

Finally a great Alston favourite, Gypsy Mixture, newly revived for the first time in a decade, set to tracks from Electric Gypsyland – a 21st century take on traditional Balkan folk music. Exhilarating dancing to the infectious music of Romanian and Macedonian gypsy bands will lift your spirits and quicken your pulse.

“Sometimes dance fills the eyes with tears, changes our breathing or makes us laugh — but why? The dancers aren’t depicting emotion, yet we find ourselves powerfully moved… the dancers of the Richard Alston Dance Company… caused a gamut of emotion, just by taking us to the heart of dance itself.”
Alistair Macaulay, The New York Times, February 2017.

Performance:  Tuesday 20th February, 7.30pm

Venue:  New Theatre, George Street, Oxford OX1 2AG

Tickets:  £11.90 – £25.90 plus £2.85 transaction fee

Available online here or call 0844 871 3020

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…)

2018 at Oxford’s New Theatre starts with the now traditional visit of the Russian State Ballet of Siberia complete with orchestra, promoted by Raymond Gubbay, bringing some last seasonal goodies to enjoy.  As well as perennial favourite The Nutcracker, RSBS are performing a much loved Russian wintry fairytale in the UK for the first time…

Protected from the outside world by Father Frost, The Snow Maiden plays innocently amongst the dancing snowflakes in the enchanted Land of Frost.  Based on a traditional folk-tale and set in the snow covered landscape of rural Russia,  this sparkling ballet follows the exquisite Snow Maiden as she dances into the human world.  (more…)

Rambert’s adventurous programme shows a commitment to new work and artistic collaboration that gloriously affirms the company’s long heritage and roots in the post-Diaghilev dance diaspora.  The evening opened with Kim Brandstrup’s Transfigured Night, followed by Didy Veldman’s The 3 Dancers, and concluded with a revival of Christopher Bruce’s Ghost Dances. Live musical accompaniment was intrinsic to the immediacy and vigour throughout.

Brandstrup’s study of painful choices as a couple’s relationship teeters on the brink of failure courageously uses the music (Arnold Schoenberg’s Verklärte Nacht) that Antony Tudor chose for his ballet Pillar of Fire, but his conception is original and completely different from Tudor’s. (more…)

A welcome return to Oxford’s New Theatre by the magnificent Rambert Dance Company bringing a powerful triple bill which combines one of the company’s most iconic works with two recent successes.

Christopher Bruce’s 1981 work Ghost Dances is one of the most celebrated contemporary dance pieces of its generation.  This masterpiece is an evocative tribute to the victims of political oppression in South America. It tells stories of love and compassion, as death – in the form of the iconic “ghost dancers” – interrupts the daily lives of a series of ordinary people. Visually referencing celebrations of the Day of the Dead, and driven by the bewitching rhythms of traditional Latin American songs, it’s a moving, intensely human work.  Ghost Dances returned to UK stages for the first time in 13 years in November 2016, and tours throughout 2017.

Love, desire and betrayal are the ingredients of the shocking true story which inspired Picasso’s masterpiece, The Three Dancers. Rambert springs Picasso’s painting from the canvas to the stage, bringing to life his Cubist vivid imagery and the themes of ecstasy and doom which haunt the work. Didy Veldman’s The Three Dancers, with orchestral music by leading Australian composer Elena Kats-Chernin, reveals the passion within one of the 20th century’s greatest artworks.

Didy Veldman is a former Rambert dancer who has an international choreographic career. She co-founded Compagnie Alias with Guilherme Botelho in Switzerland, and has worked extensively with Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montréal and with Cedar Lake in New York.  Elena Kats-Chernin’s original score is jointly commissioned by Wimbledon International Music Festival, Australian Festival of Chamber Music and Dancenorth in Australia, and Sitka Summer Music Festival, El Paso Pro Musica and West Bach Festival in the USA.

In Transfigured Night two lovers meet by moonlight, and a dark secret threatens to tear them apart. Created by two-time Olivier-award winning choreographer Kim Brandstrup, it is a dramatic love story, with intimate duets and spectacular ensemble dancing amplifying the beauty and romance of its Schoenberg score.  In February 2017, Kim Brandstrup won the award for Best Modern Choreography for Transfigured Night, at the Critics’ Circle National Dance Awards 2016.

Performances:  Wednesday to Friday 15th-17th March 7.30pm

Venue:  New Theatre, George Street, Oxford OX1 2AG

Tickets:  £13.90 – £33.40 plus £4.00 transaction fee*

Book online here

On Thursday 16th there will be a free pre-performance talk at 6.30pm

Find out more about the works and Rambert Dance Company here

Saturday afternoon at the New Theatre (5.00pm performance) was an extremely happy occasion, with an auditorium full of little girls (and one or two boys) mostly accompanied by their mothers. ENB’s cut-down version of The Sleeping Beauty is pitched somewhere between a pantomime and a ballet, the story narrated by an actress playing the adult Aurora as she watches the rest of the cast dance, mime and act out the fairy tale. An advantage of this approach is that it restores to prominence the nineteenth-century mime scenes.

The cast consisted of very young dancers from the English National Ballet School, and it is frustrating that although the programme gave their names with photographs, there was no cast list included. One of the great pleasures of the afternoon was to see so much energy and emerging talent, but I am unable to name individual dancers with any certainty. (more…)