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…)

Dancin’ Oxford‘s annual festival of dance this year provides a packed and varied programme of performances, workshops and discussions, something for everyone to enjoy, in a range of venues.  Here for convenience is a list of all the performances: for details of practical workshops and taster sessions check out the Dancin’ Oxford website here or the links embedded to particular events.  Look out too for Dance Audience Club sessions on 29th February, 3rd March and 6th March; find out more about these friendly opportunites to think and talk about the dance you see with others here.  And if planning to take in several events, why not avail yourself of a Festival Pass which will get you reductions on ticket prices… find out about this here.  A reminder too that the exhibition of photographs by Colin Jones, Backstage at the Ballet, continues to the end of the Festival; further details here.

Moving with the Times:  Pegasus Theatre, Friday 28th & Saturday 29th February, 7.30pm

This annual platform features different companies in new work that is often explosive, moving and thought provoking.  This year’s companies are Amy Foskett Dance in Burning House, Thomas Page Dances in Commonality, and Drishti Dance in Sanket.  Find further information about the programme and how to book here

Festival Launch:  Westgate Centre, Saturday 29th February 12pm-5.00pm

A vibrant afternoon of free dance performances from professionals and local youth dance groups, including Infuse Dance’s BodyGuards, Step2Dance, Messy Jam, TPD Young Artists, Kapow Dance Circus Theatre, Pro-Motion and a special preview of Neon Dance‘s show Puzzle Creature.  Find out more here

Neon Dance Puzzle Creature: Oxford University Museum of Natural History, Sunday 1st March at 11.00am, 12.00pm, 1.00pm, 2.00pm, 3.00pm, complete performance 7.00pm

Experience 10 minute excerpts or a complete performance of this remarkable immersive contemporary dance piece from creative director Adrienne Hart, composer Sebastian Reynolds, designers Numen/For Use, and three exceptional dance artists. Find out more about the evening performance here, and afternoon Encounters here, and read Jenny Parrot’s report of the complete show in a recent performance here

Let’s All Dance Sleeping Beauty: Cornerstone Arts Centre Didcot, Sunday 1st March 1.00pm & 3.00pm

A family friendly version of this much loved ballet with Tchaikovsky’s sumptuous music, talented young dancers and gorgeous costumes.  Find out more here

Joelle Pappas Nocturne:  St Nicholas Church, Abingdon, Sunday 1st March 3.00pm

Lyrical contemporary dance from Oxford dance artist Joelle Pappas inspired by sculptures of Camille Claudel in a programme of French music and song with Diana Hinds (pianist) and Rory Carver (tenor).  Find out more here, and read Maggie Watson’s review of this atmospheric show here

Gecko and Mind the Gap in A Little Space:  Oxford Playhouse, Tuesday 3rd & Wednesday 4th March 7.30pm

Physical theatre company Gecko and performers from Mind the Gap, one of Europe’s leading learning disability theatre companies, come together in an exciting new show with stunning visual imagery.  Find out more here

Richard Chappell Dance Still Touch:  Pegasus Theatre, Friday 6th March 7.30pm

Choreographer Richard Chappell has collaborated with sculptor Anna Gillespie in an evocative work which explores touch through the relationship between three dancers and three life-size sculptures, find out more about this fascinating project here

Sonia Sabri Dance Same Same… but Different: The North Wall, Saturday 7th March 2.00pm

Another family show combining Kathak, hip hop, contemporary and street dance with live music and physical storytelling; playful and feel-good.  Find details here

Enjoy!

Facing a storm, be it meteorological or manmade, there are various responses, innate, considered or irrational, that people make – do nothing, batten down, evacuate, even chase, watching cloud formations or personal interactions, trying to comprehend the imminent impact. The publicity for The Storm from James Wilton Dance company asked, “In this storm can you find peace?”

Heading to Oxford Playhouse, then, a front of questions loomed. With the unavoidable political and environmental contexts, foremost was what type of storm was this? We were told only to expect seven contemporary dancers “combining acrobatics, break dancing and martial arts to specially composed thundering electro-rock”; what transpired to this viewer was a storm of human dimensions. (more…)

Award-winning dance company, Ballet Black, returns to Oxford Playhouse on Friday 1 November 2019 with a triple bill of bold and inventive choreography.

The exciting programme contrasts inventive story telling in a lively showcase of three modern ballets, commissioned especially for Ballet Black. Ingoma (song) by company dancer and choreographer Mthuthuzeli November, is a fusion of ballet, African dance and singing. This world premiere and Barbican co-commission portrays a milestone in South African history and imagines the struggles of black South African miners and their families in 1946 – when 60,000 of them took courageous strike action.

The second ballet is a revival of Martin Lawrance’s Pendulum, an intimate duo premiered in 2009, and the choreographer’s first work for the company. CLICK!, an original, up-beat piece by Scottish Ballet’s chorographer-in-residence Sophie Laplane, also a world premiere, completes the triple bill.

Performance:  Friday 1st November 8.00pm

Venue:  Oxford Playhouse, 11-12 Beaumont Street, Oxford OX1 2LW

Tickets: £10 to £25 | Discounts available  Book online here or call the Box Office on 01865 305305

Age guideline: 7+ (more…)

Returning to Oxford, this time to the Playhouse, is James Wilton Dance, one of Europe’s most in demand dance companies.  They present The Storm, a whirlwind of lightning fast athleticism, where acrobatics, break-dancing and martial arts fuse to form dance that will blow audiences away.
You can’t see the wind, but you can see how it changes objects.
You can’t see unhappiness, but you can see how it changes people.
A low becomes a depression, a depression becomes a storm.
When you’re unhappy people say “it will all blow over”. 
There is a calm before the storm, is there one afterwards?
 
In this storm can you find peace?
 

Premiered in autumn 2018, The Storm features 7 dancers, a specially composed thundering electro-rock score by Amarok/Michal Wojtas, and scientific input from Dr. David Belin, Lecturer in behavioural neuroscience at Cambridge University

Performance:  Tuesday 22nd October 7.30pm

Venue:  Oxford Playhouse, 11-12 Beaumont Street, Oxford OX1 2LW

Tickets:  £25.00/£20.00/£15.00/£10.00 Available online here or call the Box Office on 01865 305305

Duration: 1 hour 32mins with interval

Find out more about the company here

Oxford Playhouse welcomes the internationally-acclaimed Clod Ensemble for the first time on Monday 20 and Tuesday 21 May with their new show On The High Road: an intoxicating explosion of music, movement and light.  This highly anticipated new production is a gripping, vivid piece of theatre which combines a stark monochrome design, kaleidoscopic movement and exhilarating music. The central image feels especially relevant in a world in which difference and intolerance, displacement, refuge and climate change are omnipresent, and we must work out how to live together.

A disparate group of people find themselves caught in a terrible storm On The High Road. Whether old or young, pilgrim or party-goer, they must all seek refuge under the same roof. As the night draws in, they dream, pray, dance, party and fight – waiting for the dawn to come. At once dance, theatre and gig – On The High Road’s turbulent blend of movement and music defies categorisation.

Directed by Suzy Willson, a dynamic company of outstanding dancers, actors and singers warp time and perspective to create an epic moving sculpture. We watch human beings as if under a microscope, attempting to share space within their homes, cities, states and continents.

Suzy Willson said: “We have always been fascinated by how the spaces we inhabit affect how we relate to each other, how we move and feel. In On The High Road we wanted to explore the relationships between patterns of movement and these spaces, within our own bodies, our homes, families, cities, and continents. We wanted to squeeze it all within a small white structure on the stage.”

Paul Clark’s original score counterpoints wind howls, downpours and thunderclaps with the brilliance of the human voice. Twisted classical textures stumble into drunken bar-room pianos, and mournful songs build to pulsating clubby rhythms. Featuring live performances from Irish folk singer Thomas McCarthy (Gradam Ceoil TG4’s Singer of the Year 2019), acclaimed soprano Melanie Pappenheim and renowned cabaret singer George Heyworth, one half of Bourgeois & Maurice, the production will offer a true gig experience.

Paul Clark said: ‘There are two main forces at work in the score; the sounds of a storm and the sound of the human voice. All of the music we hear emerges out of a soundscape made out of sampled and processed audio; wind howls, downpours, thunderclaps, rattling lamp posts. It is a hostile sonic environment, always threatening to overwhelm any human attempt to tame it or even be heard. But as the piece progresses three singers find a space for song in this maelstrom – dreamlike evocations of remembered music all haunted by the violent storm that roars away outside.’

Performances:  Monday and Tuesday 20th & 21st May, 7.30pm

Venue:  Oxford Playhouse, Beaumont Street, Oxfor OX1 2LW

Tickets: £22, £19, £15, £10 – Contact Ticket Office on 01865 305305 or book online at www.oxfordplayhouse.com.

Please note that strobe light effects are used during this performance.

Duration: 1 hour 15 mins with no interval

There will be a post show talk after Monday’s performance.

Grey Matter – Choreography: Benoit Swan Pouffer

There was a lot of drama in this piece, from the striking white sheer costumes with splatters of blood-like red, to the beating bass of the music by GAIKA. The dancers appeared almost animalistic, and there was certainly an undercurrent of threat throughout the piece. There was a constant shifting between fluidity – the dancers writhing in a serpentine manner – and violence at other points, as they crept on tiptoe as if stalking prey.
Some strong characters broke away from the crowd, with some sense of narrative through the piece, but overall there was a sense of anonymity, without a huge amount of interaction between the dancers. This sometimes gave a strong vision of a faceless crowd with some individuals trying to escape; but at other times, the stage felt a little too ‘busy’ and it wasn’t always easy to follow the direction of the piece. However it was certainly an engaging start to the evening, and the edginess of the choreography was matched by the lighting, soundtrack and costumes, so it felt like a cohesive world. (more…)

The 2019 Dancin’ Oxford Festival brings a powerful and varied programme of dance to the city. It features shows and workshops for children, teenagers, dance enthusiasts and for the dance curious.  This year we are introducing our Festival Hub, in the Oxford Playhouse’s Lucy Room, where dance lovers can pop in for free tea, coffee and a chat.

The Festival, now in its 13th year, is funded by Oxford City Council and Arts Council England. Claire Thompson, Oxford City Council Arts Officer said ‘Although the Festival has no central theme several of this year’s companies have mental health issues at the heart of their work, which reflects current contemporary concerns. The shows are far from being all doom and gloom and offer thought provoking dance of the highest quality. We have a new venue for the Festival Launch on 2 March which will be held on a dance stage inside Westgate Oxford. We are delighted with this new location which will offer great views for everyone.’

The Festival Launch is an exciting and awe-inspiring afternoon of dance featuring breathtaking shows from professional and local youth dance companies. There will also be opportunities to join in a Zumba Party and learn African and Street Dance moves.  The annual Moving with the Times platform comprises 3 specially commissioned pieces by Dancin’ Oxford and Pegasus Theatre and features emerging companies, with work this year by Jann Esterhuizen Company, Joe Lott Company and returning Richard Chappell Dance.

Stuart Walters’ Rock Bottom is a moving dance solo based on the dancer’s own struggles with depression and addition. Two Oxford based companies are also looking into mental health. Body Politic, now on its first national tour, examines the fragility and vulnerabilities in men and young boys and Dance Creative offers the raw story of a daughter and her mother with early onset dementia.

Uchenna Dance will bring a flamboyance and colour with its blend of African and contemporary dance with The Head Wrap Diaries.  The Chit Chat Chalk Show will help children discover what makes them unique.

You can find full details of all the events and participatory workshops here, but below is a listing of performance events and discussion at a glance:

Moving with the Times platform- Richard Chappell Dance, Jann Esterhuizen Company, Joe Lott Company, contemporary dance

Friday 1st & Saturday 2nd March 7.30pm,  Sat. mat 2.30pm, Pegasus Theatre

Festival Launch – including performances by Company Chameleon, Messy Jam Dance Co, Step2Dance, Hakeem Omnibudo and his Impact Academy Dancers.

2nd March 12pm – 5pm, Leiden Square, Westgate Oxford

Festival Hub – speakers Emma-Jane Morbey AD Body Politic, Claire Thompson Director Dancin’ Oxford Festival, Paula Redway Cultural Development Manager at Oxford City Council, Susie Crow Ballet in Small Spaces and Oxford Dance Writers, Segolene Tarte Oxford Dance Forum, Angela Conlan Director Dance Creative.

Monday 3rd – Saturday 9th March 12 – 2pm, Oxford Playhouse

The Head Wrap Diaries – Uchenna Dance, fusion African and contemporary dance forms

2nd March 7pm, Kingsmere Community Centre, Bicester

Boys and Girls – The Pappy Show

2nd March 7.30pm, The North Wall

Mixtape – Dotdotdot Dance, contemporary flamenco

5th March 8pm, The North Wall

Rock Bottom – Stuart Waters, solo dance

6th March 7.30pm, Old Fire Station

A Million Memories – Dance Creative, interactive event with dance, music and poetry

7th March at 6pm, History of Science Museum

Works by Rafael Bonachela, Sharon Eyal and Benoit Swan Pouffer – Rambert2, contemporary dance

Friday 8th & Saturday 9th March, Friday 8 pm, Sat 2.30 & 7.30pm, Oxford Playhouse

Father Figurine – Body Politic, hip-hop dance and spoken word

8th March 7.30pm, The Mill Arts Centre, Banbury

The Chit Chat Chalk Show – Hawk Dance Theatre and The Knotted Project, children’s show

9th March 11am & 2pm, The North Wall

Ticketed events: from £3 for taster workshops;

Oxford Playhouse www.ticketsoxford.com 01865 305305,

www.pegasustheatre.org.uk 01865 812 150, www.thenorthwall.com 01865 319450,

www.themillartscentre.co.uk 01295 290 002, www.hsm.ox.ac.uk

 

Audiences can’t resist the “joyously unpredictable” (Guardian) programmes danced by Ballet Black, returning for their third visit to Oxford Playhouse.

Led by Artistic Director Cassa Pancho, this company celebrates dancers of black and Asian descent, showcasing technique, precision and grace in specially commissioned pieces. As part of their latest double bill, Cathy Marston, renowned for her expressive and beautifully crafted work, has choreographed a new narrative ballet for the Company. Inspired by Can Themba’s South African fable The Suit, this is the first dance adaptation of the affecting short story.  Completing the evening is Arthur Pita’s Olivier nominated A Dream Within A Midsummer Night’s Dream, a heady piece of dance-theatre for which Pita also earned a Critics’ Circle and South Bank Award nomination following its premiere in 2014.

Performance:  Wednesday 7th November 7.30pm

Venue:  Oxford Playhouse, Beaumont Street, Oxford, UK, OX1 2LW 

Tickets:  £25/£20/£15/£10  Book online here or call the Box Office on 01865 305305

Age Guideline 12+

Duration: 1 hour 35mins with interval

Find out more about Ballet Black here

Read previous ODW reviews of Ballet Black performances here and here

This riotous and colourful production had a lot to recommend it. The Rumplestiltskin fairytale was given a new twist, with the title role a more rounded character and sympathetic backstory than in traditional renditions. This was a clever device (with credit to Carol Ann Duffy as Scenario Writer), as the storyline became less about old-fashioned heroes and villains, and more about values such as family, community and embracing difference and diversity. (more…)