Moon Dances – Jann Esterhuizen Company

This was an elegant start to the evening, with poise and delicacy at its core. The piece started slowly, with the contemporary soundtrack drawing the audience into the performance even as the lights were still up, and gradually bringing us into the world on stage as the room darkened.
The choreography was based on very classical shapes and forms, with a lot of use of the diagonal lines of the stage, and many moments being recognisably ‘balletic’, but it pushed gently at the boundaries of traditional ballet, moving out of the confines of these lines and using the body in more organic ways.
The dancers each seemed to be mostly self-contained – there wasn’t a great deal of interaction between them; rather they all seemed to be in their own separate worlds of movement.
The piece as a whole didn’t take huge risks; there was still a lot of familiar ground in the soundtrack of piano and strings (particularly with sections of Bach’s solo cello suites), and the roots of ballet in the choreography. But the fact that it was clean and not particularly gritty didn’t detract – it was a balanced and beautiful performance in all areas: choreography, performance and soundtrack.

EVA – Joe Lott Dance

In contrast to the previous piece, this had a strong sense of narrative, with spoken word as a prominent part of the performance. At the start this took the form of a performer on stage who spoke to the audience, and later on there were extracts of speech from NASA space missions as part of the soundtrack.
This provided a great sense of direction and clarity to the piece, and there were moments of perfect balance where the choreography directly matched the narration’s content. Initially this took the form of small movements which ‘acted out’ the things being narrated (for example particular actions like sowing seeds). Later on it was even more striking, as two dancers moved in unison on the floor, slowly oscillating and remoulding the shapes of their bodies as the soundtrack described movement in space. There was a real quality of weightlessness and floating – it was easy to imagine that the dancers were outside the Earth’s gravity.
I did find it easier to take in the narration from a soundtrack than the spoken delivery on stage – perhaps because this broke away from the traditional silence of dance performers. But it was certainly an absorbing performance with some real innovation of choreography.

Still Touch – Richard Chappell Dance

This was an exceptionally strong finish to the evening, with innovation and talent on show right from the first moment. The subject matter encompassed the nature of human touch and connection, and this was explored through four ‘characters’ – three dancers and a sculpted figure. This inert figure could so easily have been used in a gimmicky way, but on the contrary it was done in a way both empathetic and unabashed. The work didn’t shy away from the raw loneliness of the lack of connection to others, or the tenderness and joy of human interaction, but also showed many tones between these two extremes, connecting all three dancers and the sculpture rather than keeping them apart in separate pairs.

The soundtrack, too, was inventive and layered, and matched the emotive drive of the piece – at some points dramatic and dark, and at others almost completely still.
The choreography felt inherently organic, each movement flowing from the last, feeling almost improvised, and yet inventive and very much outside the boundaries of ‘classical’ dance. There was also no sense of gender difference between the male and female dancers. Rather than feeling one was watching a performance, it was more like looking in on an intimate world, at times troubled but ultimately beautiful.

Jess Ryan-Phillips

17th March 2019

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Richard Chappell Dance presents the company’s compelling first full length work, At the end we begin. Using T.S. Eliot’s classic series Four Quartets as a point of departure, each poem is represented through four arresting and emotionally-fuelled quartets of dance.

At the end we begin inhabits the derelict, sensitive and powerful landscape of Eliot’s poetry and questions how time’s circular nature affects our understanding of ourselves. The work takes four young individuals from a place of being lost to a state of empowerment and acceptance where they have found their own voice by journeying through Eliot’s text. Whilst combining Chappell’s own distinguishable blend of classical ballet, martial arts, improvisation and contact work with three other highly-skilled performers, At the end we begin dives into each performer’s unique and diverse skills with a rich palette of qualities.

Venue:  Pegasus Theatre, Magdalen Road, Oxford OX4 1RE
Date:  Friday, 26th October 7:30 pm
Tickets:  £13, £9 concessions.  Book online here, or call the Box Office on 01865 812150
Suitable for audiences 11+

Based on T.S.Eliot’s Four Quartets, this piece was an impressive performance from a young dancer-choreographer and his fellow artists. The structure was of four separate chapters (one for each section of a poem) which worked well, although there was room for even more space for the audience to assimilate each individual section. The programme described the overall narrative as ‘from a place of being lost to a state of empowerment and acceptance’ and this certainly came across: the figures seemed to be searching and grasping at the start, and by the end they had become more animated, grounded and secure. (more…)

Dancin’ Oxford’s annual Spring Festival offers something for everyone. From international choreographers, to free outdoor experiences, a Dance-A-Thon, professional and amateur companies, plus shows for children and workshops, Dancin’ Oxford 2017 has programmed a festival of treats.

Now in its 11th year and funded by Oxford City Council and Arts Council England, Dancin’ Oxford goes from strength to strength. Claire Thompson, Oxford City Council Dance Officer said “We find that each new festival is rewarding in so many ways. Oxford’s vibrant dance scene love it as do many people who have never experienced dance before. The free dance event in the city brings a variety of dance styles to the shoppers some of whom have been known to join in.’

Dancin’ Spaces (4 March), in and around the City Centre, is a variety of programmed dance performances and promenade pieces. Shoppers might find they are chosen to be ‘protected and defended’ by dancing Bodyguards, discover a dance about football fusing hip hop with contemporary dance, watch a performance for children in the Museum of History of Science or a duet in the Weston Library foyer. All this runs alongside a plethora of local dance companies which will entertain and delight shoppers. (more…)

How fitting that on the day that a woman took over at 10 Downing Street, Oxford was celebrating the work of women choreographers and dancers in first night of the Women GOlive programme.

Curator Donald Hutera has brought together an impressively novel and varied selection of works by local, national and international artists, which last night ranged from an intensely focussed Butoh-based solo by Ana Barbour, through Jane Connelly’s liquid contemporary dance style, to the disconcerting humour and provocative wit of Susan Kempster, performance poet Jemima Foxtrot and Aliki Mbakoyianni. (more…)

Women GOlive is a showcase of dance by female performers – and men are welcome too!  Kicking off next Wednesday, 13 July, the mini-festival hosted by Arts at the Old Fire Station features some of the best talent around.  Curator and Times dance critic Donald Hutera has assembled a four-day line-up of short works for intimate spaces, cherry-picking four enticingly varied evenings of multi-generational talent from the UK and abroad, mainly but not exclusively the work of a group of fascinating and independent female artists. Local performers Ana Barbour, Susie Crow, Cecilia Macfarlane, Anuradha Chaturvedi, Jane Connelly, Anja Meinhardt and Roosa Leimu-Brown are joined by national and international names such as Jemima Foxtrot and Mara Vivas.   Performances will be refreshingly unconventional and always eclectic: expect the unexpected!

Performances:  Wednesday 13th – Saturday 16th July 7.30pm

Venue:  The Old Fire Station, 40 George Street, Oxford OX1 2AQ

Tickets:  £10/£8 from www.ticketsoxford.com or 01865 305305.

Programme:

Wed 13th:  Ana Barbour, Jane Connelly (Smidgen Dance Company), Lorna V, Richard Chappell, Susan Kempster, and Jemima Foxtrot

Thurs 14th: Lorna V, Ana Barbour, Arunima Kumar, Susie Crow (Avid for Ovid), Salah El-Brogy, Sarah Kent (Dysfunctional Dance), and Hanna Wroblewski

Fri 15th:  Lorna V, Susie Crow, Sarah Kent, Mara Vivas with My Johansson,  Anuradha Chaturvedi Seth, and Sue Lewis (Ffin Dance)

Sat 16th: Lorna V, Mara Vivas with My Johansson, Sarah Kent, Sue Lewis (Ffin Dance), Anja Meinhardt (Justice in Motion) with Roosa Leimu-Brown

More programme information here: www.oldfirestation.org.uk | 01865 263980