Backstage at the Ballet, an exhibition of photographs by Colin Jones, opened yesterday 11th February with a well-researched and entertaining presentation by Jane Pritchard, Curator of Dance at the Victoria &  Albert Museum, on Photographing Dance and Dancers.  Pritchard spoke interestingly and informatively about dancer-turned-photographer Colin Jones, the history of dance photography, and Jones’ photo-journalism, focusing on his work with dancers.  She drew attention to the wealth of social and historical information in his images, from evidence of the terrible quality of studio floors in the 1960s, to the way in which dancers used to spend their ‘down time’ knitting before there were mobile phones. (more…)

As part of Dancin’ Oxford 2020 The North Wall displays a collection of remarkable photos, Backstage At The Ballet.  Colin Jones (b.1936) is one of Britain’s most significant photojournalists but he began his creative career dancing with The Royal Ballet.  This dancer-turned-photographer focused his lens on fellow dancers as his subject matter, capturing hardworking bodies and backstage drama.

Jones’ backstage ballet photographs show not just the emotional intensity and beauty of ballet but also reveal the sustained physical exertion and discipline of a dancer’s life.  Photographs from the 1960s include Britain’s iconic ballerina, Margot Fonteyn and the Soviet-born Rudolf Nureyev as well as later images from the 1990s, featuring English National Ballet star Tamara Rojo.

This is the first exhibition in a public gallery of Jones’ ballet photographs, featuring rarely-seen backstage images of British ballet from the late 1950s to the millennium.

With grateful thanks to Colin Jones, Topfoto and principal sponsor St Edward’s School.

Dates:  Tuesday 11th February – Saturday 7th March

Venue:  The North Wall Arts Centre, South Parade, Summertown, Oxford OX2 7JN

Tickets:  Admission free.

Opening hours:  The North Wall Gallery is open from Monday – Friday 10am – 4pm, and from 12pm – 4pm on Saturdays. Sundays & Bank Holidays: normally closed, except for theatre events.

Related talks:

Photographing Dance and Dancers, Tuesday 11th February, 5.30pm: further details here

The Collaborative Research of Science and Dance, Wednesday 4th March, 6.00pm: further details here

Find out more about Colin Jones here

This wonderful but exasperating documentary film celebrating the art of Rudolf Nureyev almost succeeds both as a work of art in its own right, and as a discussion of the role of dance in mid-twentieth century European history. Although it suffers from too much material and too many ideas for its thematic structure to accommodate, the mode of presentation, which includes the use of dance to embody meaning, is highly original in a documentary format. Magnificent montages of archive film and newly created dance footage overlaid one upon another provide a depth of experience that is sometimes exhausting: watching Russell Maliphant’s choreography, accompanied by Alex Baranowski’s score, while listening to a Russian language interview translated by subtitles is almost overwhelming. (more…)

The artist management agency International Classical Artists has launched an audio and audio-visual label featuring archive material and historic musical performances by the agency’s own artists from around the world since 1953. Of 74 titles released to date under the label ICA Classics Legacy series, the catalogue includes a small collection of historic dance performances filmed in black and white, mainly from the 50s and 60s and featuring great dancers such as Fonteyn, Nureyev, Nadia Nerina, Svetlana Beriosova, Alicia Markova, and Galina Ulanova in classics such as Les Sylphides and Giselle, but also delectable ballets of the period such by John Cranko’s The Lady and the Fool, Ashton’s La Fille mal gardée with original interpreters, and the first act of The Stone Flower.

It has been a real pleasure savouring the particular delights of their Choreography by Bournonville disc, which includes not only a complete performance of La Sylphide recorded by the BBC in 1961, but also a bonus all Danish performance of the Act II pas de deux from 1960, and the Flower Festival in Genzano pas de deux recorded in 1974.  The Ballet Rambert production of La Sylphide was mounted by Elsa-Marianne von Rosen with loving care as to authentic style and dramatic coherence (more…)