Curated by Oxford Dance Forum this occasional platform provides a welcome opportunity for Oxford dance artists to try out works in progress in a safe space, and for audiences to get an insight into the development of new works, and give feedback.  In this richly varied edition the artists are Naomi Morris with Hugh Pryor, Emma Webb and Richard Jones, Jenny Parrott, Ellie Aldegheri and Lunas Dance Project and Thomas Page Dancers.  See below for further details about the works they will be showing.

Performance:  Tuesday 25th April 7.30pm

Venue:  Arts at the Old Fire Station, 40 George Street, Oxford OX1 2AQ

Tickets:  £5

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The first of what will hopefully be many Scratch Nights at The Pegasus.  One of the best things about taking part in this was the opportunity to see other artists’ work.  The evening was organised to enable sharings and audience feedback.  In total there were 8 works with a maximum of 8 minutes allocated to each act.

The evening was structured to show 2 performances followed by audience feedback to the choreographer/performers.  Claire Thompson, of Arts Officer of Oxford City Council and chair of Oxford Dance Forum took the role of introducing the pairs of acts and leading/facilitating the feedback sessions.   Each choreographer had been able to put forward specific questions about their work so the feedback could be tailored to suit each of their  needs rather than providing general, random opinions or unhelpful advice.  This structure worked well and enabled both performers and audience to focus.

I was performing in Paulette Mae’s choreography with Anja Meinhardt and Paulette in an excerpt from ‘A Suitcase for all Seasons’.  Paulette’s work explores attachment and is an interesting fusion of dance vocabularies.  We were 2nd on and this meant I was not able to catch the first act –Nomi McLeod who was spectacularly treating the audience to aerial work on a rope up close.

The next pair were Leslie Tomkins performing an individual and moving solo and Amarita performing flamenco to a projected still backdrop and a practise recording of her flamenco teacher in Spain.  ‘This is very unusual and in a theatre performance I would use live musicians.  In flamenco the musician follows the dancer’s tempo so it is strange to follow a fixed pre-recorded track’.  Leslie talking about his piece said he quite likes to ‘alienate the audience’ while audience members commented that his absorption drew them in towards him.  The two contrasted well with Leslie’s inward looking and relaxed style and Amarita’s strong outward presence and precision.

Segolene Tarte in ‘Splice’ presented a very different use of the rope –as a prop and dance partner.  (how amazing to have 2 rope pieces in one evening!).  She brought a light, playful touch which was also at times mysterious and full of emotional resonance.  Making good use of space and clear form she also took on a variety of body qualities which showed an ability to extend well beyond ballet technique.

Emma Webb stood in her apron and wellies amongst domestic debris and talked and made me laugh.  Making poignant the reality of home and ‘waiting’.  ‘I wait’ she says and there is news of a body on the beach which may or may not be her husband.  She leaves her wellies and her apron and reveals her beautiful dress and her dance.  We do not know if it was her long awaited husband or someone else.  This was a strong piece with plenty of potential.  The use of text and humour with the dance worked well.

The last pair of the evening were Jo Lott’s ‘Tender’ danced by Helen Wadge and David Hudson and ‘Water’ by Helen Tennison and Lucy May Constantini.  ‘Tender’ was an athletic display of contemporary dance which only began to express its softness towards the end.  Jo explained the piece is normally a trio rather than a duet and will have a filmed projection in the finished work.  The audience enjoyed the energy of the dancers and the choreography.

The very last piece was my absolute favourite.  Very refreshing and inspiring.  Starting from the apparently simple idea of ‘water’ it opened up an amazing world of possibilities and ideas extending from that one source.  While one performer sat quietly and spoke to us about the properties of water – scientific terminology, densities, uses, function within the body, the process of drowning, the other dancer moved across the stage behind her in an embodiment of ice.  Then the roles began to change and speaker became dancer and dancer speaker.  More and more facts about the world and water and a story and a desperate chalking out on the floor of shrinking ice caps.   Yet, as someone said so poetic.  What a treat!  I felt really excited to have seen this work and look forward to seeing how and where they extend it.

As a Scratch Night, a space for showing work in progress, we are going to be able to see many of these pieces in their more developed forms during the dance festival:

Flamenco Intimo  3rd March at The Pegasus: Amarita and guests

Moving with The Times , 9/10 March at Pegasus: Nomi McLeod,  Emma Webb and Jo Lott’s dancers

A Suitcase for All Seasons, 17th March at The Old Firestation ; Paulette Mae and dancers.

The Scratch Night had a very good turn out, a warm and sympathetic audience and a nice feeling of shared experience backstage.  Euton managed all the tech slots throughout the day and operated lights and sound on the night.  I also saw him stacking up all the chairs after the show.  We are very lucky to have him and Pegasus on the side of dance in Oxford!

Ana Barbour