It is that time of the year again, suddenly Christmas is looming with urgent gift shopping imperatives.  But don’t worry, once again Oxford Dance Writers is here to help with our round up of dance publications reviewed and received this year, from the highly academic and practical to the entertaining memoir and gorgeously illustrated records of companies and dancers; for the dance lovers in your lives, or to add to your own Christmas wish list…  Great thanks once again to all our reviewers! (more…)

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A traditional Christmas treat in live transmission at Oxford’s Phoenix Picturehouse.  The Royal Ballet‘s glorious production of The Nutcracker, created by Peter Wright in 1984, is the production par excellence of an all-time ballet favourite. It is Christmas Eve and Drosselmeyer the magician sweeps young Clara away on a fantasy adventure in which time is suspended, the family livingroom becomes a great battlefield, and a magical journey takes them through the Land of Snow to the Kingdom of Sweets.

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker score was commissioned by the director of the Russian Imperial Theatres, following the resounding success of The Sleeping Beauty in 1890. Marius Petipa created the scenario, which is based on a fairytale by E.T.A. Hoffmann, and Lev Ivanov provided the choreography. The Nutcracker was first performed in 1892 at the Mariinsky Theatre in St Petersburg. It initially had a poor reception, but its combination of enchanting choreography and unforgettable music has since made it one of the most loved of all ballets.

In Peter Wright’s classic production for The Royal Ballet, the stage sparkles with theatrical magic – a Christmas tree grows before our eyes, toy soldiers come to life to fight the villainous Mouse King and Clara and the Nutcracker are whisked off to the Kingdom of Sweets on a golden sleigh. Tchaikovsky’s score contains some of ballet’s best-known melodies, from the flurrying Waltz of the Snowflakes to the dream-like Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy – all brilliantly set in Wright’s choreography. Julia Trevelyan Oman’s designs draw upon 19th-century images of Christmas, making this magical production perfect for the festive season.

Date:  Thursday 8th December 7.15pm

Venue:  Phoenix Picturehouse, 57 Walton St, Oxford OX2 6AE

Tickets:  Book online here or call 0871 902 5736

This transmission will be repeated on Monday 12th December at 12.00, book online here

This is ‘not a conventional autobiography’ but it is a fascinating and inspiring account of 75 years of work in dance and theatre. Immensely humorous, Wright seems to have known almost everybody in the ballet world, and he conjures up vivid images of dips in the freezing January sea with Henry Danton at Eastbourne in the 1940s, Princess Margaret backstage at the Birmingham Hippodrome holding her breath to avoid the whiff from the gents’ loo, or of Michael Somes who could be ‘very difficult’, ‘particularly at full moon’.

For those of us outside the professional ballet world, the book sometimes ‘joins the dots’, and fills the gaps that other, more discreet, accounts have left in obscurity. I imagine that Wright’s colleagues and acquaintances will have looked for their names in the index with some trepidation, for he is almost as frank about the living as he is about the dead. (more…)

A chance to see live transmission of  The Royal Ballet performing at the top of its game in a great production of a major work.  Giselle is the quintessential Romantic ballet.  It transformed the dance world when it was first performed in Paris in 1841 and remains at the centre of the classical repertory.  Although choreography and designs have undergone many changes over the years, the essence of Giselle remains the same, a love affair that begins in the real world and continues beyond the grave.  Sir Peter Wright’s production for The Royal Ballet is based on Marius Petipa’s classic version (after original choreography by Jules Perrot and Jean Coralli), which was first staged in St Petersburg in 1884.  The ballet’s title role offers one of the great challenges of the ballet repertory, as Giselle transforms from an innocent peasant girl, duped into love, to a forgiving spirit who saves her lover from death. For the ballerina this is a role of two contrasting halves: in Act I she must appear naïve and artless, her dancing alive with an earthy enthusiasm; in Act II she transforms into light and air, her dancing so ethereal as to seem weightless. In Wright’s production, the dual aspect of the ballet is perfectly achieved: the first act dramatized in rich, naturalistic detail and the second with a spectral, moonlit beauty.  Marianela Nuñez and Vadim Muntagirov star as Giselle and Count Albrecht; designs are by John Macfarlane and the tuneful score is by Adolphe Adam.

Performance:  Wednesday 6th April 7.15pm

Venue:  Phoenix Picturehouse, 57 Walton Street, Oxford  OX2 6AE

Tickets from £8-£20

Book online here or call 0871 902 5736

A chance to see The Royal Ballet in one of the most popular Romantic ballets of all time.  The story of Giselle brings together an engaging mix of human passions, supernatural forces and the transcendent power of self-sacrificing love.  The production by Sir Peter Wright catches the atmosphere of this great Romantic ballet, especially in the perfection of its second Act, with ghostly maidens drifting through the forest in spectacular patterns – one of the most famous of any scenes for the corps de ballet. Giselle dances with lightness and fragility, giving the impression of floating through the mist.  This is one of the Royal Ballet’s most loved and admired productions, faithful to the spirit of the 1841 original, yet always fresh at each revival.  This live transmission from the Royal Opera House at the Phoenix Picturehouse on Monday 27th January features the company’s new star dancer Natalia Osipova in the title role, partnered by Carlos Acosta. (more…)