Following the success of the inaugural Dance Scholarship Oxford (DANSOX) Summer School in 2019 at St Hilda’s College Oxford, a second, this time virtual Summer School is being programmed by Professor Susan Jones.  Events will be available to view on the Jacqueline du Pré Music Building’s YouTube channel from 16th July 2020.

DANSOX Virtual Summer School 2020 includes two strands:

Celebrating the work of the distinguished American dancer and choreographer Paul Taylor (1930-2018):

Alastair Macaulay (international dance critic and writer): lecture on the life and work
Parisa Kobdeh (ex-Paul Taylor dancer): on practice and technique.

New Scholarship on Dance: text and practice

Joseph Kay (composer) on musical notation and dance notation
Susie Crow (choreographer and writer): aspects of the ballet class
Marcus Bell (DPhil student, St Hilda’s) on Pina Bausch and the classics
Megan Smith (2020 English Finalist, Oxford): literary criticism meets fiction and performance in John Haskell’s The Complete Ballet: A Fictional Essay in Five Acts (2017)
Anna Chamberlain (2020 Art History Finalist, Oxford): Hilde Holge, German Expressionist dance and photography.

Find out more about DANSOX here and get ready for the Summer School by watching some past events here.

Sonia Tycko is a member of Susie Crow’s intermediate ballet class in Oxford.  Huge thanks to her for providing this useful user’s starter guide to some of the vast amount of ballet training material online, as dancers seek for ways to keep their practice going at home… please do feel free to add your thoughts and comments below this post, and share other resources you may have found.  Sonia writes:

Although we cannot take class together in our studio for the time being, we can safely maintain and even build elements of our dance practices at home with online classes. In this post, I’ll point out a few resources that I’ve collected this week. Full-length online dance class offerings might be divided into two categories: live and pre-recorded.

LIVE

Live videos form a community of dancers, which motivates you to not only start but also complete a dance class in your kitchen. On YouTube or Instagram Live, you can see how many other dancers are watching the live videos along with you. Your fellow dancers’ written comments and “likes” throughout the session will give you some sense of their energy and engagement. It’s great that these videos start at a specific time because that can add structure to the day. The teachers are recording their videos in their own homes, and will only set material that you can fit into a small space. On the downside, live videos can have technical issues with sound and lighting, and of course they might not suit your schedule.

To locate a class, one starting point is Dancing Alone Together, which compiles a list of many styles of live-streamed dance classes, organized as a calendar: https://www.dancingalonetogether.org (more…)

Oxford’s long established butoh dance theatre group Café Reason first showed its  ecologically focused work Tipping Point at the University of Hertfordshire last year, the outcome of this collaborative company’s collective exploration and creative response to “the threats facing our fragile planet”. In January 2020 the company unveiled it in Oxford over two sold out nights, testimony to a solid and sympathetic audience support base, but also to the topical urgency of its theme, increasingly in the public eye as we followed the horrific development of Australia’s bush fires. Corpus Christi College’s Al Jaber auditorium proved an apt setting, its reuse of ancient wall providing a dramatic irregular boundary and contrast to an otherwise technologically functional modern space. (more…)

In November 2019 Oxford Dance Writers (ODW) celebrated its 10th anniversary with a reception at the North Wall Arts Centre to mark the occasion. The evening provided a joyful opportunity for members of the wider Oxford dance and performing arts community to come together and catch up.  A panel of guest speakers discussed dance writing each from their own specific perspective.  Dance critic and historian Nadine Meisner entertained us with stories of the dance reviewer’s rackety life, but also described her experiences drawing together her authoritative biography of Marius Petipa published in the summer.  Dance artist Nicholas Minns, reflected thoughtfully on his emergence as a dance blogger and online critic covering a wide spectrum of dance performance, and the writers influencing him in developing a distinctive voice and perspective.  Professor Susan Jones, the driving force behind Dance Scholarship Oxford (DANSOX) which has scheduled so many fascinating events (talks, seminars, lecture demonstrations, residencies) in recent years, gave insight into the place and potential of dance within Oxford University, and its enriching contribution to innovative interdisciplinary research projects and outreach. Oxford University Press mounted an impressive display of its varied publications on dance for those attending to browse and purchase.

ODW emerged from Ballet in Small Spaces’ The Solos Project in 2009 as an initiative to encourage critical writing and online discussion of dance, and generate informed reviews of the work of local dance artists.  Since then it has become a valuable record of dance performance activity in and around Oxford, listing forthcoming events as well as reviewing, bearing witness to dance in Oxford; generating an archive of the diverse and idiosyncratic dance history of a particular place.  Aiming to be a space for informed debate it has played a significant part in raising the profile of dance in Oxford, and developing its audience.  ODW has run three Dance Writers of the Future competitions to encourage younger writers.  It tracks and reports on academic dance initiatives such as Dance Scholarship Oxford and Dance and Academia events, and regularly reviews dance publications both academic and popular.  It has had the support of Oxfordshire venues who provide press tickets for ODW reviewers, and of publishers who have provided review copies of dance books.

Over the last ten years 40 writers have been featured, with substantial contributions from Susie Crow and Maggie Watson.  As well as academics (such as Miranda Laurence, Dana Mills) contributors have included local dance artists (including Ana Barbour, Jane Connelly, Rachel Gildea, Lisia Newmark); occasional guest writers (Nicholas Minns of writingaboutdance.com, Rebecca Nice, Emily May, art historian Barbara Berrington, former Oxford Times dance critic David Bellan); local dance lovers (such as Jess Ryan-Phillips, Susannah Harris-Wilson, Susanna Reece); and young writers who have entered our competitions.   ODW reaches a significant number of dance professionals and enthusiasts in the Oxfordshire area, and despite its mainly local focus the site also has an international following.

ODW now extends its grateful thanks to all who have contributed writing and who have supported the site in other ways over the years.  A special thanks to Maggie Watson who has recently completed with distinction an MA in Ballet Studies at the University of Roehampton, for so regularly contributing thoughtful, perceptive and empathetic reviews of a wide range of performances and publications.  With particular reference to our anniversary celebration, special mention must go to our wise and encouraging speakers, to Oxford Dance Forum for its generous support, to The North Wall for hosting us in such welcoming fashion, and to Oxford University Press for its enticing display of dance publications which prompted much pre Christmas buying.  And a final shout out for local dance and visual artist Naomi Morris for her beautiful images for ODW publicity materials.

We look forward to continuing… watch this space!  Your interest and comments will be greatly valued.

Wishing you all the best for 2020 and the coming decade,

Susie Crow

 

You can find information about Nadine Meisner’s biography Marius Petipa: The Emperor’s Ballet Master here or why not drop into the OUP Bookshop at 116-117, High St, Oxford OX1 4BZ.

Read Nicholas Minns’ latest reviews on his blog writingaboutdance.com here

Find out about Dance Scholarship Oxford, DANSOX, here

and about Dance and Academia here

Information about Oxford Dance Forum and its activities can be found here

Still wondering what Christmas present to get for the dance lovers or converts in your life?  Here is a reminder of some great publications that ODW has recently reviewed, including fascinating historic biographies and stunning photography, plus an extremely tempting DVD… click on the links provided for reviews and details of where to purchase.  Particular thanks to Maggie Watson for the informative and perceptive reviews she has contributed.

Nadine Meisner 2019  Marius Petipa: the emperor’s ballet master

A major and groundbreaking volume, nominated for the Outstanding Creative Contribution in this year’s National Dance Awards (to be announced 19th February 2020). This is the first English language biography of the great ballet master behind such iconic works as Swan Lake, The Sleeping Beauty and The Nutcracker, massively influential in ballet’s development.  Full of historic detail it paints a fascinating picture of an intriguing character and the colourful world of 19th century ballet, giving tantalising glimpses of other forgotten works.  Essential reading; for further information read Maggie Watson’s review here  As an alternative to buying online, why not check it out alongside other fascinating dance publications by Oxford University Press at the OUP Bookshop, 116-117 High St, Oxford OX1 4BZ.

Michael Meylac 2018  Behind the Scenes at the Ballets Russes: stories from a silver age

For reviewer Maggie Watson “There is never a dull moment in this collection of interviews with dancers associated in one way or another with the various companies collectively described as the ‘Ballets Russes’.” Professor Michael Meylac has tracked the historic diaspora of dancers from the Ballets Russes companies across the world, and the lively reminiscences he has elicited from a wide range of artists paint a vivid picture of often racketty professional existence, including memories of some of the great teachers bringing Russian ballet schooling to the West.  A hugely entertaining read, check out Maggie’s review here

Darcey Bussell 2018  Darcey Bussell: Evolved

An autobiography partly narrated through the lens of the professional camera; a chatty album whose portrait “snaps” of its likable protagonist happen to be by photographic luminaries including Annie Leibovitz, Arthur Elgort, John Swannell, Lord Snowdon and Richard Avedon, as well as distinguished dance photographers such as Bill Cooper, Anthony Crickmay and Chris Nash. It tracks the intriguing development of a career beyond the Royal Ballet for this beautiful ballerina as model and media personality.  Read Susie Crow’s review of this luxurious coffee table book here and read Maggie Watson’s report of Darcey Bussell interviewed by Nick Higham at the Oxford Literary Festival here

Rick Guest 2019  Edward Watson: Portrait of a Dancer

You would need a substantial Christmas shopping budget to be able to afford this portfolio of Rick Guest’s stunning large format photographs of a particular muse, the remarkable and individual Royal Ballet star Edward Watson.  Maggie and Susie went to hear Guest and Watson in entertaining and thought-provoking conversation about their work together earlier this year at the National Portrait Gallery; read Maggie’s account here.  There are other volumes of Guest’s extraordinary portraits of dancers available at more affordable prices; read Maggie’s account here of his exhibition What Lies Beneath which is now available as a book.  Check this out along with examples of the Watson portraits here

Richard Allen Cave & Anna Meadmore eds. 2018  Robert Helpmann: the many faces of a theatrical dynamo

This collection of articles by dance academics and practitioners on the charismatic and multifaceted dancer and actor Robert Helpmann is a timely and valuable addition: as Maggie says, “enlightening, entertaining and scholarly”.  Emerging from the research leading to Birmingham Royal Ballet’s 2014 restaging of Helpmann’s powerful ballet Miracle in the Gorbals, it brings this major figure back into the limelight; including some of his own writings and a DVD with fascinating interviews and documentary footage.  Essential reading for those interested in the development of British Ballet during and after WW2.  Read Maggie’s review here

And finally…

Queen + Béjart: Ballet for Life

Available on DVD or Blu-ray this double bill includes not only historic live action capture of Queen and the Béjart Ballet in Ballet for Life, but also the fascinating recent documentary about the work by director Lynne Wake and producer Simon Lupton.  Edited by Emmy Award winner Christopher Bird, it tells the story of Ballet for Life and its success, featuring the great and the good of both rock and dance, including: Brian May, Roger Taylor, Gil Roman, Wayne Sleep and Arlene Phillips. The full performance at Théâtre Métropole, Lausanne in June 1997 was captured and directed by David Mallet, known specifically for directing live performance concerts of such megastars as Tina Turner, David Bowie, The Rolling Stones, and numerous Queen videos including Bicycle Race, Radio Ga Ga, I Want to Break Free and Freddie’s classic The Great Pretender video.  It includes incredible archive footage of Freddie Mercury, Maurice Béjart, and Queen, as well as Gianni Versace and his stunning costume designs. This release also includes a substantial segment of John Deacon’s final performance with Queen, taken from Ballet for Life international premiere with Elton John in Paris.

Ballet for Life was a unique collaboration between three cultural brands: Queen, Versace and the late visionary choreographer Maurice Béjart, celebrating the life and talents of legendary performers, Freddie Mercury and Béjart Ballet Lausanne’s former principal dancer, Jorge Donn, both of whom died of AIDS in the nineties. For Maurice Béjart, choreography was about the cycle of life, youth and hope, as well as life triumphing over death.  Already presented over 350 times around the world, this ballet continues to tour widely.  Those of us attending the DANSOX summer school in July were lucky enough to see a showing of Lynne Wake’s excellent documentary, which incorporates live footage of a new generation of stunning dancers rehearsing this powerful work.  A real Christmas treat; you can buy the double bill online here

Happy Christmas!

Company Chordelia arrived for their third visit to Oxford’s North Wall with their latest production The Chosen garlanded with four and five star credits following a successful opening at this year’s Edinburgh Festival. While touring extensively north of the border this Scotland based company does very few performances in the south, so Oxford audiences are lucky to see it, and to have been able to trace the development of the company’s distinctive style through earlier works about legendary dancer Nijinsky, and Lady Macbeth. Director Kally Lloyd-Jones’ latest piece is a moving meditation on life and death, an intense hour which nevertheless reaches out directly to engage emotionally with its audience; a company of fine dancers come across as believable individuals whose moods and travails we can all identify with. (more…)

The DANSOX Inaugural Summer School will be taking taking place 6-8th July at St Hilda’s College, University of Oxford, attracting a unique mix of dance academics and artist practitioners in a rich programme of seminars, practical lecture demonstrations and special dance film and book presentations.

Alastair Macaulay, former Chief Dance Critic at the New York Times, leads the three-day event with lectures on three master choreographers: Petipa, Balanchine and Cunningham.  Seminars will include presentations by dance scholars including Julia Bührle, Renate Bräuninger, Gabriela Minden, Margaret Watson, Fiona Macintosh and Tom Sapsford.  Lecture demonstrations will include Moira Goff on 17th century and baroque dance, Susie Crow and pianist Jonathan Still on the ballet class (with dancers Ben Warbis and Ellie Ferguson of Yorke Dance Project), and Jennifer Jackson with composer Tom Armstrong on music and choreographic practice.  Sir Richard Alston will talk about the influence of Merce Cunningham on his work, including a solo performance by Elly BraundLynne Wake will present her recent film Bejart and Queen, and the event culminates in the eagerly anticipated launch of Nadine Meisner‘s biograpy of Marius Petipa.

Dates:  Saturday 6th -Monday 8th July 2019

Venue:  St Hilda’s College, Cowley Place, Oxford OX4 1DY

To celebrate the inauguration of this special event, DANSOX is offering one-off specially discounted tickets: £15.00 daily ticket, £30.00 for a three-day ticket.
All are welcome. Come for a day or two, or for the whole three days. Refreshments and lunch provided for ticket holders.
Booking essential at Eventbrite https://dansoxsummerschool.eventbrite.co.uk

Download the full programme here

Accommodation available in St Hilda’s College – contact Sarah Brett
Further information from the Programme Director: Professor Susan Jones.

We hope to see you there!

 

The final week of April brought thought-provokingly contrasted dance performances to Oxford. On Tuesday 23rd at the New Theatre the BalletBoyz performed their latest programme Them/Us, shortly to be opening for their first West End season at the Vaudeville Theatre. This two-part programme involves all six male dancers in both pieces. Opening the evening Them was a collaborative choreographic venture by the dancers drawing on elements of their own individual movement, sharing them in a succession of often playful episodes and exchanges. Set in a twilight zone, a gleaming stainless steel tubular cube framework and sleek satin shell suits brought enlivening geometric dashes of light and colour, red, blue, green and purple. The cube defined shifting spaces which the dancers could manipulate, inhabit, swing from and climb up. Movement combined sharp crisp gesture with a lyrical contemporary idiom, integrating tumbling and floorwork in response to Charlotte Harding’s lively but dark toned score; suggestions of character and relationship were glimpsed and a feeling of camaraderie and group identity emerged, even if overall the episodic structure of the piece did not build a sense of narrative or situational development. The performers conveyed lithe fluidity and a smooth assurance, distinct from the rawness of previous BalletBoyz ensembles; no longer projecting a company narrative of emerging talent and inexperienced diamonds in the rough, but a polished professional group. (more…)

‘I’m always accused of dealing only with sex and violence but what I really deal with is life and death.’  Thus quoted Monica Mason, opening the St Hilda’s College/DANSOX Conference Kenneth MacMillan: Making Dance Beyond the Boundaries held on Saturday 16th March 2019.

Dame Monica, former Principal Dancer and Director of the Royal Ballet Company, was just one of many sharing their memories of MacMillan and his creative approach at this smörgåsbord of delights blending academic research, choreography and performance. On a wet and windy day, in political and climatic times that can sometimes feel reminiscent of the dark events triggered at Mayerling, we were treated to talks by MacMillan’s widow Deborah on how MacMillan worked with designers, Guest Lecturer Natalie Wheen on his innovative use of music, choreologists on how Benesh notation helps to preserve his choreography, and academic specialists on his historical imagination. The conference concluded with excerpts from a reconstruction of Playground by Yorke Dance. (more…)

The DANSOX Conference Kenneth MacMillan: Making Dance Beyond the Boundaries was an opportunity to reflect on and discover more about one of the twentieth century’s greatest choreographers. It was attended by distinguished practitioners and scholars in dance, and generously open to the wider University and general public.

Dame Monica Mason and Deborah, Lady MacMillan gave insights into what it was like to work with Kenneth MacMillan, his interest in contemporaneous events in society and the arts, his willingness to engage with designers new to the theatre, and his relationship with and support from Ninette de Valois. (more…)