The Richard Alston Dance Company brings a triple bill to the Oxford Playhouse that shows the typical musicality of its founder’s work. The diversity of the evening’s composers prompts a corresponding diversity in the dance, seen in the opening two pieces, Alston’s own, and the third, that of his associate Martin Lawrance.

Buzzing Round the Hunnisuccle is set to three works by contemporary composer Jo Kondo. There is an austerity, an unemotional quality in them that the dance matches very well. The dancers’ bodies form one shape after another, sculptural, athletic seeming poses with arms widely extended. (more…)

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In my opinion the most remarkable of this year’s Dancin’ Oxford festival events, out of those I saw, was Decreasing Infinity, an evening of classical Indian dance and contemporary work at the Pegasus Theatre. First came two pieces for a solo male dancer in the Bharatanatyam dance form of the Tamil Nadu region in South India. It is very energetic and virile, with a lot of stamping, turning, and flexing of the hands. The stamps especially show great power, as if the force of the movement goes right into the ground below the dancer. Legs are held bent at the knee for long periods. The strength held in the thighs seems quite superhuman. In the jumps the dancer’s torso remains at the same height, moving only horizontally. He seems held up by the energy he has taken from the ground, while the legs move from stamp to stamp independently. (more…)

It’s always good to see students taking the initiative in the arts, and this is a great example. It takes little independent thinking to put on a Shakespeare play, though I’m not saying it’s easy, and still less so to do Pinter or Sarah Kane. To found an undergraduate contemporary dance company, apparently organising from scratch, must have required a good deal of determination, and for this Dream Again’s Artistic Director, Emily Romain, is to be very highly commended. But despite showing potential, the first show from the all female group, a mixed bill based loosely on themes from the myth of Persephone, seems less than it could have been, had music choices and some specifics of the choreography been better. (more…)

Matthew Bourne’s Nutcracker at the New Theatre, 10th April 2012

Now in its twentieth year, Matthew Bourne’s Nutcracker is very prominent in his company’s repertoire. As the overture begins, we are introduced to a succession of plainly dressed, downtrodden orphans – Clara is a child at Dr Dross’s orphanage, a grim Dickensian affair which sees the arrival of its governors one Christmas Eve. It is their distribution of presents, a nutcracker among them, that leads on to Clara’s dream, an elaborate and bizarre fantasy peopled with cakes and sweets and the Nutcracker as a handsome young man. (more…)

Between, at the Burton Taylor Studio, Friday 24th March

When we entered the Burton Taylor (the tiny studio attached to the Oxford Playhouse, usually given over to student theatre) it was quite dark, apart from a thin shaft of light, and quite empty, apart from the figure of a woman lying in the middle of the floor. We ranged ourselves against the walls, standing. The feeling of anticipation and curiosity is incredible. Suddenly a torch is raised – another woman is caught by its beam in the corner, struggling with a silver coat. The torch bearing man moves round and as it catches the light again the silver glows fiercely, the woman gasps. (more…)

Following the completion of this year’s Dancin’ Oxford Festival, Oxford Dance Writers has great pleasure in announcing the winners of this year’s Dance Writers of the Future competition.  The competition judges were David Bellan, dance critic of the Oxford Times, Susie Crow of Ballet in Small Spaces and Oxford Dance Writers, Penny Cullerne-Bown, Principal of East Oxford School of Ballet, and Miranda Laurence of Dance and Academia. All entrants were in the higher age category and the final winners in a very close contest were as follows:

First Prize: Thomas Stell

Runner-up:  Miranda Frudd

The judges would like to congratulate Thomas for his vibrant account of performance installation Between by Angela Woodhouse and Caroline Broadhead at the Burton Taylor Studio, and Miranda for her thoughtful reflection on Paulette Mae’s A Suitcase for All Occasions at the Old Fire Station.  Both of these winning entries are being posted for you to enjoy.

As part of his prize Thomas received a pair of tickets for Matthew Bourne’s Nutcracker at the New Theatre – his review of this successful and popular production will also be posted very shortly… We hope that both winners will be encouraged to contribute further writings on dance to Oxford Dance Writers and look forward to hearing from them again in future.

Well done to all the contestants, and our grateful thanks to the Dancing Times, New Theatre Oxford and Oxford Playhouse for their support of the competition through generous prizes.