Dancing with Apollo was a week-long residency held in July 2021 at St Hilda's College Oxford. Celebrated choreographer, Kim Brandstrup, and two dancers - Liam Riddick and Laurel Dalley-Smith - worked alongside award-winning violinist, Sara Trickey, and pianist Ivana Gavric, with Marina Warner as dramaturg, to develop a dance-piece based on Cupid and Psyche, to a newly commissioned score from composer, Edmund Finnis. The piece, A Duet in the Dark, premiered at a live event on 11 July at King's Place, London, and received a 4-star review in the Guardian. A 10-minute documentary film of the workshop residency has been made by Rocio Chacon. You can watch the film of Dancing with Apollo here.
Live workshops and discussions with dancers of Yorke Dance Project were held in June 2021 about the question of 'what is grace?' This was part of the Dance as Grace: Paradoxes and possibilities TORCH Knowledge Exchange Fellowship project. The Grace Project is an interdisciplinary investigation into the concept of ‘grace’ in all its forms, which evolved from the research of Professor Sue Jones on literature and dance. Read a review of the workshops by Maggie Watson, Bodleian Law Library.
Serata Dantesca: a Sequence of Poetry, Music and Dance, took place at the Holywell Music Room, Oxford, on 13 November 2021. The programme included two original dances, created with the support of DANSOX. The first was ‘That even I’, a solo created with movement direction by Estela Merlos and danced by Thomasin Gülgeç to music by Joseph Kay made by sampling extracts of spoken word. The second dance was ‘In a dark wood’, a duo choreographed by Susie Crow to music by Jeremy Thurlow. Read Maggie Watson's review of the event in Oxford Dance Writers.
We held a DANSOX Roundtable Discussion, at which experts discussed the themes of their lectures at our 2020 DANSOX Virtual Summer School, on the Life and work of Paul Taylor (1930-2018) and on New Scholarship on Dance: Text and Practice. The lectures and discussion are available to view on the DANSOX playlist of the Jacqueline du Pré Music Building's YouTube channel.
Guest Lecture on Balanchine
Alastair Macaulay (former Chief Dance Critic of The New York Times), gave a guest lecture on the great twentieth-century choreographer, George Balanchine. Balanchine created a dance style perceived as typically American, yet he retained the chivalry, hierarchy, ceremony, symmetry and harmony derived from his St Petersburg schooling. Macaulay used a series of dance excerpts to reveal and discuss Balanchine as classicist, modernist, romantic, and dramatist. Read more about the event on Oxford Dance Writers' Blog.
Making The Cellist
The evening began with a performance by our music students, Holly Jackson (cello) and David Palmer (piano). In conversation with Edward Kemp and in rehearsal with members of The Royal Ballet, Beatriz Stix-Brunell, Calvin Richardson and Sergey Rybin, Cathy Marston then revealed the process behind her new work inspired by the life and career of the world-renowned cellist and our Honorary Fellow, Jacqueline du Pré.
Sir Richard Alston and Professor Stephanie Jordan
Dancers from Sir Richard's company demonstrated his work to a full house as he and Professor Jordan reflected on his life and career at this DANSOX event.
DANSOX Lecture: 'Hellerau: the History of a Dream'
Professor Richard Beacham gave an enlightening lecture to DANSOX on Thursday 31 October 2019 entitled 'Hellerau: the History of a Dream'. Maggie Watson reports:
Professor Richard Beacham’s account of the rediscovery and re-generation of Hellerau as the European Centre for the Arts was both romantic and inspiring. Founded by Karl Schmidt and Wolf Dohrn in 1909 as a garden suburb of Dresden, Hellerau was an ideological attempt to create a community that would live and work in social equality and harmony in an idyllic setting. Hellerau became the home of an Institute and Festspielhaus that drew together the ideas and practice of the progressive innovators Emile Jaques-Dalcroze and Adolphe Appia, and has been cited as the birthplace of modern theatre. Experimental work at Hellerau embodied theories in which architecture was subservient to rhythm, light created space, and the human body became the medium of transmission between dramatist and audience. These works of living art influenced dance, theatre, music and design in ways that are visible not only on stage but also in our urban surroundings today.
The Institute closed in 1914, and Appia and Dalcroze never returned; the theatrical experiment at Hellerau had lasted for only three years. The building was later taken over by the Nazi ‘SS’, and subsequently by the Soviet military. Space was central to the ideas that inspired the creative practice at Hellerau, yet that physical space was effectively lost to the outside world for decades. The story of its rediscovery after the fall of the Berlin Wall, owes much to detective work by Beacham who travelled to Dresden in the summer of 1990 with so little information that he had to follow a letter written by George Bernard Shaw before the First World War to find out which trolley bus to take; incredibly, more than seventy years later, the bus was still running.
This almost forgotten but important corner of our collective artistic and cultural inheritance was brought to life again in the 1990s, thanks to lobbying that led to its designation as a Saxony heritage site. It was an enormous achievement, and the culmination of a search for the almost mythical Utopian settlement that embodied the ideas of visionary thinkers. What is even more remarkable is the way in which, although Hellerau the place was nearly lost, its work had lived on, in areas ranging from education (reflected in the work of A.S. Neill, founder of Summerhill), through art and architecture (as seen in the Werkstatten and Bauhaus movements), to theatre and dance. Mary Wigman, Marie Rambert, Rudolf Laban and Kurt Jooss all spent time at Hellerau, and it is hard to imagine what dance would be like today if Hellerau had not existed.
13 November 2019
(Maggie Watson holds MAs from Oxford and London, an MA in Ballet Studies with Distinction from Roehampton, Dip.Lib. MCLIP AFHEA, and is currently Academic Services Librarian at the Bodleian Law Library and a member of Wadham College, Oxford. She also regularly reviews dance for Oxford Dance Writers).
DANSOX Inaugural Summer School
We were delighted to host DANSOX's Inaugural Summer School, which was led by Alastair Macaulay, former Chief Dance Critic of the New York Times.
The event began on 6 July 2019, when Professor Sue Jones, founder of DANSOX and Tutorial Fellow at St Hilda's, welcomed the audience.Throughout the three days, we heard lectures by Alastair Macaulay on Petipa, Balanchine and Merce Cunningham. We also enjoyed lecture demonstrations, seminars, discussions and film showings, from Moira Goff, Julia Bϋhrle, Lynne Wake, Renate Bräuninger, Gabriela Minden, Margaret Watson, Susie Crow, Jonathan Still, Fiona Macintosh, Tom Sapsford, Jennifer Jackson, and Tom Armstrong. Finally, we heard a lecture by Sir Richard Alston on Merce Cunningham’s influence in relation to his work, with a solo performance by Elly Braund.
The Summer School ended with a drinks reception and book launch for ‘Marius Petipa’ by Nadine Meisner (OUP 2019).
This enjoyable and instructive event was a great success. We thank all our speakers and dancers, Ben Warbis and Ellie Ferguson, of Yorke Dance Project, and Gabrielle Orr and Courtney Reading.
Kenneth MacMillan: Making Dance Beyond the Boundaries
Dance Scholarship Oxford (DANSOX) was proud to present a one-day conference on the life and work of the great twentieth-century choreographer Sir Kenneth MacMillan (1929-1992) on 16 March 2019 at St Hilda’s College. MacMillan is among the great innovators of his time in theatre, film, art, and music. The conference discussed his work and the challenges of preserving records. It explored his little-known early work, his literary and musical choices, design, and choreographic method.
The day began when former Principal and Director of the Royal Ballet, Dame Monica Mason, gave the opening address on ‘Working with Kenneth MacMillan’.
The first session was on Reconstruction. The audience heard from choreographer, Anna Trévien, on ‘Kenneth MacMillan: the importance of Benesh Notation’. Next, Diana Curry spoke on ‘From Page to Stage - Reconstructing MacMillan works from film and notation’.
The next session focused on Design. The artist and widow of Sir Kenneth, Lady Deborah MacMillan, led the discussion on ‘Kenneth MacMillan: Designers and Design’. Music expert, Natalie Wheen, then gave the Conference’s Guest Lecture on 'Kenneth MacMillan and Music' .
After lunch, the conference continued with a session on History and Contemporary Contexts. The audience enjoyed talks on ‘British Ballet’s History Man: New Historicism and Staging Old Regime France in MacMillan’s Manon’ by Helena Hammond; ‘Mayerling (1978), The Habsburg Empire, and Kenneth MacMillan’s Historical Imagination’ by Laura Quinton; and , ‘Tiananmen Square Massacre and The Judas Tree’ by Cristina da Lucas. Susie Crow and Stephen Wicks then discussed 'Dancing for MacMillan'.
Later sessions focused on Friends and Contemporaries. Julia Bührle spoke on ‘John Cranko, Kenneth MacMillan and the renewal of the story ballet’. Jane Pritchard then gave a talk on ‘Peter Darrell, Kenneth Aadams and Kenneth MacMillan’.
The day finished with Playground, a presentation on Revival, Reconstruction, and Performance with Yorke Dance Project, Yolande Yorke, Susie Crow, and Dancers.
At the drinks reception that followed, audience members and dancers, artists, and filmmakers who had worked with Sir Kenneth continued their conversations about an informative and very enjoyable conference.
Motion and Meaning with Ensemble Klang and Leading Contemporary Dancers, 3-6 July 2018
DANSOX and the 'Liveness, Hybridity & Noise' joined forces for a multi-disciplinary presentation of new works that stretch the synthetic possibilities of music and dance. Over a four-day residency at St Hilda’s College, three composers from Oxford, and several leading contemporary dancer-choreographers (Piedad Alebarracin Seiquer, Malgorzata Dzierzon, Estela Merlos, Patricia Okenwa and Liam Riddick), and one of Holland’s leading contemporary music groups, Ensemble Klang, worked together on the project. ‘Open’ rehearsals took place 3–5 July, followed by a fully-staged performance on 6 July. Find out more about the event from composer and our alumna, Anna Appleby, who returned to St Hilda's to take part in it.
Guest Lecture on Fred Astaire by Alastair Macaulay (New York Times Chief Dance Critic), 1 March 2018
Alastair Macaulay treated the audience to a scintillating lecture on the legendary Astaire's life and work, with illustration and film footage.
Film Night: New Wave Ballet, 19 February 2018
DANSOX hosted a screening of New Wave Ballet, Lynne Wake's newly reversioned documentary film. Featuring interviews and never before seen archival footage, New Wave Ballet explores British choreographer Sir Kenneth MacMillan's early work. Lynne Wake introduced the film, and Dame Monica Mason, who danced in MacMillan's ballets, most notably in Rite of Spring and Song of the Earth, led the discussion after the screening. Lady Deborah MacMillan, widow of Sir Kenneth, was present at the event.
Lisa Dwan: Performing Beckett, 16 November 2017
Renowned Irish actress, Lisa Dwan discussed her recent work and repertoire – especially Not I and other stunning dramatisations of Samuel Beckett. She explored how her dance training enabled her to refine the all-encompassing performance technique and control required to engender the challenging physical requirements of Beckett's plays.
Rawaa, the creation of a ballet, 12-14 November 2017
Audience members watched the process of creating a new ballet in an interdisciplinary workshop with world-renowned artists, writer, Marina Warner, choreographer Kim Brandstrup, pianist and composer, Joanna MacGregor, and professional dancers. Rawaa comes from Arabic, the root for words meaning 'to water' and 'to relate' and this provided the dominant metaphorical motif of the ballet's mood and movement.
DANSOX guest seminar by Professor Mark Franko, 2 June 2017
Professor Mark Franko (Temple University USA), renowned dance scholar, delivered a guest seminar on his new research into French dance and neo-classicism entitled, 'Serge Lifar and the Interwar Dance Discourses of Neoclassicism (1930-1939): An examination of how neoclassicism was theorized in French ballet during the 1930s'.
DANSOX lecture on John Cranko, twentieth-century choreographer by Julia Burhle (University of Oxford), 23 February 2017
Dr Julia Burhle gave a stimulating illustrated overview of John Cranko (1927-1973) - his life and work, focussing on his great innovations in narrative choreography and expression of interiority in ballet forms. Cranko was a South African born ballet dancer and choreographer with the Royal Ballet and the Stuttgart Ballet. His most famous "literary" ballets include Romeo and Juliet (1962), with music by Prokofiev; Onegin (1965), an adaptation of the verse novel by Alexander Pushkin, with music by Tchaikovsky; The Taming of the Shrew (1969). A lively and polemical discussion followed the lecture, covering the question about what constitutes "narrative" form in dance.
'Nijinska' Lecture by Professor Lynn Garafola, 10 November 2016
DANSOX was honoured to present a guest lecture on "Bronislava Nijinska" by Professor Lynn Garafola (Barnard College, Columbia University). Lynn Garafola is a distinguished scholar, teacher, researcher, and writer with interests in the field of dance history.
Choreographic Summer Residency: Kim Brandstrup
Exploring the Rhythm: the relationship between music and dance in the practice of choreography, 19 - 23 July 2016, Jacqueline du Pré Music Building
Artist in Residence at St Hilda’s College, Kim Brandstrup (international choreographer) and Oliver Coates (cellist/composer) were joined by renowned pianist Joanna MacGregor to direct a workshop with professional dancers, Simone Damberg Würtz (Rambert Dance), Liam Francis (Rambert Dance), Tobias Praetorius (Royal Danish Ballet). The workshop was open to public viewing as the artists explored the source of movement dynamics and musical/spatial form in choreographic composition. Filmographers Ardeshir Ab and Dominika Besinska joined us and the workshop formed the basis of a film Brandstrup is developing about the theory of choreography, to be shown at a later DANSOX event. Audience members included Oxford music and composition students, dance scholars, academics and many other interested viewers. Two evening showings were followed by intense discussion and interaction between the artists and the audience.
See also a report on the workshop by Maggie Watson
Exploring Mark Morris’s L’Allegro, Il Penseroso, ed Il Moderato, 9 June 2016
An evening of talks on the contexts of choreographer Mark Morris’s iconic 20th-century dance piece based on Handel’s interpretation of Milton. Margaret Kean (St Hilda’s) discussed the poetry, Jonathan Williams (St Hilda’s) spoke about the score and libretto, and Guest Lecturer, Stephanie Jordan (Roehampton) gave a detailed, illustrated demonstration of the structure and development of Morris’s choreography, with questions to all speakers generating a lively discussion.
Perfectly Disgraceful, 10 March 2016
Sam Ladkin (University of Sheffield) discussed the work of Frank O’Hara, Edwin Denby and the concept of ‘New York School Grace’ followed by a lively discussion. Participants explored the 19th-century critique of ‘grace’ that impacted on 20th-century American poetry.
Special Guest Lecture
Frederick Ashton: Steps, Stories, Style, 2 March 2016
Distinguished guest lecturer, Alastair Macaulay (Chief Dance Critic, New York Times) discussed the life and work of Britain’s great 20th-century choreographer in a sparkling, illustrated talk. There was particular emphasis on Ashton’s contemporary exploitation of classical traditions, as well as the narrative, comedic and modernist abstraction of his diverse styles.
DANSOX: Sea of Troubles, 16 February 2016
DANSOX hosted choreographer and dance scholar Susie Crow, choreographer and director Yolande Yorke-Edgell, and dancers of the Yorke Dance Company for a showing of the reconstruction of Sea of Troubles. This consisted of a rehearsal/demonstration on the process of reviving Kenneth MacMillan's 1988 dance work based on Hamlet.
The Grace Project
In 2015, we saw the inauguration of an ongoing seminar series. The series focuses on the exploration of the concept of grace in all its meanings and interdisciplinary contexts, especially as it relates to dance. Events included:
Žižek, Contemporary Dance, and Grace, 20 November 2015
Renate Braeuninger (Northampton University) discussed the work of Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Žižek, particularly in Less than Nothing (2012), in relation to contemporary dance and grace. We gain a mediated perspective on German Idealism by looking at it through the lens of Žižek, but one that also reflects contemporary understanding of the term ‘grace’, as in the example of Anna Teresa de Keersmaker’s work. The talk was illustrated by footage of De Keersmaker and a stimulating question session followed.
Joint ARPGD and DANSOX guest seminar, 9 March 2016, Ioannou Centre
From the Neo-Classical Turn to the Baroque 'Re'-turn: French Dance in Retrospective Modernity and Recycling Postmodernity
Mark Franko (Temple University, Philadelphia) explored the complex French traditions and relationships between classicism and dance, from the baroque to the neo-classicism of Serge Lifar. A stimulating question session followed.