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Dancin' Oxford Festival

Highly interactive tri-annual festival (10 days in the spring, free outdoor events in the summer and family-oriented events in the autumn) with workshops, talks and shows all about dance.
Many events are free, and a discount-bearing Festival Pass can be purchased at the Playhouse or the Pegasus for £1.
Dancin Oxford: the Night Ball

Below are a list of events:

March 5, 2015

Atomos, Oxford Playhouse, Tue March 3rd - Wed March 4th 2015

Choreographed by Wayne McGregor for Random Dance, Atomos mixes dance with stunning lighting, sound and video.

Since 2000 Random Dance have worked with researchers investigating creativity in dance, and whilst scientific concepts underpin this piece, they by no means explain it. The movement did bring to mind the changing states of atoms in solids, liquids and gas, cell movement, synapses, chromosomes and more; and just as quickly as the dance mutated, the impressions and images renewed themselves.

Starting off huddled in a box of light and burgeoning from thereon in, the troupe of ten dancers morphed into clusters, divided into pairs or spun solo. There were some patterns and discreet yet recognisable phrases, but the movement was so fluid it felt quite impalpable, like trying to capture sand sifting through your fingers.

The contemporary feel to the sound and visual design complimented the movement, with sonorous neo-classical music and minimalist sports-wear style costumes. The strongest design element was the lighting; much of the dance was cross-lit creating a dynamic, sculpted effect on the dancers bodies.

Atomos is the first piece of dance I've been to for which I had to wear 3D glasses. I'm not that into 3D in film and the inclusion in this show didn't particularly win me over to its use in live performance. Large screens descended and hovered above the dancers and both vied for my attention, but the 3D was ultimately underwhelming. The combination of film and dance did a disservice to the quality of the two mediums, as they didn't talk to, or argue with, each other enough. Animation, screen media and projection can be used to great effect in movement pieces, but the impact here was minimal.

Although Atomos is robust piece of dance with a clearly talented team on and off-stage and interesting concepts behind the movement, it lacked somewhat in narrative and emotional bearing.

February 25, 2015

Listen to Daily Info's interview with Dancin’ Oxford’s Claire Thompson on the Oxcast Extra of 26th February 2014.

The first Dancin’ Oxford festival was in 2007. The original idea was about celebrating dance in the city. There’s a huge amount of dance that happens but a lot of people don’t know about it because it happens in different type of venues across the city. So Dancin’ Oxford is about increasing its visibility, taking dance outside of its traditional venues and putting it in the street. The festival also tries to provide a focal point for dance in the city and offer anybody who wants to a change to engage with dance in the city.

Since 2007 the festival has happened every year in Oxford and has grown and developed. It has gone from a four-week festival, which Claire remarks was brilliant but felt more like a season of dance, to what it is now – a 10-day spring festival. There is at least one event a day, and on some days a lot more because there are daytime events. The other shift that the festival has seen over the years is that is has become spread out over the seasons. There are now spring, summer and autumn festivals. The summer festival is free so that we can engage with people and cost it no barrier, says Claire. She goes on; in the autumn we have a family dance week. It happens over autumn half term and is linked with the national family arts festival. It’s a chance to look at how we work with families and what we can offer. It seems to be growing in popularity.

Sometimes people will come to a workshop that leads to them attending a performance that they may not have considered going to before. There is a team of volunteers who have come to festival events and been enthused to help out, which is brilliant as the festival relies heavily on volunteers. The other aspect is professional artists. Local companies have performed at the festival and in the professional showcase and some of them are on the edge of getting to perform nationally. The dance festival has helped to feature them, raise their profile and helped them on their journey.

Anais and Claire go on to discuss some of the events from the 2014 festival.

One of the questions the festival tries to find an answer to is ‘How do families enjoy dancing together?’ There is a Baby boogie in the festival, where there’s a disco ball, smoke machine and laser lights. The kids just love it. There are professional dance tutors there who lead a workshop within the disco so families can learn a few moves together. It’s becoming a really popular event. There is also the Family Dance Workshop, which is for any age as long as you bring someone along with you to dance together. “Dance crosses generations, that’s what’s really wonderful about it,” says Claire, “there really are no barriers in that respect”. It’s great to offer opportunities for all ages with no-one feeling out of place.

Dancin’ Oxford has a three-year grant that will take them through until 2016. They are constantly evaluating and getting feedback and trying to implement that. Claire says they also want to increase outreach, taking dance out into communities.

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