Focus on… Dance in Oxford

Dream Again Dance Co. is a newly formed Oxford-based dance com- pany, making it the second to be founded here in the last two years. Impressive, you may say; that’s a fair amount of dancing going on. However, consider the fact that there have only been three theatrical dance shows put on in Ox- ford over the last four years, that Dream Again Dance is currently made up of solely female dancers, and that perhaps dance has not had the same spotlight shone on it as, say, the dra- ma and music scenes. That’s not to say the students of Oxford do not enjoy dancing. Indeed, anyone unhinged enough to grace the floors of Park End even mildly sober on a Wednesday night will be able to confirm that dancing is spectacularly indulged in by many. Thankfully, this is not what Emily Romain, Artistic Director of Dream Again Dance and co-choreographer for their upcoming show Dull Roots, Spring Rain, has in mind when she talks about dance. “We are trying to set up something that is looking at dance artistically, rather than competitively. There’s one other company [in Oxford], the Broad Street Dancers, but they’re more focused on doing lots of different styles of pure dance, and less focused on creating a more artistically cohesive theatre piece – that’s what we want to do.” And it looks like they are going to. Dull Roots, Spring Rain, which is to be performed at the Ke- ble O’Reilly theatre in 4th week is set to bring to the audience what sounds like an ambitious contemporary ballet piece. Romain explained, “It is a three-part dance show, thematically

linked, in which the central piece tells the sto- ry of Persephone in the underworld. That was our starting point for the show; the other two pieces are more abstract, which we developed out of the Persephone story. Overall, we are exploring the idea of grow- ing up and moving on, and reconciling one- self with the present after something has happened, after some innocence is lost. So in terms of Persephone’s story, the focus is very much on her journey in the underworld; how she loses her innocence and her girlhood, and how she moves through that.” Dream Again Dance is mainly a contempo- rary dance company, which Romain admits “has always been a niche thing”, placed on the same cultural level as opera and difficult to make accessible to a large proportion of the general public. In the past decade, dance as an art form has arguably been overshadowed by popular TV dance shows; watching Strictly

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Come Dancing one would be forgiven for think- ing that dancing to tell a story or express meaning outside of a competitive arena had been relegated to the confines of grand thea- tres at high prices. However, the contemporary dance scene would appear to be experiencing something of a boom, with fashion designers and film directors choosing to work with bal- let companies. For example, Darren Aronof- sky’s Black Swan, despite the criticisms it met from actual dancers concerning the portrayal of the ballerinas, gave ballet a much-needed boost. Yet the theatres, at least in Oxford, seem “scared of dance because they think it won’t sell”. Romain, a life-long dancer herself and a very active member of the Oxford theatrical community, hopes to change this by getting more people involved and thus improving the overall standard, creating a company all about “pure dance”.