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  • Writer's pictureCatherine Flutsch

Moving With The Times Dance: Dancin' Oxford

★★★★★

Review: Moving With The Times, Dancin' Oxford, Pegasus Theatre 8 -9 March.

[Disclosure. This show was performed in Oxford as part of Dancin' Oxford's Spring Dance Festival. Dancin’ Oxford and Oxford City Council (one of Dancin’ Oxford’s funding bodies) are marketing/PR clients of Quaere Ltd - which also published this blog. This is not a sponsored post. Our reviewer received a free ticket for the purposes of this review.]


Dancin’ Oxford’s Spring Dance Festival ended on Saturday with its final show - the premiere of three original dance pieces from three extraordinary dance companies/artists.   Each year in autumn, Dancin’ Oxford, one of the UK’s leading dance organisations, appoints three early career artists to create new work for its Spring Dance Festival.  These are called the Moving With The Times dance commissions, and competition for them is fierce. 

 

The 2024 winners were Anjali Dance Company, dance artist Kavya Iyer Ramalingam and duo, dance artist Divija Melally, and spoken word artist Saili Katebe.

 

Anjali Dance Company works with dance artists who have learning disabilities.  The work that choreographer, Bethany Edwards produced, with input from dancers Lauren Payne and Holly Riseborough, was vibrant and moving. Titled Just Want To Have Fun, the piece explores what it means to be young women with learning disabilities, seeking inclusion into the rights of passage and rituals of young adulthood. 

Image of Lauren Payne


The piece was energetic and impactful, with cool and expressive choreography matching the medley of popular dance tracks. The final track, a soulful version of the great Cyndi Lauper hit, Girls Just Want To Have Fun, took on a whole new meaning  as an anthem of inclusivity.  There was a moment that I thought was a very natural, positive and beautiful ending for the piece – when both dancers, through recorded spoken word, expressed their love for life and each other.  I think if this piece develops further, it would be great to see that moving movement as the ending.

Kavya Iyer Ramalingam


The second piece, choreographed and performed by Indian dancer Kavya Iyer Ramalingam was a mesmerising piece that explored the stories of Khandita nayika (the angry one) and Abhisarika nayika (the bold one) - two of the eight archetypal heroines that form the basis of many Bharatanatyam dances.  Characterised by its intricate footwork, graceful movements, and emotive facial expressions, Bharatanatyam is one of the oldest and most widely practiced dance forms in India. 


In her piece, Ramalingam asks why these Bharatanatyam heroines are traditionally defined by their attitudes toward the men in their lives and explores what it might mean if these heroines were defined by their own qualities.   Ramalingam is an extraordinarily graceful dancer – rippling across the stage like water.  Her expressive facial movements and eye contact held the audience in thrall. 


Photo by @ffitzgeraldphoto

The final piece was a duet between dance artist and previous commission winner, Divija Melally, and spoken word artist Saili Katebe.  Melally, originally from India, and Katebe originally from Zambia, came together to explore the space in between leaving one home and making another. This was a dynamic piece, using both artists’ live spoken words, alongside  athletic choreography to convey the theme.  This piece was physical and intimate – at times, I felt it almost recreated the alienation of a post-apocalyptic environment.

 

I thoroughly enjoyed these three, very diverse pieces. This show was probably the only time these three pieces will be performed together, but I have no doubt that each individual piece will be performed again at various venues and festivals throughout the UK.  I would encourage you to go to any of the three pieces – as they are all wonderful. The future of British dance looks bright indeed.

 

If you enjoyed reading this, you might enjoy reading my other dance reviews or my review of the premiere of the 2023 Moving With The Times Commission winners.

 

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