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The Solos Project: Burton Taylor Theatre, Oxford
The Solos Project is the brainchild of Oxford choreographer and former Royal Ballet soloist Susie Crow. The idea was to show six solo works by dancers and choreographers with close Oxford connections, giving the performers - in most case also the creators - a chance, over the course of five performances, to improve, correct and adapt their piece in a way that isn't possible after a single showing.
Menelva Harry was unfortunately unable to present her scheduled work, and in her place Elly Crowther - recently returned to teach dance in Oxford - performed her Frantic Nymph. She used Harry's original idea of a dragonfly as inspiration, but her work is a long way from Harry's martial-arts influenced style. In a shimmering mini-dress, and to a background of bubbling music, Crowther shows us the quivering, repetitive pathways followed by the Hawker Dragonfly - ending up momentarily clinging to the studio wall!
The sound of waves breaking on the shore appeared in three of the evening's works - first in Hecabe, made and danced by Jane Connelly. Hecabe, the captured Queen of Troy ponders her fate at the hands of the Greeks in a solo that begins and ends with her prostrate on the floor. The movement hints at, but never becomes, flamenco, in a thoughtful, interesting piece.
Le Chant des Pierres (The Song of the Stones) choreographed and danced by Joelle Pappas gets its title from the fact that the soundtrack is based on a recording of sculptor Barbara Hepworth's hammers and chisels as she worked. Pappas has made a long, demanding solo, divided into contrasting sections. It's difficult to see any connection with Hepworth (by co-incidence that came later) - but this is a well-crafted piece.
Clytie's Poison, Adrienne Hart's contribution to the evening (pictured), carried a clue to its subject - "pining away for his affections". Hart is a striking presence on the stage, and this is a clever piece, but needs to be seen more than once for its subtleties to be fully appreciated since, as in the previous piece, the link between the choreography and the theme is not immediately clear.
Next came Ana Barbour's fascinating, Butoh-influenced Baggage. Dressed in white, like a judo competitor, Barbour moves slowly on to the stage with a huge white bundle on her back. In a cleverly thought out work she enters and becomes part of this baggage, disappearing completely into the bundle, which continually changes shape like a series of stone sculptures by the aforementioned Barbara Hepworth. The fabric of the bundle's exterior is made of some sort of stretch material, so that from time to time individual bits of Barbour can be seen as they press against it - most strikingly a momentary glimpse of her face, emerging like a death-mask from the chrysalis-like exterior.
Finally, came a classical piece by Susie Crow, beautifully danced by Lisia Moala, to music by Malcolm Williamson and Frank Bridge. Crow has made a fine abstract piece here, but I asked her how it connects to the title Home is Where the Heart Is. This, she tells me, relates to the itinerant life of Lisia herself - born in Australia, dancing in Europe, and as a principal of Independent Ballet Wales, her only permanent home is her spiritual home, dance itself.
Susie Crow has come up with an excellent idea with this series of solos, and I'm pleased to report that the show was sold out over the weekend, so let us hope it can become a regular feature of Oxford's dance scene.