Original published in Pick Magazine
The streets of Oxford are rich with rhythm this autumn as the poetry, music and dance enliven the city and offer entertainment for all ages in many shapes and sizes.
First up, it’s National poetry day on Thursday 3rd October, the perfect warm up for the Oxford Leiderfestival which runs from 11th-26th October, and promises tales of beyond: magic, myths and mortals. A leider is a short poetic art-song, its words set to classical music, most typically in a 19th-century German style inspired by Schubert and composed with piano and voice given equal weight. Over a packed fortnight, the festival includes eighty intimate recitals and other events as songs from the baroque to the modern tell tales of Greco-Roman sagas, Beowulf, the magic mermaid or water-nymph Lorelei and the mythical Fairy King.
At the family event in Oxford’s Holywell Music Room, The Thought Machine (10.30am 12th October) children can enjoy the poems from a new collection Moon Juice by Kate Wakelin, a striking performance which includes stories of stars and comets, machines and fantastical mortals such as Rita the pirate, Hamster man, and Skig the warrior. Each is illustrated with imaginative shadow puppetry that moves, lengthens and dances, turning the specifically-composed contemporary score (by Cheryl Frances-Hoad, Oxford Lieder’s Associate Composer) into tantalising theatre. This show can also be seen in Wallingford (2.30pm 13th October) and Witney (11am 19th October) and both of these towns are hosting a day of music as which includes a ghostly performance of Der Doppelganger by Swedish duo Maria Forsström & Matti Hirvonen, ahead of Hallowe’en.
There are dance performances across Oxford too as Dancin’ Oxford takes to the stage, and the city’s science and idea’s festival IF Oxford also uses dance as a medium to present ideas to the viewer.
At Oxford Playhouse James Wilton Dance presents The Storm, a whirlwind of lightning fast athleticism, where acrobatics, break-dancing and martial arts fuse in an exhilarating dance set to thundering electro-rock with a ticker-tape of paper shards released into the air. It’s the twirling tempo on stage represents the tempest of the mind, a troubled brain. From the starting premise that ‘you can’t see the wind, but you can see how it changes objects. You can’t see mental health, but you can see how it changes people,’ this performance asks the question whether in this storm can you find peace?
It’s an important issue that has also been highlighted by one of the young poets who submitted an entry into the IF Oxford festival of science and ideas poetry competition:
Don’t Ignore the signs
Is there a voice in your brain
reminding you of all the pain?
Do you feel like a prisoner to yourself?
Because that’s not very good for your mental health.
Or do you think you’re in control?
Is this true
or another lie your mind’s telling you?
If you isolate yourself from the world,
Curled up in your room like a pearl?
If you show any of these signs,
Reach out because you’re not fine.
by Marina Ross (Yr5, age 10, Harriers Banbury Academy)
A number of poems will be performed by the young poets that wrote them at Oxford Town Hall on Sunday 20 October.
Over at the Old Fire Station (on Tuesday 22 October),paraplegic wheelchair user Joel Brown and former principal ballerina Eve Mutso interact with one another and the physical set in a breath-taking and powerful duet about power and vulnerability as the dancers’ differences meld into a seamless and memorable performance reminding us that, to quote the name of their dance company, We Are Unlimited.
And last but not least, on Friday 1st November, as part of Dancin’ Oxford, Ballet Black bring to the Oxford Playhouse a triple bill of very different performances. First Ingoma (meaning song) is a fusion of ballet, African dance and singing which portrays a milestone moment in South African history, the struggle of black miners and their families in 1946when 60,000 of them took courageous strike action. It’s beautiful and surprising ballet with boots and hard hats, followed by the rippling and oscillating performances both cleanly classical and contemporary, intimate and confrontational in Pendulum, and the up-beat and snappy rhythmic CLICK!