Mademoiselle Mercandotti, Hughes Balls Hughes, and the (scandalous) uses of a Green Room

On 8 March 1823, the Spanish dancer, Mademoiselle Mercandotti was due to dance for a packed house in a performance of Daniel Auber’s ballet, Alfred. The audience were expectant: Mercandotti, who had arrived for the 1822-1823 season, had been dubbed ‘The Andalusian Venus’, and the manager of the King’s Theatre, John Ebers (c. 1785-c. 1830), ‘was pestered from morning to night by young men of fashion anxious to obtain an introduction.’ But when the moment came she failed to appear, and manager Ebers came on stage to announce her indisposition.

But it was later revealed that she had in fact eloped with a ‘young man of large fortune’, revealed to be the immensely wealthy Hughes Ball Hughes (1799-1863), nicknamed the ‘Golden Ball.’ As Walter Scott later commented: ‘few events in the fashionable world… excited more attention’, and it became one of the great scandals of the age. How the whole thing was accomplished remains obscure, although it is clear from his presence as a witness at the wedding that Ebers must have been involved.

This paper for Dancing Lives returns to these events, examining the circumstances of the elopement and its place in Mercandotti’s career, its position in the history of the King’s theatre and its troupe, and the building of the theatre’s first Green Room for the dancers. It will focus on the work of the caricaturists, to whom this (biographical) event offered a ‘golden’ opportunity to the satirists.

Michael Burden is Fellow in Music at New College, Oxford, and Professor in Opera Studies in the University. He did his undergraduate and graduate work at the University of Adelaide in South Australia, and his PhD at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland. He has served on the Council of the Royal Musical Association, is a patron member of the American Society for Eighteenth-century Studies, a trustee of Répertoire International des Sources Musicales (RISM), and is currently the Past President of the British Society for 18th-century Studies. He is Dean of the College, and also holds the offices of Chattels Fellow and Portraits Fellow. He served for some years on the University of Oxford Committee for the Museums and Scientific Collections, and is currently a Visitor of the Ashmolean Museum.

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Berto Pasuka: a dancing life of colonialism and diasporic culture

This paper for Dancing Lives looks at the way Berto Pasuka’s dancing embodies his life experiences. Pasuka was born in Jamaica in 1910 or 1911 and moved to London in 1939, founding his company Les Ballets Nègres there in 1946. The performances he gave in his ballets with this company exemplify an opposition to colonialism through re-encountering and restaging of Afro-Caribbean traditions of dance and drumming. This paper explores the ways in which an account of the physicality of Pasuka’s dancing and choreography can be used to show how this embodies his life experiences.

Ramsay Burt is Professor of Dance History at De Montfort University, UK. His publications include The Male Dancer (1995, revised 2007), Alien Bodies (1997), Judson Dance Theater (2006), Writing Dancing Together (2009) with Valerie Briginshaw, Ungoverning Dance (2016) and British dance: Black routes (2016) with Christy Adair. With Susan Foster, he is founder editor of Discourses in Dance. In 1999 he was Visiting Professor at the Department of Performance Studies, New York University. In 2010 he was Professeur Invité at l’Université de Nice Sophia-Antipolis, and he is a visiting teacher at PARTS in Brussels.

Tim Gouw

Dancing all night with Aphra Behn: Jeffrey Boys’s Almanack for 1667

Mike Webb (Bodleian Libraries) and Jennifer Thorp (New College Oxford) contribute to Dancing Lives.

The Bodleian Library has recently acquired a Gallen’s Almanack for 1667 which belonged to Jeffery Boyes of Grays Inn, who has been suggested by Janet Todd as a candidate for the ‘Amyntas’ of Aphra Behn’s poems. In the diary section of the volume Boys records aspects of his social life, including attendance at plays at the theatre and at all-night dance parties with Aphra Behn and other acquaintances whose names throw light on the social and political circles in which he moved.

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Aphra Behn by Mary Beale.

At the back of the volume he has written down the titles and figures of nineteen English country dances, seemingly as an aide-memoire from the perspective of the first man in the set which suggests that he himself danced them. Some of them are variant in form from the better-known versions published by Playford between 1651 and 1670, and another may be unique to Boys’s diary. They represent the dances popular with Boys’s circle of friends and at Grays Inn, which as one of the Inns of Court continued a long tradition of dancing at its own masques, revels and other feasts.

R1 – An Exploration of Content from the Choreographic Wastebasket

Choreographer Liam Francis is an advocate for rehabilitating discarded creative offerings.

Consequently, R1 is a performance piece composed entirely of rejected choreography banished to the choreographic wastebaskets of creative processes.

In particular, R1 draws from the wastebaskets of five creative processes that Francis was creatively involved in.

R1 is the first in a range of experiments that investigate the recovery of choreography that has been discarded.

The recycled choreography in R1 finds its texture, rhythm and dynamic from research into the idiosyncrasies of human communication.

Simone Damberg Würtz, Liam Francis, and Hannah Rudd will perform R1 at Dancing Lives.

Hailey Kean

Dr Kate Kennedy wins public engagement award

 

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Dr Kate Kennedy

Dr Kate Kennedy, our Weinrebe Fellow in Life-Writing, has won an Early Career Researcher award in this year’s Vice-Chancellor’s Public Engagement with Research Awards, which celebrate public engagement work across the University. The announcement was made at an awards ceremony at the Oxford University Museum of Natural History on 28 June hosted by Vice-Chancellor Professor Louise Richardson.

Dr Kennedy won her award for her public engagement work relating to a triple biography of poet Rupert Brooke, and composers F.S. Kelly and W.D. Browne she is writing. The three men were close friends who sailed to Gallipoli together and were all killed in the First World War.

Studying archives, letters and diaries, and animating the stories she has uncovered has enabled Dr Kennedy to work with young people and adults, musicians and theatre professionals through drama, music, the media and public events, including:

  • 10 performances across the UK of her dramatized recital The Fateful Voyage across the UK with internationally acclaimed soloists and actors.
  • Directing and presenting BBC Radio 3’s commemorations of the First World War, with The Fateful Voyage broadcast from the City of London Festival as a centrepiece.
  • Creating the Gallipoli Music Memorial Trust to offer workshops, performances and teaching resources to schools; the content now forms part of the history curriculum.
  • Involving over 750 school children in creating their own creative pieces and performances for public audiences.
  • Premiering, choreographing and editing the work of the composers including previously unpublished songs, piano works and a fully staged ballet.
  • Obtaining Arts Council funding to develop The Fateful Voyage into a fully-staged play at the National Theatre.

The biography of Brooke, Kelly and Browne is due to be published in 2018.

The project has transformed Dr Kennedy’s research, developing her understanding of the stories and how they can be communicated effectively. In turn the neglected work of the composers has now been shared with many thousands.

The Vice-Chancellor’s Public Engagement with Research Awards recognise and reward those at the University who undertake high-quality engagement activities and have contributed to building capacity in this area. Dr Kennedy was one of five Early Career Researcher winners at the awards.

Professor Louise Richardson, Vice-Chancellor says: “I have been deeply impressed by the quality of the public engagement with research projects submitted for this year’s awards. The breadth and diversity of the activities taking place show how seriously the University takes its commitment to public engagement.”

Professor Alison Woollard, the University’s Academic Champion for Public Engagement with Research says: “Public engagement enriches both research and society and the University is committed to enabling our researchers to inspire, consult and collaborate with the public. I’m delighted that we are able to recognise and highlight the fantastic work our researchers are doing and hope these awards encourage more colleagues across the University to carry out their own public engagement with research.”

About the awards

The Vice-Chancellor’s Public Engagement with Research Awards recognise and reward those at the University who undertake high-quality engagement activities and have contributed to building capacity in this area. The awards are awarded in three categories: Early Career Researcher, Building Capacity and Projects. Entrants can be at any level in their career and activities of any scale are welcome. Winning entries received recognition for their achievements at the Vice-Chancellor’s Public Engagement with Research Awards Ceremony that took place on 28 June 2017.

Lydia Lopokova – A 20th Century Life

At the peak of her dancing years – between 1916 and 1926 – Lydia Lopokova was one of the world’s most popular ballerinas, stamping the signature of her quick, bright technique and irrepressible stage personality onto the repertories of Massine, Fokine and the young Frederick Ashton. She was also closely connected to some of the key personalities in early 20th century ballet, moving as she did from the Imperial Ballet in St Petersburg to Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes and eventually to London where she become a leading figure in the newly emergent ballet culture.

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Theatre Magazine: Volume 15 – 1912

The fact that Lopokova is now far less well known than many of her contemporaries has something to do with her refusal to insist on her dancing fame once she retired, but also to do with the willingness with which she embraced her subsequent role as wife, muse, travelling companion and eventually nurse to the great economist John Maynard Keynes.

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John Maynard Keynes, 1st Baron Keynes of Tilton; Lydia Lopokova, source

This talk at Dancing Lives is essentially about the pleasures and obstacles of writing Lopokova’s biography, the challenge of piecing her life together from footnotes, anecdotal gossip and fragments of ballet history. It focuses on the difficulties of evoking her singular qualities as a dancer when all that survives of her performances are the erratic impressions of contemporary reviewers, a limited archive of photos and a very tantalising few minutes of film. It also considers the issue of how a biographer should weight the narrative of Lopokova’s life – not only in setting the story of her professional career against the dramatic events through which she lived (the Russian Revolution, the First and Second World Wars) but also in balancing the inevitably sketchy chapters of her dancing years against the far better documented chapters of her marriage to Maynard, which took her from the drawing rooms of the Bloomsbury Group, to the common rooms of Cambridge, to the inner circles of power in Washington and London.

Judith Mackrell studied English and Philosophy at the universities of York and Oxford, and became dance critic of The Independent in 1986, moving to The Guardian in 1995. She has broadcast widely on radio and television and written several books on dance including Out of Line and Reading Dance. Her works of biography and social history include: Bloomsbury Ballerina: Lydia Lopokova – Imperial Dancer and Mrs John Maynard Keynes (Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 2008); Flappers: Six Women of a Dangerous Generation (Macmillan, 2013); and The Unfinished Palazzo: Life Love and Art in Venice (Thames and Hudson, 2017). She has just started work on a group biography of women correspondents writing and photographing during the Second World War, to be published by Macmillan.

Tony Gray Visiting Scholarship

The Oxford Centre for Life-Writing invites applications for the Tony Gray Visiting Scholarship, tenable for one year.

Closing date: 28 July 2017

Start date: 9 October 2017 (or as soon as possible thereafter)

The scholarship awards £500 expenses to the recipient, and a further £500 towards the organisation of an event. We are interested in applications from anyone who has recently completed their PhD, up to experienced senior researchers.

The scholarship comes with the expectation that the recipient will organise an event related to their field, with our financial and administrative support. This could range from a seminar, invited guest speaker, to a day colloquium or full conference.

The researcher will play an active role in the community of academics at OCLW, and take part in the weekly seminar meetings. The elected scholar will obtain membership of Wolfson Common Room (entitling them to a University Card and use of the Bodleian Library; use of the dining hall for meals; use of the college library and sports facilities; room hire and eligibility of most College committees). The researcher will benefit from the intellectual community of the College and University: they may join College clubs and societies (a charge may apply for some clubs), use all the College facilities, attend Guest Night dinners and bring guests to dine in Hall for lunch and dinner. They may also apply to the Accommodation Office for housing during their stay, although there is a great demand, and it may not be possible to meet their needs.

Please submit the application form, accompanied by a current CV, to oclw@wolfson.ox.ac.uk [marked ‘OCLW Tony Gray Visiting Scholarship application’] or by post to: Dr Kate Kennedy, OCLW, Wolfson College, Linton Road, Oxford, OX2 6UD.

Photo by Prasanna Kumar (CC0 1.0)

Choreographic Forum – nicht schlafen by Alain Platel / les ballets C de la B

There’s been so much interest in OCLW and DANSOX’s event Dancing Lives, and here is another brilliant event about dance, happening in Sadler’s Wells just a week before ours:

Join the Society for Dance Research in a discussion on Alain Platel / les ballets C de la B’s nicht schlafen on Monday 3rd July with invited speakers Katalin Trencsényi and Dr Kélina Gotman, two days after the performances at Sadler’s Wells on 30th June and 1st July.

Dramaturg Katalin Trencsényi will present her research on Alain Platel’s collaborative dramaturgy and the development of nicht schlafen over the past year, while Dr Kélina Gotman will discuss the consequences of nation/post-nation or transnationalism, and how we might read cohabitation onstage. Both speakers will then propose some questions to open up the discussion.

Biographies:

Katalin Trencsényi is a London-based dramaturg, researcher and associate lecturer at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA). As a freelance dramaturg, Katalin has worked with the National Theatre, the Royal Court Theatre, Deafinitely Theatre, Corali Dance Company, and Company of Angels, among others. Katalin is co-founder of the Dramaturgs’ Network (d’n), worked on its various committees, and from 2010 to 2012 served as its President. Katalin is the author of Dramaturgy in the MakingA User’s Guide for Theatre Practitioners (Bloomsbury Methuen Drama, 2015), co-editor of New Dramaturgy: International Perspectives on Theory and Practice (Bloomsbury Methuen Drama, 2014), and editor of Bandoneon: Working with Pina Bausch. (Oberon Books, 2016). For her research on dance dramaturgy, Katalin was recepient of the the Literary Managers and Dramaturgs of the Americas’ Bly Creative Fellowship Grant. Katalin has a PhD from the Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest.

Kélina Gotman teaches Theatre and Performance Studies at King’s College London. She writes regularly on the history and philosophy of theatre and dance, cultural history, writing, translation, and the history and theory of disciplines and institutions. She has contributed among others to Performance ResearchAbout Performance (on the work of Alain Platel), Choreographic PracticesTextual PracticeSubStance, and various edited collections. She is author of Choreomania: Dance and Disorder (forthcoming, Oxford University Press, Studies in Dance Theory) and Essays on Theatre and Change: Towards a Poetics Of (forthcoming, Routledge). She has collaborated on over two dozen dance, theatre, and experimental opera productions in Europe and North America, as a translator, dramaturg, performer, director, writer, designer, movement director and curator. She is currently preparing among others an edited volume on performance, translation and everyday multilingualism, and a chapter on choreic gesture in Platel and the ballets C de la B’s Out of Context: For Pina for an edited volume on Platel’s work.

SDR’s Choreographic Forum is open to students, researchers, artists, and practitioners.

Attendance is free for Society for Dance Research (SDR) members / £6 full price / £3 concessions (students) + booking fees. Tickets available here.

For more information about the performances and to book tickets.

The 2017 series is curated by Iris Chan, Victoria Thoms, Florent Trioux & Lise Uytterhoeven.

Photo credit: © Chris Van der Burght

Dancing Lives

The lives of dancers are among the most elusive subjects for life-writing. Not only is the art form itself ephemeral, notoriously difficult to capture in notation and on film as an accurate record. Dancers are often reluctant to talk about themselves – “we are what we do” – is the familiar refrain. Historically, the life of the dancer gets lost in the account of the processes of choreography. Sources and records are often difficult to find, especially in the case of pre-twentieth-century subjects, and frequently testimonies left by dancers themselves may be focussed on a particular aspect of self-presentation rather than an emphasis on historical accuracy. Nevertheless, there have been many vibrant, searching accounts written (or ghost written) by dancers themselves, such as Tamara Karsavina’s Theatre Street (1930), which provide insights into the mysterious back-stage daily rigours, emotional highs and lows of the profession.

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This conference brings together a host of experts, dancers, scholars, and critics who have intimate knowledge of the lives of dancers in many different forms, and a host of questions will be discussed, centred on the issue of how do people write about the lives of dancers and choreographers? What distinctions are there in writing about a twentieth-century dancer (as Judith Mackrell has done for Lydia Lopokova), and those who must rely on the archive to piece together accounts of pre-twentieth-century dancers’ lives, or those (like Jane Pritchard) who have unearthed the importance of dancers who are largely unknown and who have gone unrecognised in the historical record.

The question of life-writing also implies the problem of how does dance as a silent form itself represent life stories? In addition to uncovering the sources and methods of scholarship and various genres relating to dancers’ lives, we shall hear from Jennifer Homans, whose work currently focuses on the life of choreographer, George Balanchine, an artist who frequently questioned narrative form.

We will hear from our keynote speaker, Dame Monica Mason, an account of the impact of travel on the lives of dancers, and from other scholars about the diasporic conditions bearing on the lives of dancers from outside Europe.

And we get an opportunity to watch and listen to current dancers from Rambert Dance Company who have collaborated on choreography and considered the “life” of the choreography itself. A combination of practical demonstration, film, biographers, practitioners, discussion and speakers promise to make this a stimulating and enlightening day.

 

Marie Taglioni: The First Female Superstar of Ballet

Marie Taglioni’s overwhelming success in ballets such as La Sylphide triggered a cult of the ballerina which was to last for many decades, and which swept away the image of the acclaimed male dancers of the past. This paper for Dancing Lives accompanies Marie Taglioni on her way to celebrity from Stockholm over Vienna and Stuttgart to the Paris Opera, where she created some of her most memorable roles, and from there to other major ballet cities.

It explores questions such as: which changes in the world of ballet paved the way for Marie Taglioni’s triumph, and how did she acquire her reputation? How did Taglioni describe her own life in her memoirs, and what did others write about her? Furthermore, it reveals how Taglioni’s glory was documented and diffused through artistic representations of her.

Iris Julia Bührle is a Leverhulme Early Career Fellow (English) and a Junior Research Fellow at New College,Oxford. She studied comparative literature, history of art and international relations in Stuttgart, Paris (Sorbonne-Nouvelle/ Sciences Po) and Oxford, and she has worked for UNESCO, the Bavarian State Ballet and the Paris Opera. Her doctoral thesis (Paris/ Stuttgart) entitled Dance and Literature: the choreographic adaptation of works of literature in Germany and France from the 18thcentury to the present day was published in German in 2014. She also authored a bilingual (English/ German) biography of the British dancer Robert Tewsley. Her current project is on Shakespeare and dance.