Fred Astaire: The Conference
21–24 JUNE 2008

The conference was planned and presented by Kathleen Riley, a post-doctoral Fellow at Corpus Christi College, and her American collaborator Christine Bamberger. This three-day residential conference at Oxford University was the first ever devoted to an examination of Astaire’s life and legacy, to a celebration of his unique artistry and achievement.

In addition to our special guests, Ava Astaire McKenzie (daughter of Fred Astaire) and her husband Richard, the event featured an international assembly of Astaire experts, among them writers, performers, and historians of dance, theatre, and film.

Friends and colleagues of Mr Astaire also appeared. The programme comprised a lively mix of scholarly papers, personal reminiscences, panel discussions, and live performances. There also was an exclusive screening of the only existing footage of Fred Astaire on stage (in Gay Divorce).

Topics discussed included: Astaire as dancer and choreographer; as singer and recording artist; as composer and pianist; as dramatic actor in films such as The Sky’s the Limit and On the Beach; Astaire’s Austrian roots; his legendary partnership with sister Adèle; his work with African-American musicians; and his influence on Balanchine, Robbins, and Ashton. The final day of the conference took place in Oxford’s elegant and historic Holywell Music Room and involved discussions of and performances inspired by various aspects of Astaire’s extraordinary musicianship.

Opening Remarks from Dr Kathleen Riley

'Fred Astaire and the Art of Fun', Times Literary Supplement,
July 16, 2008


"The Astaire Conference" is an organization which contracts with the College for the use of facilities,
but which has no formal connection with The University of Oxford.

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