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Richard Alston Dance Company

Richard Alston at Home

by David Mead

October 19, 2011 -- The Place, London, UK

These days, Richard Alston is very much seen as a contemporary classicist among British dance makers. As the opening part of his always excellent company’s latest programme showed, though, it was not always so. “Early Days” is a compilation of excerpts dating back to 1969 and all taken from his first ten years choreography. Back then Alston was regarded as something of a rebel and an experimenter. The clips still had impact, right from the opening fragment from “Still Moving Still” in which Elly Braund was mesmerising as she turned and turned with an eight-foot long silver pole rod balanced on her shoulder. The choreography and setting may be spare in “Something to Do”, but there was a wonderful sense of connection between Anneli Binder and Hannah Kidd as they illustrated text by Gertrude Stein read by Alston in person. It concludes with the sentence, “They should move some and they did move some and they did nothing and it was very satisfying.” It says it all. Also included were moments from “Nowhere Slowly”, two sections from “Wildlife”, a duet from “Doublework”, before closing with the exciting and dynamic closing section from “Rainbow Bandit” in which the dance echoes perfectly the spoken word score.

Mozart is often regarded as a difficult composer to choreograph to but, coming right up to date, Alston shows us it does not have to be so. In “Unfinished Business”, danced to the composer’s piano sonata K533, beautifully played live by Jason Ridgway, the dance flows easily. There was a sense of reflection throughout, but the highlight was the Andante, a duet danced by Anneli Binder and Pierre Tappon that was packed with tenderness and emotion, so much so that it really seemed there was a back story here, unusual in Alston’s work. Andres de Blust-Mommaerts was terrific in the Gigue.

Receiving its world premiere, Martin Lawrance’s “Other Than I” is full of Alston’s choreographic influence, but with a somewhat more dramatic, emotional edge. Binder and Kidd, both outstanding all evening, were nicely paired, effectively dancing as each other’s double.

The programme was completed by a revival of Robert Cohan’s 1989 “In Memory”, a dance for four men and two women originally made for London Contemporary Dance Theatre, to Paul Hindemith’s Sonata for Unaccompanied Viola. It’s a piece full of powerful characterisation. There was a strong sense of competition yet camaraderie among the men as they show off to each other. Proceedings are interrupted by the arrival of two women. Their dances with their partners are full of clinging and a lack of fulfilment as emotions are not fully returned.

The “At Home” programme was preceded by a showing of three new works by choreographers Rachel Lopez de la Nieta, Igor Urzelai and Moreno Solinas, and Tony Adigun, all using Alston’s “Wildlife” as a starting point. Presented under the banner “Richard Alston takes Cover”, the three works will be part of the EDge tour in 2012. Adigun’s “Unleashed” stood head and shoulders above the others in terms of performance quality and choreography, the latter making impressive use of his preferred hip-hop style. Lopez de la Nieta’s “Rite for Richard” and Urzelai and Solinas’ as yet untitled piece had moments, but even allowing for the fact these were very much works in development, they looked a long way from the finished article. Attempts at humour were weak, bringing little reaction from the audience and, as is becoming tiresome at The Place, there was the usual unconvincing use of voice.

Richard Alston Dance Company continues on tour to Truro, Brighton, Swansea, Cheltenham and Edinburgh. See for details.


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