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 Post subject: Richard Alston Dance Company
PostPosted: Fri Sep 06, 2002 9:15 am 
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Location: London, England; Tallinn, Estonia
<img src="http://www.sadlerswells.com/whats_on/autumn2002/images/side_alston.jpg" alt="" />

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Richard Alston brings his company's work to Sadler's Wells for the first time ever.
For these debut 'prom' performances the twelve-strong company appear alongside the dynamic
Dufay Collective in an exciting new commission for Dance Umbrella.

Stampede brings to life the rich sounds of Italian medieval dance music, sensual and colourful, lively and exotic. Plus there'll be a new production of Alston's shining and ecstatic Rumours, Visions, inspired by the intense love life and nightmarish hallucina tions of the poet/genius Arthur Rimbaud. The music is Benjamin Britten's luscious Les Illuminations.

The programme is completed by Touch and Go, Piazzolla tango music excitingly interpreted by Alston with swift-flowing, fast-paced steps and intricate partnering.

Part of the Jerwood Proms

Wed 16 Oct 6.30pm
Pre-show talk - Ask the Ticket Office for details.

"The beauty of this work lies in its sheer dance sweep, in the sensuous cascade of its rhythm...Touch and Go is [Alston's] finest and most intoxicating work for years" Financial Times


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 Post subject: Re: Richard Alston Dance Company
PostPosted: Sun Sep 08, 2002 7:00 am 
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TRUE LISTENING
by Donald Hutera

For the first time in its eight-year history, Richard Alston’s company is taking the stage at Sadler’s Wells. What’s more, at £5 a ticket some audience members will have an up-close-and-personal view from the front of the stalls. The triple-bill includes Touch and Go, set to the classic modern tango compositions of Astor Piazzolla; Rumours, Visions, Alston’s interpretation of Benjamin Britten’s song cycle Les Illuminations; and Stampede, a new Umbrella commission driven by medieval Italian music arranged and played live by Dufay Collective. Stampede is for the whole company of twelve but revolves around two extended duets, one for Sonja Peedo - recently joined after dancing for Small Bones and Jeremy James - partnered by Martin Lawrance, Alston’s long-standing interpreter and colleague. The other is made for Davina Given, fresh from Scottish Dance Theatre, and Antoine Vereecken.

Vereecken, born in Gent in 1977, is in his second season as an Alston dancer. Prior to that he danced in Israel with Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company. During the third week of rehearsals for Stampede, I spoke to him about the joys and challenges of dancing à la Alston. “It’s great in many ways, very different from what I used to do. It’s much more technical, but more importantly Richard builds it all around the music. First he shows us and we imitate. Then together we change it. The results are quite exact but we’re very much involved in how we get there. Richard listens to us, to what we’re comfortable with. He tries to explain what kind of feeling he wants and what sort of imaginative world the music conjures up.

Our dance is a formal Estampie, [hence, the slightly tongue-in-cheek title - DH] a medieval dance which starts quite gently but builds to a frenetic gypsy-like climax as the other dancers join in. The music for Martin and Sonja’s duet is sadder; it’s called the Lamento di Tristano, and the sound of it is not only mournful but very Eastern.”

Alston comments: “The Moorish influence on the European medieval world was very strong and the way the Dufays play these pieces is very gutsy and sort of exotic. I’m very excited to see the Dufays and all twelve dancers on the big Wells stage.”

WHO: RICHARD ALSTON DANCE COMPANY
WHAT: STAMPEDE / RUMOURS, VISIONS / TOUCH AND GO
WHEN: TUE 15 - WED 16 OCT
PRE-PERFORMANCE TALK:
WED 16 OCT 6.30PM
WHERE: SADLER’S WELLS
TICKETS: 020 7863 8000
JERWOOD PROMS: STAND UP FOR DANCE, £5 STANDING TICKETS

_________________
This interview was posted by Stuart Sweeney on behalf of Donald Hutera and first appeared in Dance Umbrella News.

Donald Hutera writes regularly on dance and arts for The Times, Evening Standard, Time Out, Dance Europe, Dance Magazine (US) and Dance Now. He is co-author, with Allen Robertson, of The Dance Handbook.

Join Dance Umbrella's mailing list to receive future editions of Dance Umbrella News.
Call: 020 8741 5881
Email: mail@danceumbrella.co.uk
Web: www.danceumbrella.co.uk


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 Post subject: Re: Richard Alston Dance Company
PostPosted: Thu Oct 17, 2002 7:41 am 
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Location: London, England; Tallinn, Estonia
Review in the Telegraph:

Quote:
That frisson of the fantastic, that sharp pain as the oldest performing art pierces your heart - that is not what a Richard Alston performance is all about. Instead, solid, wooden virtues.

Earnest craft, genteel good will, and a rejection of inappropriate personal revelation. I wrestle with my sense of my own badness when I watch and cannot love Alston's meek, priestly dances, which have so little of the devil in them. And dance needs the devil in it, or it's as dead as a doornail.

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In The Times:

Quote:
IT WAS heartening to see Sadler’s Wells buzzing for the Richard Alston Dance Company on Tuesday night. Since its inception in 1994, the company’s London performances have usually taken place in more intimate venues. Yet Alston’s choreography benefits hugely from expansion on to the Sadler’s Wells stage.
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And in the Guardian.

Quote:
Richard Alston's choreographic imagination tends to be kindled by music that harbours some secret strangeness or trauma, and his new work Stampede is no exception. The collection of medieval Italian dance pieces (played live by the Dufay Collective) that make up its score, clamour with the leaping, stamping rhythms of European folk tradition. Yet insinuating a seductive thread around that beat is the tremulous wail of north African music. The effect is hot, dark and a little dangerous. The most exciting moments in the work are, paradoxically, those where Alston roots his dancing in moments of stillness, and you can almost see the music stirring a fever in the performers' blood
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 Post subject: Re: Richard Alston Dance Company
PostPosted: Thu Oct 17, 2002 4:27 pm 
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Location: London, England
Richard Alston Dance Company
Sadler’s Wells, Dance Umbrella 2002

In this programme it’s the closing piece that really excites the audience, and it’s one that takes its lead from a dramatically different dance form – a form that thrives on all the things contemporary dance is not. 'Touch and Go' gives Astor Pizzolla’s tango music a new partner and thrives on the passion in his spirited and melancholy melodies.

Some people complain of contemporary dance that the dancers don’t connect with the audience, or with each other, always keeping their eyes fixed somewhere in the middle distance. In this case, as soon as the dancers’ eyes meet at the opening of the piece there’s an instant electricity, a story behind their stares, a stormy history or a set of possibilities fizzing in the air.

Traditionally, female tango dancers would wear steep heels, and short, figure hugging dresses which directly influence the steps and the dancer’s carriage. Alston’s dancers have bare feet and wear loose satin trousers and floating Emanuel Ungaro tops. Their movement betrays this emancipation; toes point to the ceiling and torsos rock, playing with the distance between partners.

Traditionally, the male dancer decides on the direction of movement by making a subtle signal on the woman’s back, but here the balance of power is even-handed. And there are a variety of groupings; trios, male duets and the company all dancing together, carried by Piazzolla’s plunging accents and seductive syncopations. It’s Alston’s unmistakably balletic sensibilities with a little latin hip.

What makes us connect so easily with a dance tradition like tango is that it’s a folk form, and it’s earthy humanity is universal. In a way, the same is found is the opening piece of the programme, 'Stampede'. Although its medieval melodies were composed 600 years before Piazzolla, their purpose is the same; social spectacle and a soundtrack to collective ritual. These 14th century Italian dances have an audibly Moorish influence and are played live on stage by the Dufay Collective.

The Trotto is a leaping dance and the male members of the company, dressed in elvish pale blue, barely touch the ground. They spring effortlessly with a playful air and clean, weightless leaps. The Istampitta was originally a kind of stamping dance. Here footsteps are tied to the rhythmic pulse honouring the most basic principle of dance, and our most basic connection to music.
Patterns are drawn on the stage, the company dance in social ceremony and characters come forth to spin their stories – the male solos in particular using stealth and strength to powerful effect.

Atmospheric lighting throws dappled moonlight through tree branches, or something equally fairytale, but despite trite connotations, there is a real intensity here, at the heart of the music. These tunes may have been composed nearly 700 years ago but they still have the ability to grasp a heartstring, conjure far off lands, or tell a haunting tale. As the piece progresses, the music is the momentum. LIke Piazzolla’s tango it has a real passion and humanity, and a darker side, that in this case perhaps the dance doesn’t quite express.

In 'Rumours, Visions', the dark side of humanity is openly on display. Based on Arthur Rimbaud’s poems ‘Les Illuminations’ and danced to Britten’s music of the same name, Martin Lawrence plays the Rimbaud role; inspired, tormented and visionary. Lawrence is a brilliant dancer, but one who sometimes seems too immaculate to bring real soul to his performance. This is happily countered by Britten’s sublime score and we are easily caught up in the drama.

Divided into short movements (faithful to the text) there are frequent entrances and exits with dancers scattering in every direction, errant, ever after something. Characters come and go, move through duets and at one point form a striking connected chain of bodies, but Rimbaud remains central and essentially apart.

The piece is full of Alston signatures, it was created back in 1993 (before the formation of the company) and evidently demonstrates some of Alston’s essential choreographic principles. He seems to be drawn to beauty and purity, and has impeccable taste – in his dancers (like Lawrence), in his classically influenced movement, and particularly in his musical choices. His work is always immensely, if subtly, satisfying to watch, but occasionally feels a touch too tasteful. When Alston adds a sense of immediacy and a dash of extra spirit, as in tonight’s finale, this show really begins to sparkle.


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 Post subject: Re: Richard Alston Dance Company
PostPosted: Fri Oct 18, 2002 3:05 am 
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Review in The FT.

Quote:
Richard Alston's signature - like yours I suppose, and certainly like mine - can vary enormously, from swift calligraphy for the credit-card slip, to studied "I'm-signing-a-legal-document" precision. Alston's signature is, of course, his choreography, and it has looked, to me, sometimes grandly authoritative and, on occasion, a merest sketch of his artistic identity.

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 Post subject: Re: Richard Alston Dance Company
PostPosted: Sun Oct 20, 2002 3:36 am 
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Location: Guildford, Surrey, UK
Review in the Sunday Times. (Please scroll down article)

Quote:
Newly enlarged to 12 dancers, the Richard Alston Dance Company looked in expansive form for their first appearance at Sadler’s Wells last week as part of the Dance Umbrella Jerwood Proms season. Alston’s new piece, Stampede, to medieval Italian music played on stage by the Dufay Collective, with an attractive decor of text and music fragments on a sandy wall, has a troubadorish flavour in tone and costume, featuring jigs and marches with an air of folky formality. But the Moorish-ness of the music then turns morose, and the final “lamentation” section feels like a downer.

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 Post subject: Re: Richard Alston Dance Company
PostPosted: Sun Oct 20, 2002 3:43 am 
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Review in The Observer.

Quote:
If one person can be said to embody the British modern dance establishment, it is Richard Alston, CBE. One of the original students at the London School of Contemporary Dance, he's been choreographing for more than three decades, has been artistic director of Rambert and is currently artistic director of The Place, where the company bearing his name was launched in 1994.

Being establishment and cutting-edge is not easy, however, and the Richard Alston Dance Company's two-day Sadler's Wells debut was evidence of this. The first piece was Stampede, set to fourteenth-century Italian dances, played onstage by the Dufay Collective. There are many good things in Stampede: Alston's pattern-making is characteristically elegant. The self-absorption of the dancers resonates nicely with the fatalism of the music - Moorish in influence - and the oblique tableaux into which he groups them perfectly express the architecture of their condition
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 Post subject: Re: Richard Alston Dance Company
PostPosted: Tue Oct 22, 2002 2:45 am 
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Review in the Independent.

Quote:
It may not be the most obvious attribute in a choreographer, but one of the most desirable, in my book, is a venturesome musical ear. Some dance makers use music like Muzak and virtually ignore it. Others are such slaves to familiarity that I believe I'd pay not to hear Ravel's Bolero or any Brandenburg Concerto again. Richard Alston, to his credit, comes up with fresh goods every time. I've lost count of the recordings I've wanted to buy after an evening of his dances, and it happened again last week when his company made its long-overdue debut at Sadler's Wells. But championing good music, on its own, is not enough. The dance has to meet its challenge.

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