Review: Richard Alston Dance Company in - at home at The Place

Performance: 16 & 17 Jun 09
Reviewed by Libby Costello - Wednesday 17 June 2009

Richard Alston Dance Company 'Blow Over' Dancers: Hannah Kidd, Wayne Parsons. Photo: Dee Conway

Richard Alston Dance Company performed on home territory on Tuesday 16 June with 4 new or revised works. Opening with a choreography from Martin Lawrence, this bill showed the companies capabilities outside of Alstons’ own work as well as exhibiting the talents of the Artistic Director himself.

Lawrence first choreographed for the company in 2003 with Grey Allegro, breaking the Alston only tradition. Although a safe choice by Alston due to Lawrence’s association as a dancer within the company, Brink brought out an intriguing quality in the dancers. With the structure and dynamics coming from Tango music this contemporary take on the dance of passion was fresh and snappy. No stereotypical tango embraces were included, rather a series of couples took to the stage – limbs flicking, bodies folding and straight sharp lines cutting the air. Lit by a succession of complementary and contemporary states the bodies were illuminated or darkened heightening the drama of the work. Two states worked extraordinarily well with the movement. The blue singular light from up stage left hung from above elongated the dancers already lengthy limbs, whereas the box of light in the second section, leaving a darkened centre stage, compacted the movements, as if the couple were manoeuvring a crowded dance floor. This feeling of condensed energy was taken into the body with gripped muscles spreading tension across the stage.

The following three pieces, choreographed by Alston, had the company’s trade mark use of musical structures, balletic contemporary and irresistible viewing qualities. Alert will form the choreography for a film directed by Deborah May and therefore was not presented as a finished stage piece. The four dancers performed lengthy repetitive sequences at the end of which commands were called out in order to transcend into the next section. The surprise appearance of Alston on stage amused the audience – his one on one direction of a singular male dancer was witty, almost a satire of the choreographic craft.

Serene Beneath was sublimely beautiful to watch from the first note on the piano as limbs unfolded from a mass of white clad bodies. The four dancers had mesmerising qualities and Alston’s ability to construct exquisite passages really came through.

Blow Over, commissioned by Sadler’s Wells and Dance Umbrella to celebrate Alston’s 40th Anniversary as a choreographer in 2008, returned to the stage in a shorter version. The mesh of popular and classical music in Philip Glass’ score resulted in a rather light hearted yet showy choreography – an excellent celebration of the choreographer’s many works. The company’s ten dancers flowed across the stage as if liquid mercury, jumping and spinning with sheer joy.

Brink_and _Serene Beneath created a buzz of tension which seemed to infect the audience at the Place, bringing dance to the stage which exceeded expectations, reminding us that there is a vibrant dance scene out there.

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