Review: Richard Alston Dance Company - An Italian in Madrid -Sadler's Wells

Performance: 29 & 30 March 2016
Reviewed by Charlotte Constable - Thursday 31 March 2016

Richard Alston Dance Company, with Vidya Patel (centre) in 'An Italian in Madrid'.  Photo Jane Hobson

Performance reviewed: 29 March

An Italian in Madrid, making its world premiere as part of a quadruple bill at Sadler’s Wells this week, is Richard Alston’s foray into new cultural collaborations. Demonstrating a willingness to embrace change while maintaining his signature musically-motivated, balletic contemporary style, the piece is performed alongside both familiar and fresh works. Alston also invites Associate Choreographer and Rehearsal Director Martin Lawrance to diversify the programme, rouging with aggression an otherwise delicate palette.

Brisk Singing, performed for the first time in London in a decade, is an uplifting homage to the music of Jean-Philippe Rameau. A wholesome introduction to Alston’s conventions, the dance complements the score’s embellishments effortlessly; a delicate trill is a twirling foot, a musical rest a broken line in a limb. Particularly captivating is a second movement to flute, lute and choir, Charles Balfour’s speckled blue and gold lighting shimmering off rolling floor work. A dynamic Nancy Nerantzi in particular sparkles.

Mazur, which premiered at The Place last June, is a charming showcase for dancers Nicholas Bodych and critically acclaimed Liam Riddick. Scooping and sweeping to Chopin’s playful Polish Mazurkas (flawlessly performed live by Jason Ridgway), their personalities shine in conversational duets and motif-driven solos. The scene is most effectively set as Bodych rests beside the piano, watching Riddick contemplate a poignant memory, his movements tenderly introverted in moments of soft self-touch and vanishing pirouettes.

Stronghold is a change of tune. Set to Julia Wolfe’s work of the same name for eight double basses, it packs an all-engulfing musical punch that could easily consume any dance – but Martin Lawrance’s knockout choreography matches its power. In its opening seconds, a wide wall of sound is mirrored by a tidal wave of dancers striding towards the audience, before a crashing eruption into the most quickly complex yet controlled travelling sequences. As the musical layers begin to contradict, dancers regroup and redirect, turning on their heels in seconds, flying into the air and landing with restraint – a show of sharp technical coordination. Their freedom is confined with the precision of a bow attacking the string; you hold your breath in hopes they won’t slip or stumble. Of course, they never do.

The evening culminates in Alston’s much talked-about world premiere, garnering notable attention for the guest role of Vidya Patel, a finalist in last year’s BBC Young Dancer competition, representing the category of South Asian dance. An Italian in Madrid, set to Scarlatti’s keyboard sonatas, (played on stage by Jason Ridgway) showcases her impressive skill; she dances seamlessly among her contemporary counterparts, yet her experience of kathak shines through, in whipping turns and articulate hands. It is a fascinating look at the crossovers of flamenco and kathak – instruments on stage, moments of body percussion, storytelling – but Alston upholds a subtle romance in his choreography, avoiding the aggression of the Spanish style. Riddick and Patel’s duet, telling the story of Scarlatti’s student Princess Maria Barbara and Prince Fernando, is softly suppressed; fleeting touches meet melting moments of separation to tumbling arpeggios. The most startling image is of the two walking slowly backwards in each other’s direction, the other dancers leaping in circles around them: a love perturbed by lack of privacy, perhaps.

Richard Alston Dance Company continues touring to Bromley, Taunton, Newcastle and Wimbledon.
Dates & details:

Photos: Jane Hobson

Charlotte Constable is a freelance dance writer. She reviews for and the Chichester Observer Online, and blogs for South East Dance and Article19. Follow her on Twitter: @Charlotte_KC

Video shows extracts from Mazur and Stronghold

Leave a comment

You must be signed in to post comments.

Sign in now

What’s On