Pros: A diverse range of styles and flavours executed by a confident company.
Cons: The first section of the show especially, with its three short pieces, feels a bit rushed and the music can be downright irritating.
Who doesn’t love a birthday party? The people at the Richard Alston Dance Company certainly do; turning 20 this year, the company has put together a marvellous mix of old favourites and new work to celebrate.
The show starts off unexpectedly, with the entire company of ten dancers leaning casually against the back wall, before one of them stalks forward to start off eight minutes of highly energetic fun. This is Martin Lawrance’s Opening Gambit and, within my admittedly limited experience of dance, I have to say it’s one of the best openings to a show I’ve ever seen. Unease . . . by Joseph Toonga demonstrates a slightly eerie but beautiful mix of styles: the combination of contemporary dance and body popping creates a stop-motion like effect. Rasengan caries hints of tai chi, while Mazur invokes traditional folk dancing in a thoroughly modern way. The last piece is Overdrive, which again features the entire company, this time leaping their way through a choreography so precise it could have been a maths problem worked out on stage. That might not sound particularly exciting, but the result is both spectacular and hypnotic: 20 minutes seemed to be gone in the blink of an eye.
Although impressive, I wouldn’t say that Alston at Home is the most accessible contemporary dance performance I’ve ever seen. The evening features six pieces in total, some of which are a mere five minutes long; as a result it sometimes feels like you’re being whisked off to the next choreography before you’ve had a chance to properly enjoy the first. And while the show as a whole is a treat for the eyes, the ears aren’t always quite as lucky. Chopin’s Mazurkas are pleasant enough, but the same can’t be said for the musical accompaniment to Rasengan, which makes overzealous use of those high-pitched tones young people find annoying and older people can’t hear.
It’s a relatively small price to pay for what you get though. I won’t pretend to be enough of an expert to comment extensively on the quality of the dancers, but I thoroughly enjoyed how easy they made most of it look. I was particularly taken with Liam Riddick and guest (and ex-Alston) dancer Jonathan Goddard in Mazur, and with Oihana Vesga Bujan in pretty much everything else. Another pro is the excellent lighting, which creates new spaces on the empty floor, adds a bit of cheeky colour and even gives the audience a glimpse into the grand piano.
All in all Alston at Home is a skilful and engaging chronicle and if this is the past twenty years, I’m looking forward to what the next twenty are going to bring. Onwards and upwards!
Choreographers: Martin Lawrance, Richard Alston, Ihsaan de Banya and Joseph Toonga.
Composers: Julia Wolfe, Jean-Philippe Rameau, Ryoji Ikeda, Orin Norbert and Frédéric Chopin.
Booking Information: This show has now completed its run.