Pros: A programme of finely tuned and fast-paced choreography which elicits technical and musical prowess.
Cons: A characteristic as much as a con, but a little too repetitive in movement terms.
This programme marks Richard Alston’s fiftieth year as a choreographer, so what better to way to celebrate than by presenting an evening which combines new work alongside extracts of that which spans the last five decades.
We start with the new Cut and Run by Associate Choreographer and company rehearsal director, Martin Lawrence. A piece created for the full company who, as individuals, seem to be the most energetic, musical, and technically proficient Alston dancers to date. Lawrence, not dissimilar to Alston, has a knack for creating musically stimulated choreography which darts through the space at such speed that you risk missing it should you blink. A mixture of duos, trios and larger groups enter and exit the purple lit stage. They cut and slice, lift and leap to the musical accents, barely having time to take a breath.
What follows is Alston’s most recent work for the company, Carnival, which unfolds inside music of the same name by Robert Schumann, played live on stage by Jason Ridgway. This time the stage is lit by hanging lampshades, the costumes are earthy and this combination creates the feeling of an ever so slightly modernised period drama. What is different about this work, is that it evokes a little more feeling than many of Alston’s others. The movement itself remains almost unchanged, that is to say, it is still very characteristically Alston, with fast fleet footwork which follows a classical ballet foundation, and agile torsos which spring from Alston’s own training with Merce Cunningham. However, refreshingly there is more of a human element in the way the dancers interact with one another. This is very much due to the scenario on which Schumann’s music is based, but Elly Braund especially brings a sense of life to her movement here. It is also interesting to note that Alston created this work with British ballet dancer and choreographer, Sir Frederick Ashton in mind; the use of épaulement, overtly symmetrical steps and grouped spatial patterns, albeit subtle, are certainly reflective of this.
Alston takes to the stage himself to introduce the Mid Century Modern element of the programme, ruminating that looking back on his work has been “like looking at the work of another man”. This is an interesting statement as there was a sense during the evening that his work does not seem to have changed at all. One can almost guarantee that it will involve a collage of densely textured choreography that is fierce, fugitive and highly repetitive. It is very rare to see any new movement material created from one Alston work to the next, and I would contend that there is a very fine line between ‘characteristic’ and ‘overly predictable’. That said, as a choreographer there is no denying that he elicits impeccable musicality from his dancers, and this was very evident in the extracts we saw of Rainbow Bandit and Dutiful Ducks among others, in which Liam Riddick did an exceptional job.
Artistic Director & Choreographer: Richard Alston
Associate Choreographer: Martin Lawrence
Lighting: Zeynep Kepekli
Box Office: +44 (0)20 7863 8000
Booking Until: 24th March 2018
Booking Link: https://www.sadlerswells.com/whats-on/2018/richard-alston-dance-company-mid-century-modern/