Seeing the Richard Alston Dance Company on their annual tour has become a regular treat for us. Over the years we have seen dance companies come and go, some have a brief spell of brilliance in the limelight and then fade, others plod away worthily but unremarkably trying to carve out a reputation in the world of performing arts. But Richard Alston’s company has remained one of the very few where you can always rely on a high standard of performance and choreography. I think only NDT2 from the Netherlands and Mark Morris from the US are comparable.
And, I’m delighted to say, that situation continues to apply. It was a terrifically entertaining programme, structured perfectly, (cheery start; complex middle bit; even cheerier conclusion) and delighting the smallish but appreciative audience. First up, we had “To Dance and Skylark” – the title comes from a ship’s captain’s order to his crew to take some exercise – and it’s a great opener; lively, bright, fluid of movement, engaging – all those elements you need to start the evening. Performed to a couple of the Brandenburg Concertos, so you’ve got that interesting mix of baroque and modern.
Middle section was “Light Flooding into Darkened Rooms” – this is the complex, slightly inaccessible and challenging piece of the programme – basically a pas de deux where the dancers move in and out of light boxes suggestive of sunlight piercing old window frames, to live performance of melodic Spanish guitar and then discordant mandolin. Strongly performed, demanding your attention, slightly over long for my liking, but then I am getting old.
Finally we had “Overdrive”, one of those sparky, lively, electronic musicked, athletic pieces that really gets your adrenalin going and makes you want to jump up and join them. Alston at his absolute best.
The dancers were great; Martin Lawrance has been their star dancer for some time now and always takes complete control of the stage. He is mesmeric. I see he is now the company’s Rehearsal Director, and indeed he choreographed To Dance and Skylark. I’m sure he is going to have a great future in dance. The other dancers all worked together splendidly (I particularly liked Anneli Binder for her grace and presence) – although one dancer did I feel slightly “overdance” – he pulled your eye away from the group as his reach and gestures exceeded those of the others, a bit like Cassie in “A Chorus Line” “bopping the hip”. Still, a most minor quibble.
A few years ago I emailed the company after seeing them at the Wycombe Swan on tiptop form and said how much I enjoyed the show. The company manager replied saying he would make sure Richard knew of my comments. I was really chuffed at that.