Two reviews today, both of the Richard Alston Dance Company at the Norwich Theatre Royal
The first is from Victoria Knight:
“More than anything else, I think the inspiration through culture stood out to me throughout the three pieces that Richard Alston Dance Company performed at the Norwich Theatre Royal. The famously British dance company explore many different aspects of life and concepts through movement, however the diversity in of the origins of the movement took me by surprise. The three pieces, An Italian in Madrid, Tangent and Chacony, built up the show steadily within the space of two intervals.
A Princess Maria Barbara, who was incredibly musically absorbed, inspired An Italian in Madrid. The princess was portrayed to us by Vidya Patel who represented the South Asian Category in the Grand Finals of BBC Young Dancer 2015. Acting as a guest dancer to Richard Alston Dance Company for An Italian in Madrid, she had a unique twist to the rest of the company members which was shown through endless turns and dance movements focused around precise arm gestures with a Kathak style incorporated into them. Genders were used interestingly through this choreography with strictly male and female sections which then would lead into strong courtship like motifs, obviously merging the two genders together through a very typical Richard Alston manner of Cunningham based movement. I would have liked this piece to have gradually built up and to have seen the dancers use their power and strength to their full ability as I felt the tone was fairly invariable throughout.
Tangent brought the audience some excitement and passion to the evening since the piece, choreographed by Martin Lawrence, was danced through Argentinian tango combined with contemporary dance. To add another layer of influence there are also clear links to the seasons. I personally enjoyed the fusion of an exotic dance style with something we know very well here in Britain- the weather changes. A different duet represented each season which was reflected through their costumes and an ombre coloured background. Each duet also had distinct characteristics with their ‘relationship’ yet were all tied together by a clever slow-motion looking lift within each dance. This piece did not stand out to be an exceptionally inspiring modern piece that I would have expected from Lawrence but instead created more of an enjoyable spectacle in which I remembered the inspirations for as opposed to the movement itself.
After another interval we then come to my personal favourite piece- Chacony. There is a conveyance of jurisdiction, command and reluctance relating to deep feelings of the composers memories of touring the camps of wartime Germany. The way the members of the cast flowed from in and out of some sequences and on and off the stage seamlessly was stunning. Furthermore the choreographic techniques used were very inspirational: cannons, direction, speed, dynamic, height and the use of different patterns through the music were all what made Chacony alluring. Music wise, it was contrasting to the previous two as Jason Ridgway was their Pianist for the both we had watched. But as the curtain came up for the last work of the night, the piano had disappeared and we experienced music played by an orchestra which was a lot more string based. I feel the dancers were able to use more of their power with this music which overall gave the effect of a moving yet, in the end, positive piece.
Without a doubt Richard Alston’s pieces all have one thing in common: Cunningham. For some I feel this may come across as ‘repetitive’ but the intricate details of the pieces with flare from other sources or styles, the works from the company have beautiful structure and motifs. Another notable and enjoyable visit from the company, and with hope not the last”.
And now Sofie Parson’s Review:
To see a company returning to the Theatre Royal there is always a level of comparison between past and present shows. Richard Alston Dance Company returned this year with a triple bill of work; Italian in Madrid, Tangent and Chacony. After last years memorable performance including the famous solo Dutiful Ducks and a mesmerising piece by Martin Lawrence; Stronghold, expectations were high for Alston’s company to deliver again.
Italian in Madrid opened the show, spritely dancers leapt and sprang through the air. The girls adorned in beautiful free flowing dresses giving the movement further expression. The pianist, Jason Ridgway playing a grand piano was exposed and added an elegant flare to the show. Classic Richard Alston moves were celebrated in this piece, accentuating the beautiful strength of all the dancers in the sharp linear movements contrasting as expected with softer curved movements. The piece tells a tale of romance and of Domenico Scarlatti an Italian born musician whose move to Lisbon inspires a boundary breaking reel of sonatas. Scarlatti’s music was hugely influenced by Spanish music fused with music from many different cultures. To explore this fusion Vidya Patel was invited by Alston to dance in this piece as a guest dancer, previously making it to the grand final of BBC Young Dancer – her Khatak style added a refreshing fluidity to the piece as the Khatak, Cunningham-esque fusion blended better than I expected. Patel flourished in this dance, her presence exceptionally beautiful, her lines clean, her duet with Liam Riddick was definitely a highlight for the piece. The piece had charming moments however the lack of climatic tension left some audience members feeling unfulfilled.
Tangent a piece created by assistant choreographer and rehearsal director Martin Lawrence, explored influences from the Argentinian Tango and the four seasons of Buenos Aires. The piece consisted of a series of duets seemingly to each be exploring a different season. The tango influences with sharp attack were visible throughout however the structure of the piece didn’t enthral, as the duets were fairly indifferent. After such a great work by Martin Lawrence being viewed last year, Tangent felt a slight disappointment, I was expecting a contrast from the first piece however the piece followed with a very similar structure and style. This said, the beginning of this piece a unison section with all the dancers on stage was exceptionally put together and created a memorable image to be remembered.
The final piece Chacony, is Alston’s newest work. It is inspired by the Chaconne of Henry Purcell. The two pieces of music share the same form but to very different effect. ‘Making a dance to this music I wanted to portray the formal order of the original Chacony and then to show that order being shaken to its very roots before defiantly reasserting itself through the resilience of the human spirit.’ The piece looks into darker places inspired by Purcell’s tour during the early liberation of wartime Germany which marked Purcell to reaffirming hope for humanity. The first thing which caught my eye about this piece was the colour scheme. The deep rich burgundy coats over cool toned muted blues and browns. The piece had a more raw energy than the other two works in the show. Some of the most beautiful movements were moments of almost stillness, things were slowed down and the dancers almost reflected on the piece taking a breath before carrying on. As the newest piece I expected to see a further pushed contemporary pieced; maybe less traditional than what has been made by Alston previously. However the piece seemed to still contain this fairly old fashioned structure; duets, girls sections, boys sections. Despite this, the glimmers of a modern frame of mind made the piece beautiful and enjoyable to watch. The very last section of the piece the dancers come holding hands, a coming together followed by a few moments of stillness which brought the piece to life and stunned the audience into silence, a pause key before the final applause.
What amazed most throughout this show was the muscularity of all the dancers, their strength and poise allowing beautiful movements to be created. This bill of work for me didn’t captivate my imagination, but it did allow me to see beautiful movement and it definitely is a piece which showcases Alston tradition in spectacular way.