Richard Alston has a long and distinguished career in dance both in modern and contemporary dance forms and in established ballet companies. He choreographed many works for Ballet Rambert and other famous ballet companies and has run Richard Alston Dance Company since 1994.
This season Alston is celebrating fifty years as a choreographer, yet his work is amongst the freshest, most youthful and energetic that you will see anywhere. His ten strong company dance with energy, precision, speed and a very distinctive company style that makes complex dance moves blend into elegant and beautiful movement set to vibrant music and sounds. A skill of this company is the way that they work together as dancers with movements so precisely coordinated that they seem to turn into one living, breathing shape-changing creature with swift turns and twists just like a murmuration of swallows.

Ihsaan de Banya & Liam Riddick in Cut and Run – photos supplied

The programme at Norwich Theatre Royal consists of three pieces with intervals between and included the world premiere of a new dance, ‘Cut and Run’. This dance is set to a quickfire pulsing electronic soundtrack and keeps up a relentless fast pace from the first second shouting youth and energy and life at us. This speed and energy is not confrontational, quite the opposite, it is more like the rush of first love, when the whole world seems to speed up for a while. Choreographer Martin Lawrence takes two tracks, the first ‘Yo Shakespeare’ composed by Michael Gordon, the second ‘Evol’ by Damian LeGassick to set the dance to. Both have fast underground rhythms and we are captivated by the dancers from the first beat.

Carnaval is a more lyrical and whimsical piece that features the music and story of Robert Schumann, his split alter egos Florestan and Eusebius and his sweetheart Clara. While this work contains many dance styles and moves familiar to ballet lovers there is no tottering around on toe-tips – en pointe – which some ballet watchers find difficult to accept. This gives a work that once again feels fresh, young and relaxed, a healthier choice if you like but still a dance of astonishing levels of skill, precision and energy. The three leads, Elly Braund as Clara, Liam Riddick and Nicholas Bodych as Florestan/Eusebius are very impressive, but the story also weaves in all ten company dancers into this romantic and charming tale.
The third work, Gypsy Mixture opens our senses to the music and movement of travelling people, particularly from Romania and Macedonia, and has been offered by the company for over a decade. The music is from the Balkan beats of the Electric Gypsyland CD, a startling hybrid of Balkan music and techno beats from Frankfurt DJ Shantel. These infectious tunes are irresistible and Richard turns six tracks into one seamless and energetic dance sequence. Once again, individual dancers dazzle us with their ability yet the whole company move together with grace and precision.
The dancers are barefoot throughout, but the costumes are varied to suit the work, bright and colourful in Gypsy Mixture, flowing and gentle in Carnaval and more sombre and urban in Cut and Run. They make the dancers look comfortable and unrestrained and suit the style of Alston’s choreography.
These three works together take just over an hour to perform, but the intensity of the experience makes this a satisfying and inspiring evening that will be long remembered, and this evening was enjoyed by a mixed audience with a lot more young people than you would see for a more formal ballet production. This company come to Norwich for just a few days each year, and to miss one of their shows would mean missing contemporary dance at its very best. The dancers look happy and clearly love the work they are tasked to perform and their enthusiasm is infectious, sending us all home with a spring in our steps.
© Julian Swainson 2018
Richard Alston Dance Company
Fri 2 Feb – Sat 3 Feb 2018, 7.30pm
Norwich Theatre Royal
01603 63 00 00 |
Cut and Run by Martin Lawrance, Carnaval & Gypsy Mixture by Richard Alston