Richard Alston Dance Company, Sadler's Wells

Elegant rather than gripping, British master pulls in different directions
Click to follow
The Independent Culture

The choreographer Richard Alston has wonderful dancers. Movement flowed through supple backs and bold limbs, footwork was springy and bright. Alston's dances were full of lovely steps, but were ocassionally too polite - elegantly crafted, rather than gripping. But as Alston got caught up in the music, the dancing glowed, suddenly vivid and spontaneous.

The choreographer Richard Alston has wonderful dancers. Movement flowed through supple backs and bold limbs, footwork was springy and bright. Alston's dances were full of lovely steps, but were ocassionally too polite - elegantly crafted, rather than gripping. But as Alston got caught up in the music, the dancing glowed, suddenly vivid and spontaneous.

Alston is from the first generation of British modern dance and started to choreograph as a student in the late Sixties - this tour celebrates 10 years of his own company. Such Longing was set to Chopin piano pieces, played on stage by Jason Ridgway. The mood was melancholy and the dance unfolded in rippling phrases.

In the opening solo, Martin Lawrance stepped boldly into arabesque, leaning into his position. The steps hinted at ballet, classical but rather dry, although a lifted knee caught the music's rhythm. And with a second solo, danced by Luke Baio, everything flowed.

Baio struck a pose, holding up a flat hand like a figure on a Greek vase. He continually shifted his position, changing the angle of his shoulders, turning this way and then that. The current of movement never broke, but each change looked like a new thought. The dancers were pulled in different directions in response to the music's changing texture.

Elsewhere, Alston piled up detail, adding dips and swoops without losing the impulse of a phrase. In one duet, Ino Riga folded herself back over Jonathan Goddard's thigh, plunging back into an arch.

Fever was inspired by the sensuality of Monteverdi madrigals, but it wasn't exactly feverish. Alston's couples held soft embraces, their arms slow and decorous. The movement was well weighted, the steps beautiful, but the piece didn't quite let rip.

The brightest number was a group dance, full of thuds and boings of Renaissance percussion. The performers stamped and turned, changed places, springing through mercurial footwork.

Charge, by company dancer Martin Lawrance, was a commission for The Place Prize last year. It was tautly constructed, but tied down by its Steve Reich score. The dancers linked arms, lifting knees or flinging themselves forwards. Charles Balfour's lighting snapped off and on around them, but it was never very bright: all four works needed more light. The movement was frenetic, but crisply danced.

Gypsy Mixture was a jolly closing number. The music, from the CD Electric Gypsyland, was traditional Balkan music remixed by club DJs, with chugging rhythms and odd bleeps. The women wore checked and floral skirts, at the same time; the men patched trousers. The pumping hips had less impact than the swung arms and stamping feet, but the dancers were on buoyant form.

Comments