Richard Alston Dance Company, The Place, London

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The Independent Culture

The Place is the Richard Alston Dance Company's home theatre. It's one of the best venues in which to see them, combining intimacy and live music. Up close, the audience can see the precision and the boldness of these dancers.

The studio atmosphere suits Alston's lyrical style, which can lack theatrical projection. In fact, I don't think Nigredo needs any such help: it's a strong work, vividly danced. Simon Holt's music, here played by the pianist Jason Ridgway, is a rippling, unsettled piece. Alston matches it with movement that dallies before turning in on itself.

Holt's title comes from alchemy: on its way to becoming gold, base metal is charred. Alston's dancers push into despair, then change and recover. The steps are changeable but rooted. As Jonathan Goddard sinks to the floor, his limbs and torso remain taut and strong. There's nothing wishy-washy about it.

As the dancers wrestle with themselves and their music, they can still take each other by surprise. Rose Sudworth rushes on, flings her arms around Goddard's neck and drops, sinking down, throwing all her weight on to him. He's astonished for a moment, not at all sure what to do with this dead weight.

Nigredo is paired with two works by company dancers. At the start of Darren Ellis's No More Ghosts, two dancers wander in, sit down and smoke, while their colleagues rearrange a wall of cardboard boxes.

The building and unbuilding takes too long, but Ellis has some sharp steps to go with it. Wearing Converse sneakers, the dancers bounce on pointe. Zigzagging about the stage, knees and elbows bent, they look both gangly and laid-back. No More Ghosts is fiddly, but it's good to see this company tackling a change of style.

Martin Lawrance's Body and Soul is set to Schumann's song cycle Dichterliebe, played by Ridgway and warmly sung by Nicolas Simeha. It's an atmospheric but unclear piece. A dancer in a dark frock coat prowls around another young man: fate claiming a melancholy lover? Two women drift in and out, scampering or brooding. The dancing is big and clean, but Lawrance's characterisation remains vague.

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