Richard Alston, Sadler's Wells, London

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The Independent Culture

The choreographer Richard Alston has wonderful dancers. Movement flows through their supple backs and bold limbs. Footwork is springy and bright. Alston's dances are full of lovely steps, but they can be too polite: elegantly crafted rather than gripping. Then he gets caught up in his music, and the dancing glows, suddenly vivid and spontaneous.

Alston is from the first generation of British modern dance, starting to choreograph as a student in the late Sixties. This tour celebrates 10 years of his own company, and includes Alston's latest work.

Such Longing is set to Chopin piano pieces, played on stage by Jason Ridgway. The mood is melancholy, and the dance unfolds in rippling phrases. In the opening solo, Martin Lawrance steps boldly into arabesque, leaning into his position. The steps hint at ballet, classical but rather dry, though a lifted knee catches the music's rhythm. With a second solo, danced by Luke Baio, everything flows. Baio takes a pose, holding up a flat hand like a figure on a Greek vase. He keeps shifting position, changing the angle of his shoulders, turning this way and then that. The current of movement never breaks, but each change looks like a new thought.

Elsewhere, Alston piles up detail, adding dips and swoops without losing the impulse of a phrase. In one duet, Ino Riga folds back over Jonathan Goddard's thigh, or plunges back into an arch, head by her heels. The dancing is so limpid that those vertiginous plunges unfold gently, gracefully. Such Longing ends where it began: one dancer on a darkened stage. It's slightly too neat. At its best, though, Alston's dance is fluidly lovely.

Fever was inspired by the sensuality of Monteverdi madrigals, but it isn't exactly feverish. Alston's couples go in for soft embraces, their arms slow. The movement is juicily weighted, the steps often beautiful, but this piece doesn't quite let rip. The brightest number is a group dance, full of the thuds and boings of Renaissance percussion. The dancers stamp and turn, change places, springing through mercurial footwork.

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

Gypsy Mixture is a jolly closing number. The music, from the CD Electric Gypsyland, is traditional Balkan music remixed by club DJs, with chugging rhythms and odd bleeps. The women wear layers of checked and floral fabric, both at once. The men wear ugly patched trousers. Alston sometimes forces the high spirits. The pumping hips actually have less impact than the swinging arms and stamping feet. The dancers are on buoyant form.

Touring (www.theplace.org.uk)

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