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Dance Legend Richard Alston On The 20th Anniversary Autumn Programme
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Dance Legend Richard Alston On The 20th Anniversary Autumn Programme

Picture of Hayley Ricketson
Updated: 12 December 2015
The Richard Alston Dance Company is celebrating its 20th Anniversary with a fantastic programme showcasing the talents of the various choreographers, dancers, and musicians within the company. They have been touring the UK since 6th October and will finish up at the Richmond Theatre in London on 19th November. The Culture Trip was lucky enough to speak to Alston about the Autumn programme and his fascinating career in the world of dance.

How did you approach constructing the programme for the 20th Anniversary of the Richard Alston Dance Company? What themes or ideas in particular did you want to celebrate/highlight?

I wanted to celebrate two decades of using my creative imagination to do what I love – making dances. I also wanted to involve other young choreographers who have come through The Place. We didn’t want to be just a museum.

What was the process involved in collaborating with Ajani Johnson-Goffe in Nomadic? What did each of you bring to the piece and how do you feel about the finished product?

I asked Ajani Johnson-Goffe to join me in the studio to make Nomadic, a dance about cultures travelling across the world. He created movement based on his own style, including a wonderful group dance of sharply syncopated rhythm; musically very alert and detailed, I love what he did. He also performed with us on stage at Sadler’s Wells.

Talk a bit about the current programme for the autumn tour. What are the stories behind the pieces, and what can the audience expect?

Our tour programme covers a broad range of music. The magnificent Baroque of Jean-Phillippe Rameau, who wrote music of joyously springing rhythms, accompanies Brisk Singing. Mazur is a duet for two male friends who are pining for their own country. [Frédéric] Chopin’s country was Poland, from which he was exiled, and his Mazurkas express his longing for home. A thrilling new dance by Martin Lawrance is Stronghold, dark and brooding, driven with urgent speed. The full Company dances to a score by New Yorker Julia Wolfe with no less than eight double basses! The dance doesn’t have a story as such, but picks up brilliantly on all the turbulence and tension in the music.

Having produced over 100 dances throughout your career – and for so many different companies – how differently or similarly do you approach creating a dance now?

Since I first started, I have concentrated more and more on the fantastic power of music and dance coming together. I have always been the sort of person who is hungry to learn, and that appetite is still with me. Though I think that I now understand more clearly what I am trying to do, and that makes life slightly easier.

Music has always been what makes me want to dance and to make dances. If you choose music that really inspires you – that hits you at gut level – then you never run dry or get stuck; for a choreographer, this is a wonderful asset.

How do you feel about entering your 21st year with the company? What are the future goals of the company?

I still love making dance, and in terms of creativity and connecting with audiences, my company is thriving. We enjoy touring internationally as well as in the UK and are looking forward to doing more of this in the future, particularly in the US.

What is it in dance that cannot be achieved in other forms of performance? Why does dance speak to you as a creative outlet?

Dance can speak directly to so many people, if only they are open to its exhilaration and sense of life. It’s not necessarily intellectual, but it functions on a visceral level which can be hugely uplifting and emotionally affecting. It reaches more and more people now, especially young people, and I still find it very exciting to be a part of this. I feel I am a very lucky, very happy man.

The Richard Alston Dance Company will be showcasing Brisk Singing, Burning, and Nomadic at the Richmond Theatre, Little Green, Richmond, Surrey, UK on Thursday, 19th November at 7:30PM. Tickets can be purchased here. A list of the remaining performances for the programme throughout the UK can be found here.

By Hayley Ricketson

Hayley Ricketson is a playwright and general theatre practitioner from Melbourne, Australia. She recently completed a Masters in Text and Performance at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) and Birkbeck, University of London.