The performance at the Richmond Theatre included pieces Mazur, Burning and Brisk Singing, as well as a preview of Alston’s latest creation, Espresso Vivace. Each piece had its own style and story, but all of them held an intense connection to the music, whether recorded or played live. Alston is renowned for his intuitive focus on music and how he interprets this through dance. Seeing his company’s performances definitively affirmed the reputation.
Mazur was choreographed by Alston using Chopin’s Mazurkas. Two men share the stage, moving with grace, precision and a sense of quest; longing for something they’ve lost. Playing off each other’s energy beautifully, Nicholas Bodych and Liam Riddick evoked a sense of togetherness as well as a sense of loss. Alston made the piece as a tribute to Chopin’s homeland, Poland, a place he and his friends could not return to. The dance does not tell this story, but is rich with longing and loss.
Associate choreographer Martin Lawrance created Burning, a fiery dance that uses the music of Franz Liszt and Dante Sonata to embody the passion that blossomed in Liszt through his relationship with a young Countess, Marie D’Agoult. Liszt was loved by many women and the Countess herself was married, but they had a burning desire for one another and a tumultuous affair. Lawrance has made a dance which holds this story, but doesn’t tell it, focusing instead on the evocation of burning love and desire which is heard in Liszt’s music. It is a truly hot-blooded performance that also establishes a deep connection to the music.
Brisk Singing is another of Alston’s dances, re-staged by Lawrance using the music of Jean-Philippe Rameau from the opera Les Boreades. It is wonderfully playful and uplifting, leaving the audience elated. Alston’s talent lies in his ability to evoke such a strong emotional response through the movement onstage. It is so intrinsically connected to the music, as if one doesn’t exist without the other. As a pure interpretation of the sound that you hear, the dances are anything but simplistic and instead feel infinitely layered with the expressive and emotional notes of the composer and the dancers themselves.
The ensemble of dancers work seamlessly together, moving with such passion and grace, it is addictive to watch. Whether solos, duos or ensemble dancing, you would find it incredibly hard to take your eyes off the stage. What it is that the audience is seeing is a pure love for dance and music, and the natural marriage of the two together. The preview of Espresso Vivace to begin the performance shows that Alston has not lost any of his playfulness with music and movement and is always finding fresh ways of seeing the relationship between the song and the dance. It will be fascinating to see what comes out of this new work.
Alston choreographed his first dance in 1968 and since has made over 100 dances. This season showed his unwavering love of dance and eagerness to play with the possibilities of what music inspires. Moving from London, to regional areas in the United Kingdom, to places all over the world, if there is an opportunity to see the RADC’s work, it should be taken without hesitation.
The autumn tour of the Richard Alston Dance Company has now concluded, but the company will be performing again come February.