Reviewer: E. Whitcroft
British dance would be different without Richard Alston. From Rambert (he was artistic director from 1986 to 1992) to The Place and London Contemporary Dance School: traces of his influence are everywhere. One of the first British choreographers to experiment with everyday movement and multi-media; he also took dance outside the proscenium arch and from early on his dancers performed in galleries and outdoors.
Perhaps it is this spirit of adventure which has meant that, even after over 40 years of creating, Alston pursues a relentless touring schedule: Germany and the US in addition to the UK regional tour which has now found its way to Exeter’s Northcott Theatre.
Isthmus Remix and Holderlin Fragments exemplify Alston’s characteristic choreographic style of curving bodies and detailed footwork. While Isthmus Remix is performed to music by the Japanese classical composer, Jo Kondo Isthmus, it is a work which has been constantly evolving with Alston returning to develop it since its first performance in 2012. Building from the original duet he has added dancers to create a piece of angular syncopation. While Isthmus Remix restrains emotion in a vision of minimalism, Holderlin Fragments’ use of Britten’s song-cycle (taken from Holderlin’s fragmentary and despairing words) creates something more explicitly lyrical. Martin Lawrance’s Tangent closed the evening with a delightfully deconstructed vision of the tango; twisting hips and matador arm movements fuelling the current of sexual passion and flirtatious play that runs throughout the piece.
An Italian in Madrid and Dutiful Ducks were the highlight of the evening; disparate in style and tone they demonstrated the eclecticism that has been a constant in Alston’s work. In An Italian in Madrid Alston’s choreographic fluid musicality comes to the fore. Set to the music of Scarlatti and using fleet footwork and joyful, ecstatic dancing the piece’s loose narrative centres around the composer’s journey from Naples to Lisbon to teach a young Portuguese princess and her courtship with a Spanish prince. Curtsies, courtly bows, fluttering interweaving movements and a detailed geometric patterning make this piece a feast for the senses. Substantial yet light as gossamer, Fotini Dimou’s costumes reinforce the colourful yet delicate Baroque music. Vidya Patel as the princess is regal and statuesque while Nancy Nerantzi shines as one of the ladies attendants.
As does Liam Riddick in Dutiful Ducks a stark angular solo set to a text-sound piece by Charles Amirkhanian. Riddick’s sharply articulated limbs slice through the sounds of repeated words without meaning creating a sense of compelling robotic mastery.
Reviewed on 14 March 2017 | Image: Jane Hobson