Reviewer: Natasha Hegarty
Richard Alston’s classic-contemporary style, using music as driving force for movement in his choreography, is always exciting to watch. As one of the UK’s most celebrated choreographers, he began his career training at London School of Contemporary Dance and finally in 1994 he took up residency at The Place where he formed Richard Alston Dance Company.
The company presents four contrasting pieces in their new show, Rejoice in the Lamb, Holderlin Fragments, Burning and Overdrive which together form an impressive collection.
Opening the show is Rejoice in the Lamb, which is based on Christopher Smart’s poem and is set to Benjamin Britten’s cantata. The 18th century poet was susceptible to bouts of religious mania and was eventually incarcerated into an insane asylum for his manic episodes.
Rejoice in the Lamb is a refreshing look at insanity. Rather than ferocious madness you might expect from the subject matter, Alston takes it a different way altogether. Nicholas Bodych as Smart weaves in and out of all the other dancers who stop him in his tracks, forcing him into different directions, but in parts, the chorus dancers have a calming effect with their long lines and outstretched arms giving it an innocence. This feeling is helped along by Peter Todd’s light and beautiful costumes, which again contrast the subject matter.
Holderlin Fragments is inspired by another troubled poet, Friedrich Holderlin and is set again to music by Britten. In contrast to the opening dance, this is much more charming to watch. It has much cleaner lines and there is a simple beauty to the movement. It is a step up in regards to tempo from Rejoice in the Lamb but despite the inspiration, the dance is neither harsh nor offensive.
Burning, choreographed by Martin Lawrence and inspired by Franz Liszt’s Dante Sonata, is the highlight of the show. It is based around Liszt and his love affair with Countess Marie D’Agoult. The dancers connect, there’s passion and aggression and the interactions between Liszt and, D’Agoult (danced by Liam Riddick and Nancy Nerantzi) are beautiful and stunning. Joined onstage by pianist Jason Ridgeway, the dancers are dragged into the music even further and is the itome of music as the driving force to movement.
Burning is a hard act to follow, but the finale piece, Overdrive delivers. Set to music by Californian composer, Terry Riley, Overdrive is energetic and every section of the piece is a joy to watch. The dancers connect to the music perfectly; it forms a complete contrast to Rejoice in the Lamb. The strip lighting around the perimeters of the stage and the black backdrop give a feeling of infinite space. It is a basic set but is dramatic and perfect for the piece. Overdrive is an impressive finish to an evening of a wonderful selection of works by the company.
What really stands out is the difference in quality between the first and last piece. The level of performance, choreography and energy is clear but the show could open with a stronger piece to make an even bigger impact.
Picture: Chris Nash | Runs until 2nd October.