Choreographers: Richard Alston, Martin Lawrance
Reviewer: Scott Matthewman
Celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, the Richard Alston Dance Company is now touring with a selection of routines both old and new. The four routines performed (of the seven that form the body of this tour’s repertoire) combine new routines with some older material, with patchy levels of success.
New work Rejoice in the Lamb is a representation of a cantata by Benjamin Britten drawing on the writings and troubled life of 18th century poet Christopher Smart. Prone to bouts of depression and religious mania, Smart’s closest relationship ended up being with his cat, who ended up accompanying him into a mental asylum. And so here, Nicholas Bodych’s Smart is at his most expressive and his most romantic when frolicking with the feline Ihsaan De Banya. Elsewhere, though, there is a sense of detachment, a lack of emotional entanglement with what could have been an intense and passionate subject matter. When performed at Sadler’s Wells, the young dancers were accompanied by a live choir: shorn of that accompaniment, the routine seems polite and sanitised.
Duet Unfinished Business, first performed in 2011, is more successful. To a solo piano sonata by Mozart, dancers Elly Braund and James Muller draw out a tale of power at play, a couple struggling to establish the rules of engagement. Strength and fluidity mark the piece, with a sense of coherence and flow that Rejoice lacks.
Alston’s associate choreographer and protege Martin Lawrance has devised Burning, which captures the wild romanticism of composer Franz Liszt and the plethora of women who fell under his spell. Liam Riddick’s Liszt is wild, sensuous and seductive, his dalliances with women illustrated by fiery duets. As Marie, the young Countess smitten with lust for Franz but who ultimately could not live with his promiscuity, Nancy Nerantzi makes for a tragic, compelling figure.
The final piece of the evening is a revival of Alston’s Overdrive, first performed in 2003. Where the previous three pieces are brooding and intense, albeit with varying levels of success, composer Terry Riley’s relentlessly percussive rhythms demand mathematical precision from the entire company of dancers. And while that may imply a more clinical choreography, Alston instead derives pure joy from a troupe that one second is working in unison, the next breaking away into small groups and solos before rejoining in perfect synchronisation once more. Despite being twelve years old, it remains fresh and inspiring.
Reviewed on 5th February and on tour