Richard Alston Dance Company, Sadler’s Wells Theatre, London

Choreographers: Richard Alston, Martin Lawrance
Pianist: Jason Ridgway
Reviewer: Ann Bawtree

The evening of dance at Sadler’s Wells Theatre begins with an announcement by Richard Alston, both director and choreographer of his Dance Company. Often his inspiration is music but for the first piece to be performed, it is what he describes as “the energy and talent of these young people” of the Rambert School of Ballet and Contemporary Dance.


The audience is certainly treated to a demonstration of this in Glint, 20 minutes of exuberance to the unusual accompaniment of percussion only. The dancers form groups which dissolve, reform, break into pairs, present poses, with a grace, athleticism and military precision. The simple costumes, hardly more than practice dress, allow for the admiration of elegant lines despite some strange lighting effects. It demonstrates how traditional classical ballet training makes the contemporary art form possible.

The dancers of the company take over for the second item of the evening, Tangent, by Martin Lawrance. Un-guessable from its title, it is more a battle between the four seasons. Pairs of dancers personify each as skirts of red, orange, black or green sweep across the stage. First comes summer and a peaceful adage depicts lazy days in the sun but soon others come to make a change. Autumn whirls in a gale, spring drives all away to “birdsong” from the piano. Winter comes and all subsides, deathlike. The dancers fall, frozen, but rise to comfort each other. There are bad times and good. The seasons chase each other off but, finally, all are on stage together, a perfect depiction of British weather.

The dancers are barefoot, or with the minimum of soft footwear. Working on demi-pointe is still regarded by some as being ”not proper ballet” but the delightful softness of landings and the lack of clatter, which can spoil the illusion in Swan Lake or Giselle, is most welcome. This is especially important here as the music is the on-stage bravura performance of Jason Ridgway at the piano. This adds greatly to the occasion. What fun it would have been to have had the percussion section on stage for Glint.

Next comes Chacony to music recorded by The Chamber Orchestra of Europe and The Takács Quartet. Dancers in pairs, groups or singly, express the music of Purcell arranged by Britten. Written after a traumatic visit to the concentration camps of Europe after the Second World War, it is his expression of the triumph of the human spirit over unimaginable horror and here, translated into movement.
Chacony has no brilliant pirouettes or whirling leaps but is full of grace and hope.

The evening ends with the contrast of Gipsy Mixture. Wild gypsy dancing under lurid orange lighting is performed to painfully loud recorded music. Energetic dances sometimes fluid, sometimes robotic, include moments of street dance. Classical pas de deux are in non-balletic style, although occasionally a toe is accidentally pointed or a leg turned out. Its appeal is to the young and it is with the young that the future of dance, and everything else, resides. This fourfold bill provides for all tastes.

Runs until 17 June 2017 | Image: Chris Nash


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Provides for all tastes

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The Reviews Hub London is under the acting editorship of Richard Maguire. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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