Review: Richard Alston Dance Company (Autumn 2016), Festival Theatre, Edinburgh



Richard Alston Dance Company

Seen at Festival Theatre, Edinburgh

At Theatre Royal, Glasgow, November 3


Reviewed by Mark Brown

Vidya Patel and Liam Riddick in An Italian in Madrid. Photo: Foteini Christofilopoulou

This autumn tour by the Richard Alston Dance Company can only enhance the group’s reputation for contemporary dance that is simultaneously stylish, virtuosic and diverse. It is comprised of seven short pieces, four of which were presented at Edinburgh’s Festival Theatre.

An Italian In Madrid is testament to an admirable gentility in Alston’s work. A narrative choreography about the lives of the Neapolitan composer Domenico Scarlatti and his student, the Portuguese princess Maria Barbara, it seems more like the stuff of classical ballet than of contemporary dance.

Given the pressure on choreographers to be “cutting edge” and “controversial”, there is something almost daring in Alston’s choice of such refined subject matter. The keyboard sonatas the Italian composer wrote for his royal pupil (which are played live by the splendid pianist Jason Ridgway) are undeniably Baroque, yet also infused with the unmistakeable passion of the Andalusian music Scarlatti encountered in Spain.

As we witness the princess’s romantic encounters with her betrothed, the Spanish prince Fernando, the music proves particularly well-suited to Alston’s graceful duets and charming solos.

The company’s programme in Glasgow (on November 3) will be somewhat different from that presented in Edinburgh. However, there are two pieces from the Festival Theatre performance, namely Alston’s Mazur and Stronghold, by the company’s associate choreographer Martin Lawrance, that will also be seen on Clydeside.

Mazur, which takes as its subject Chopin’s anguished exile from Poland, is built around expressive solos and pas de deux which reflect the solidarity of the composer and a fellow refugee.

Stronghold is a stripped back, minimalist work for five female and five male dancers. Danced to Julia Wolfe’s music (for eight double basses) of the same name, it is as invigorating in its creative use of light and shadow as it is in its energetic, well-ordered choreography.

This review was originally published in the Sunday Herald on October 2, 2016

© Mark Brown


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