An oft-used metaphor springs to mind when watching the Richard Alston Dance Company perform: and that is of the duck on water. On the surface, the dancers glide, with each pose, expression and leap appearing deliciously effortless. You leave, however, knowing that you have just witnessed a performance that is, amongst other things, an absolute tour-de-force in the beauty of accuracy.
That is not to say, however, that accuracy is boring. Over the total of two hours and fifteen minutes, the company manages to explore multiple types of dance, with elements of costume, music and lighting providing a varied (if at times disjointed) experience. The opening number of brilliant live pianist, Jason Ridgway, is Chopin and a scene in Naples comes to life, with Neapolitan Women dressed in gorgeous, flowing layered dresses enticing and being enticed by young men. It felt young, fresh, fun, and timeless.
Such explosions of colour and music with perfectly synchronised dance against a black background made the piece feel vast, which often works very well. However, call me a heathen, but the mind did tend to wander at times as the piece played out like a lullaby. In these moments, it was, however, enjoyable to watch the dancers simply appreciate each other, with seductive choreography seeing other dancers sit and watch each other providing a nice touch.
It was examples like the above that meant the whole performance worked so well. The details often count, with facial expressions and small twitches of the fingers and joints making a vast difference. A particular mention here must go to Vidya Patel, whose Indian dancing was simply stunning and an absolute highlight. It was here that deft twitches of the hand and an absolute mastery of the style were a delight to watch and utterly captivating. For such a young age, Patel is formidably talented.
Despite having seen a fair bit of varied dance over past months, it was through watching this performance that I realised that men scarcely have a chance to dance together as a pair. ‘Mazur’, led by dancers Liam Riddick and Nicholas Bodych, held strength in its ambiguity, with the two dressed in suits looking like big city lawyers or bankers blowing off steam at the end of the day. I mean that as a great compliment – the performance was intimate and likeable as well as technically brilliant, and again joyous in its boyish simplicity.
The second half of the performance was grittier and more abject, with bright white lights from all sides and rigging providing a background stripping back all formality and flourish entirely. The set benefitted Ihsaan de Banya as he conveyed a borstal and animalistic story – with, again, a technical and artistic brilliance that felt free and earthy but absolutely precise simultaneously. The rest of the pulsing, angry troupe, accompanied by grand, freaky cello sweeps, created an atmosphere of gang-like and rebellious fear. It was simply breathtaking, with the dancers’ ability to change from a composed baroque scene to a post-apocalyptic whirlwind emphasising their true talents and versatility.
Seeing the company perform was a varied delight. Seeing dancers effortlessly command the stage at the same time as appreciating each other was highly enjoyable and at times even overwhelming. Although the differences in dancing styles was perhaps a little disjointed, the performance is a universally appealing must for lovers of all types of dance.
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