Richard Alston’s Dance Company is a UK based contemporary dance company that tours the country with a truly breath-taking repertoire of performances. They have returned to the Norwich Theatre Royal with a full programme including the World Premiere from the company’s Associate Choreographer, Martin Lawrence.
Premiering in Norwich, Lawrence’s Cut and Run was an interesting piece that incorporated a magnitude of different artist features that set it aside from the rest of the programme. The black urban yet refined costumes glittered beautifully in the light, thanks to the gold trim and the superb use of lighting, creating a glimmer of hope in an otherwise dark piece.
This was contrasted by the use of sudden silence within the performance, which was as powerful as the pace of the music throughout. It threw the audience into a state of shock and awe as the performers paused, and the sound of their movements across a starkly lit stage allowed us to finally take a breath before being again thrown back into the rush of the exhilarating dance.
Lawrence’s creative collaboration with an expert team of lighting and costume designers has led to Cut and Run being a truly seamless and mesmerising piece that did not disappoint.
The show also featured Alston’s newest dance, Carnival, performed to Schuman’s piece of the same name. Schuman’s influence on the piece is clear to see, as the complexity of the dance is echoed in the music, and vice-versa. A lovely part of this performance was the fact that the pianist, positioned on stage, begun to play before the curtain rose, contributing to the sense of grandeur of the event. In addition, the somewhat traditional costumes and elegant dance made this a truly graceful performance that reminded us of the high-culture of classical music.
Whilst traditional in appearance, Alston’s Carnival is a truly exquisite piece that also appeared to break some moulds. There was a moment where we saw the dancers in two lines and partnering up, forming three traditional male-female couples and two same-sex couples, where both genders carried out roles of lead and follower. Possibly interpreted as challenging the boundaries of dance and gender stereotypes, regardless of Alston’s decision being of technical or political influence it certainly stood out and allowed the audience to interpret it themselves.
The show finished with Gypsy Mixture, a newly-revived, energetic and colourful production that gave a real sense of vibrancy to the programme. Inspired by the way travelling communities pick up influences that feed into their own unique styles of dance and music along the way, we get a real sense of fun from this upbeat piece. It shows that Alston’s company has been on a journey itself from when it first premiered over a decade ago.
Once again, Richard Alston curated a truly remarkable set of cotemporary dances that seem to push their own boundaries and encapsulate the audience, drawn into the performance truly mesmerised by the dancers.
While it can be difficult to identify any single dancer who stands out in such a strong company, both Ihsaan De Banya and Jennifer Hayes appeared to shine brighter than their colleagues. Nicholas Shikkis, with an unmatched performance in Carnival, is also one to watch.
With such a varied, energetic and beautiful repertoire, Richard Alston shows no sign of slowing down. Carnival is no less than his 140th piece, and this February will mark exactly half a century since he choreographed his very first production. With this Spring’s programme, it is clear that we are sharing the celebration with Alston and his company, particularly with the revival of Gypsy Mixture as one of Alston’s “happiest inventions in all those fifty years”.
It’s fair to say we have been spoilt in this fine city with such a display of fine art.