Richard Alston is clearly a master in contemporary dance. The Richard Alston Dance Company graced Norwich for only two nights, but certainly made a more lasting impact than that short space of time would suggest. The performance is divided into three separate themes which each style of dancing pertains to. The music in these different stages comprises a broad spectrum: from Steve Reich to Mozart and Norwich-born Benjamin Britten.
The dances are, in essence, simplistic; the dancers appeared to move freely, unconstrained, their movements as seamless as the transitions in the accompanying music. Roughcut is danced to Steve Reich’s New York and Electric Counterpoint for clarinet and guitar, which, although haunting, was also extremely repetitive. This point may seem more a criticism of the music than the choreography, but this sense of repetition extends itself to the point where many of the movements constantly reoccur. This is, however, a minor complaint. Alston’s motive in constructing Roughcut came from the vivacity of the dancers he was working with; a vitality that was clearly displayed. The title is equally indicative: the dancers movements were rough cut and casual.
This casual habit worn by the dancers tends to the more balletic and formal dancing in the second movement: Unfinished Business, where Mozart’s K.533 is introduced. Here, the choreography achieved a higher level of visual performance. Though the duets were not particularly engaging (and this rings true for all of the acts) the solo and group dances were masterfully wrought. The movements were fluid and the music complementary. The solo dance by the artful Liam Riddick, accompanied only by a pianist, is one to watch out for.
The performance concluded with the crescendo of A Ceremony of Carols choreographed to the nativity-inspired music of Benjamin Britten. Again, the group dances and solos were fantastically executed. Perhaps the mock crucifix that appeared onstage with no apparent function was slightly vulgar; suggesting the audience, without this visual prop, would be unable to comprehend the theme. But this complaint is not strong enough to mar an otherwise perfect performance by a reputable dance company. Quite simply, the Richard Alston Dance Company maintain a level of professionalism whilst mesmerising their audience: a combination that is hard to find elsewhere.