Review: Richard Alston’s Dance Company at the Norwich Theatre Royal

This show featured a collection of intricate contemporary dance pieces developed by Richard Alston over his fifty-year career as an award-winning dancer and choreographer. The performance was split into quarters: Mid Century Modern, Detour, Proverb and Alston’s most recent project Brahms Hungarian. Each quarter presented different styles of movement and merged classical with contemporary ballet, creating a spectacle for all to enjoy at the Norwich Theatre Royal.

Richard Alston’s Dance Company was established in 1994 and has become the UK’s most avidly followed contemporary dance company, performing the work of its artistic director Richard Alston, known as the man ‘addicted to complicated dance’, and associate choreographer Martin Lawrance. Nominated for numerous awards including Critics Circle and the Olivier Award for Best New Dance Production, Alston and Lawrance’s choreography is flawless and ground-breaking. The company of dancers are an incredibly accomplished ensemble that have been selected and trained by Alston himself, after also gaining prestigious training at schools like Rambert, the nine dancers deliver sublime technique and skill reflective of their hard work.

Mid Century Modern encapsulated a fast-paced style of movement with fast spins and turns that suggested the dancers were more animal than human. Straying from the path of tradition, the fluid technique of ballet was accompanied by clean line arm movements and gymnastic-style lifts that happened in the blink of an eye. The dancer’s demoted a pack mentality as they circled one another with intense eye-contact and moved in synch in time with the simplistic music, emphasising the impact of touch when partnered together.

The tone of Detour somewhat differed, with a beautifully poetic dance style set to operatic vocals, the opening solo performed by Monique Jonas delighted audience members with her flawless footwork, as she portrayed beauty and strength amid an empty stage. With a dramatic remix of renaissance style music, the dancers were able to move in rhythmical situations. A profound solo performance by Joshua L M Harriette held our attention in a blue tunic dress through the use of slow thoughtful movements that complimented the music and his fellow dancers.

The lyrical choreography of Proverb is one of Alston’s most telling choreographies set to the vocals of Steve Reich. It was revived for the spring/summer tour and demoted a sense of surrender with the constant swapping of partners, as well as the use of levels and floorwork. When the female dancers moved in synch, they commanded the stage with strength and unity.

Romantic and elegant in style, Alston’s masterpiece of the evening was his choreography to Brahms Hungarian, with the sublime live pianist Jason Ridgeway to accompany the dancers. Alston used a traditional approach in harmony with Brahms classical music, using classical footwork and graceful lifts that demanded precision from the company. This intricate balletic dance was designed to be beautiful, with the dancers in floral dresses and bare feet, Alston still merged his contemporary concepts, as well as hints of a Hungarian waltz, with more traditional elements.

Pioneering a new language of dance, Alston’s tour is a must see for all audiences: it was a spellbinding performance that transfixed the audience with its varied styles of movement that offered a performance to everyone’s taste. The Alston tour ends in March and the company will see its final tour in 2020 before its close.

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November 2021
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