Grace, drama and a touch of mod­ernism

RICHARD AL­STON DANCE COM­PANY Fes­ti­val Theatre, Ed­in­burgh Four stars At Theatre Royal, Glas­gow, Novem­ber 22

The Herald on Sunday - Sunday Herald Life - - Culture - By Mark Brown

If you crossed Mar­ius Petipa, the great chore­og­ra­pher of 19th­cen­tury clas­si­cal bal­let, with Pina Bausch, the mother of avant­garde mod­ernist dance, you would be likely to get an artist very much like Richard Al­ston. An el­der states­man of con­tem­po­rary dance, Al­ston’s work is char­ac­terised by bal­letic grace and drama on the one hand, and a stark, mod­ernist ab­strac­tion on the other. The lat­est UK tour by Richard Al­ston Dance Com­pany (RADC), which opened in Ed­in­burgh and closes in Glas­gow, of­fers a su­perb win­dow into the di­ver­sity and con­ti­nu­ity of the chore­og­ra­pher’s work. En­ti­tled Mid Cen­tury Mod­ern, it cel­e­brates Al­ston’s 50 years as a cre­ator of dance works.

The show opens, ap­pro­pri­ately enough, with seven frag­ments of chore­ogra­phies cre­ated by Al­ston through­out his ca­reer, and restaged by RADC’s as­so­ci­ate chore­og­ra­pher Martin Lawrance.

These in­clude the very mod­ern, pointe­less bal­let of Rain­bow Ban­dit (1977), a mem­o­rable en­sem­ble work of dy­namic, ar­chi­tec­tural an­gu­lar­ity.

The piece owes a debt, Al­ston ex­plains, to his youth­ful stud­ies in New York, and to the work of Amer­i­can dance lu­mi­nar­ies Merce Cun­ning­ham and Tr­isha Brown in par­tic­u­lar.

This vi­gnette gives way to Blue Schu­bert Frag­ments (1972), a con­tem­pla­tive chore­og­ra­phy in which an en­sem­ble cos­tumed in mono­chrome dances in shapes that are el­e­gantly hu­man, yet gen­tly me­chan­i­cal. Set to the ada­gio from Death And The Maiden, the move­ments of the piece ap­pear in­trigu­ingly cau­sa­tional, as if one leads to the next. The pro­gramme is tes­ta­ment

to the in­spi­ra­tion Al­ston has al­ways taken from the canon of Euro­pean clas­si­cal mu­sic. In ad­di­tion to the Schu­bert, the pro­duc­tion also in­cludes pieces set to works by Mon­teverdi, JS Bach, Ravel, Han­del and Brahms.

The first of three parts of this pro­gramme, Lawrance’s homage to Al­ston’s half-cen­tury of chore­og­ra­phy, closes with Sig­nal of a Shake (1999). Danced to mu­sic by Han­del, this bal­letic piece is play­ful and quirk­ily hu­mor­ous, nod­ding re­spect­fully to folk cul­ture while its vary­ing pas-de-deux give way to a joy­ful com­pany dance.

As if we needed a re­minder of the breadth of mu­si­cal in­spi­ra­tion taken by RADC, Lawrance’s new chore­og­ra­phy De­tour is per­formed to the ex­tra­or­di­nary per­cus­sive mu­sic of the al­bum Tim­ber Remixed by Amer­i­can com­poser (and founder mem­ber of the Bang on a Can col­lec­tive) Michael Gor­don. The move­ment it­self ex­hibits an im­pres­sive ten­sion and dra­matic ur­gency.

The mod­ernist mu­sic con­tin­ues in Al­ston’s Proverb (2006), a work of gor­geous ge­om­e­try in which bod­ies com­bine with, pass and re­place each other with charm­ing and emotive poise. Its ex­quis­ite se­ries of thought­ful, verg­ing on med­i­ta­tive rep­e­ti­tions and vari­a­tions is a per­fect part­ner to the mu­si­cal com­po­si­tion (also en­ti­tled Proverb), an al­most sa­cred piece in voices and per­cus­sion by great Amer­i­can min­i­mal­ist com­poser Steve Re­ich.

If there is a sub­tle ex­pres­sion of folk cul­ture ear­lier in the pro­gramme, Brahms Hun­gar­ian, the new work which closes the show, is an unapolo­getic com­bi­na­tion of con­tem­po­rary dance with folk move­ment and im­agery. The piece, which is chore­ographed by Al­ston, is danced to Brahms’s Hun­gar­ian Dances for solo pi­ano (which are per­formed live, and splen­didly, on a baby grand by Ja­son Ridg­way).

The fe­male dancers per­form in flo­ral dresses by de­signer Fo­tini Di­mou which are clearly in­spired by the folk cos­tumes of ru­ral Mag­yar cul­ture.

As, cour­tesy of light­ing de­signer Zeynep Kepekli, the set’s naked wall goes through a se­ries of colour changes, one can’t help but muse on how con­fused this work would make the rulers of Hun­gary past and present.

The Soviet-style com­mu­nist regime that ruled the coun­try be­tween 1945 and 1989 would have wel­comed the folk el­e­ments. How­ever, they would, one sus­pects, have hated the free­dom, fe­male self­asser­tion and hu­mour of Al­ston’s mod­ernist dance.

Hun­gary’s cur­rent, in­creas­ingly fascis­tic Prime Min­is­ter, Vik­tor Or­ban, would, I’m sure, feel pretty much the same.

Pic­tures: Chris Nash

Main im­age: RADC per­forms Brahms Hun­gar­ian. Be­low: Elly Braund and Ni­cholas Shikkis in Brahms Hun­gar­ian

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.