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Norwich to host world premiere by Richard Alston Dance Company

PUBLISHED: 12:02 26 January 2018 | UPDATED: 17:00 01 February 2018

Cut and Run featuring Elly Braund, Ihsaan de Banya and Monique Jonas. Photo: Chris Nash.

Cut and Run featuring Elly Braund, Ihsaan de Banya and Monique Jonas. Photo: Chris Nash.

Chris Nash

The latest visit by the Richard Alston Dance Company will see them give a world premiere to the region’s audiences. Choreographer Martin Lawrance tells Simon Parkin what we can expect from his exciting new piece Cut and Run.

Cut and Run with dancers Ihsaan de Banya and Liam Riddick. Photo: Chris NashCut and Run with dancers Ihsaan de Banya and Liam Riddick. Photo: Chris Nash

With an avid following the annual visit of Richard Alston Dance Company is always an annual treat for dance fans from across the region.

For two decades the contemporary dance ensemble, led by acclaimed choreographer Richard Alston, who has been at the forefront of British dance for 45 years, and has brought some of the most innovative productions in contemporary dance, packed with superb choreography.

However their latest visit to Norwich Theatre Royal brings with it an extra treat as the programme features the world premiere of the newest piece by associate choreographer Martin Lawrance.

Cut and Run sees him take his inspiration from contrasting music by contemporary classical composers, Damian Legassick and Michael Gordon, from the Icebreaker album Terminal Velocity. Fast frenetic rhythm with a cool sombre undertone takes the dancers into a world of shadow and swift dodges.

It will feature alongside Carnaval, a new piece by Richard Alston and danced to Schumann’s beautiful and evocative piano solo of the same name, and the newly revived Alston favourite Gypsy Mixture, set to infectious Romanian and Macedonian gypsy band music mixed by DJs and artists from Chile to Frankfurt.

Martin, who first worked with Richard Alston whilst performing with the postgraduate performance group 4D, before dancing for the Richard Alston Dance Company for over a decade, has since created several works for the company, including Tangent which was performed in Norwich last year.

Martin Lawrance whose piece Cut and Run will receive its world premiere in Norwich. Photo: Hugo GlendinningMartin Lawrance whose piece Cut and Run will receive its world premiere in Norwich. Photo: Hugo Glendinning

What are the origins of Cut and Run?

I have been listening to this album called Terminal Velocity by a contemporary music group called Icebreaker for quite a few years now. In 2015 I worked with Icebreaker when they played the music for Madcap live at Sadler’s Wells. I have several of Icebreaker’s albums but I like Terminal Velocity in particular. They had eight different contemporary composers from around the world to compose pieces for them. I’ve chosen two pieces, Evol by Damian Le Gassick and the other is called Yo Shakespeare by Michael Gordon. They are very fast and very exhilarating.

What was it about those pieces in particular that inspired you?

I saw one review of the album in a Boston newspaper that described it as undanceable. I beg to differ, I find them so danceable. They are full of texture and really complex rhythms which for me is incredibly exciting. In rehearsals the dancers are really finding the rhythms and they are flying through the space.

Carnaval danced by Nicholas Bodych and Elly Braund. Photo: Chris NashCarnaval danced by Nicholas Bodych and Elly Braund. Photo: Chris Nash

Why did you choose the title Cut and Run?

It’s been through a couple of title changes. The more I get into the piece the more I discover what is really important about it. With Cut and Run I feel that I’ve come up with a title that really suits it. I am still discovering the piece. We’re about 30 minutes into completing it with about another six or seven to choreograph. So for me this is the point where it gets exciting. You have to start making tighter decisions, having to think what do I want the audience to see? What do I want them to get?

Is there a particular narrative or theme to the piece?

There are no narratives but there is for me a feeling all the way through. There is something sinister within it. But it is not doom and gloom. It’s all about the music and the way that it keeps changing from one rhythm to the next.

Dancers Ihsaan de Banya and Jennifer Hayes in Gypsy Mixture. Photo: Chris NashDancers Ihsaan de Banya and Jennifer Hayes in Gypsy Mixture. Photo: Chris Nash

At what stage do you start to work with the costume and lighting designers?

The costumes are already done. I have again worked with a Filipino fashion designer Jeffrey Rogador on what is his second collaboration with the company [the pair previously collaborated on Tangent]. I met Jeffrey when I made three pieces in the Philippines for Ballet Manila. They are fantastic, all gold, black and silver. They are quite urban. Although he does couture, he does a lot of street wear too. For the lighting I’m working with Zeynep Kepekli, who I have worked with a couple of times before. We will actually be lighting the piece for the first time the day before the premiere at Norwich Theatre Royal. That will be the point when I’ll either go ‘yes, fantastic’ or I’ll want to run a mile!

So when the curtain goes up in Norwich it really will be the first time anyone has seen it fully performed?

Yes it really will be. It’ll be exciting but also the start of the journey. No doubt as the tour goes on it’ll start to breathe. Art is living and I’m not the type of choreographer who just goes ‘ok, done that’. I like to keep working on. But the Norwich audience will get the excitement of seeing its premiere. But I can’t do anything about it once the curtain goes up. That is when it becomes the dancers’ baby.

Carnaval with dancers Elly Braund and Liam Riddick. Photo: Chris NashCarnaval with dancers Elly Braund and Liam Riddick. Photo: Chris Nash

Does Cut and Run involve the whole company?

Yes I am using all 10 dancers; five women and five men. Actually all three pieces in this Norwich programme do use pretty much the whole company. Sometimes we have a smaller piece in the middle, but this year Carnaval, Richard’s new work, also has 10 dancers and we are bringing back Gypsy Mixture, a Richard Alston classic from 2004, which I was in originally and I’ve taught the whole company the piece, and that features nine dancers. There is no respite for anyone and all three pieces are tough on the dancers too, so they’ve been working on their stamina.

Will the music be performed live?

Richard’s piece Carnaval features our fantastic pianist Jason Ridgway performing Richard Schumann. We like to include at least one that is played live. The music for Cut and Run has 13 instruments so that would be tricky to tour. The good thing is that I love the recorded music. I’ve heard live performances of Yo Shakespeare by Michael Gordon but this version that we are dancing to is absolutely amazing.

Liam Riddick and Monique Jonas in Gypsy Mixture. Photo: Tom BowlesLiam Riddick and Monique Jonas in Gypsy Mixture. Photo: Tom Bowles

When you listen to music are you constantly thinking about whether you could interpret it into dance?

Yes, pretty much so. When I’m listening to it I can start to think ‘oh that middle section would be great for movement A’ or ‘that would be a great solo section’. I like to listen to a piece of music for at least three or four months before I start choreographing to it. The music needs to be inside me before I can start to use it with other dancers.

This programme is incredible diverse musically. Is that important?

That is what Richard likes to have in an evening. When we are programming in advance we often say we can’t have those together as they are too similar. Let’s try this combination instead. This year I think we have found a combination that really works. It’s quite an eclectic mix but one that offers something for everyone.

• Richard Alston Dance Company are at Norwich Theatre Royal on February 2-3, 7.30pm, £21.50-£7, 01603 630000, theatreroyalnorwich.co.uk

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