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Richard Alston Dance Company review: this 25th Anniversary show is an impressive celebration

PUBLISHED: 10:37 23 February 2019 | UPDATED: 10:37 23 February 2019

Nicholas Shikkis, Jason Tucker and Elly Braund of the Richard Alston Dance Company. Photo: Chris Nash

Nicholas Shikkis, Jason Tucker and Elly Braund of the Richard Alston Dance Company. Photo: Chris Nash

Chris Nash

Choreographer Richard Alston's Dance Company took to the stage at the Theatre Royal in Norwich on Friday night [22 February].

Monique Jonas, Elly Braund, Melissa Braithwaite, Ellen Yilma Photo by Chris Nash of the Richard Alston Dance Company. Photo: Chris NashMonique Jonas, Elly Braund, Melissa Braithwaite, Ellen Yilma Photo by Chris Nash of the Richard Alston Dance Company. Photo: Chris Nash

As of Thursday, choreographer Richard Alston has to be addressed as ‘Sir’. He describes his inclusion in this year’s New Year’s Honours list as ‘oddly affecting’.

It’s a good time for Sir Richard. This 25th Anniversary show is an impressive celebration. It combines an informative retrospective of work with some sensational new pieces.

But there is a tinge of melancholy to proceedings. The company is soon to close, and it has been rumoured that there will be only one more visit to Norwich. Perhaps that’s the reason the programme is so packed.

First up is Crisp Rhythm. Sir Richard created the work for young performers at Ipswich based Dance East Centre for Advanced Training. It is an ensemble work of ambition, full of satisfying geometric precision. The quick shifts of direction and weight could leave these dancers wrong-footed. But they conquer complex steps to bring out the poetry.

Martin Lawrance’s Detour winds the action up to breaking point. The movements twist and stretch. These dancers look like corkscrews, then Lawrance flings them out on a stage of luminous sticks and draws them, by degrees, towards the dark.

After the interval, Quartermark brings us four short excerpts from Sir Richard’s past work. These early fragments illustrate the way the company style has developed.

Proverb is set to the music of Steve Reich and was originally performed at his seventieth birthday. The beat is relentless and dissonant. Sir Richard says it brought to mind the brave team work of artisans who built the European cathedrals in the Middle Ages. Sculptural and large in scale, the music and dance arc about, daring each other on.

Brahms Hungarian is light-hearted and full of the gypsy spirit that inspired the music. Floral print dresses and elegant lifts nod to a gentler age, laced with wit. The colours are pretty, but they are toned down and nostalgic. This picture belongs to the past.

Looking back is one thing, but what’s next for Sir Richard?

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