Over Saturday 7th and Sunday 8th March, Richard Alston Dance Company performed Final Edition, the companies last performance after 25 years as a staple of the British Contemporary Dance scene. The company will be closing due to a reduction in Arts Council funding, and Alston, as committed to making work as ever, will now begin a free-lance career at the age of 71. The programme took the form of six works, old and new, broken up generously over two intervals, each a culmination of Alston’s neoclassical, musically-married style. A perfectly programmed final show and warm, veteran audience made the evening a real tribute to Alston’s accomplishments in dance.
The evening opened with a specially curated piece for ten students of London Contemporary Dance School. Bari, a short playful piece set to pizzica folk music, brought out in bent and bowed gestures and courtship pairings. The young dancers pass in and out of lines and pairings with broad, clean lines and visible projection. It felt fitting that the show should open with a stamp of Alston’s legacy-leaving on the future generation of Contemporary dancers.
Next on the programme is Isthmus and Mazur – two pieces from the Alston repertoire. Mazur is really a trio between the two dancers, Joshua Harriette and Nicholas Shikkis, and pianist Jason Ridgway. It takes the form of a series of duet and solo dances which display the elegant virtuosity of the three performers – nothing to hide behind. With the grand piano placed onstage and the dancer’s in suit trousers and waistcoats, the piece has the feel of 19th century high society – three males showcasing their talents after a dinner, with well-mannered charm and affability. Nodded to in the musically-cued bow that ends each section of this piece.
The second half opens with the UK premiere of Shine On. Accompanied by pianist Jason Ridgway and the powerful soprano vocals of Katherine McIndoe which gives the piece at times a haunting quality. Her presence onstage heightening the emotional atmosphere of each section. A highlight of the new work included an intimate duet performed by Niall Egan and Joshua Harriette. The two bodies weave intricately around each other with sensitivity and effortless flow. This piece is opened and rounded off to a rallying full-company dance as “let the florid music praise…” is sung.
Martin Lawrance’s A Far Cry is an enlivening new work to end the second half. Fast, darting exits and entrances make for a visually-dynamic piece. The dancer’s run and glide into whipped turns and lifts, punctuated by sharp stillness’ in a poised crouch or lunch. Females are lifted in spikey, a la second positions and flung with velocity into spinning lifts – always retaining signature Alston composure.
Finally, the evening closed with Voices and Light Footsteps – a new work set to Monteverdi, which embodies the passion, lust and sensuality of the music’s Renaissance backdrop. Dressed in silk dresses of varying orange hues, the female’s shone in this piece, exuding passionate, powerful energy as they laced through proud, virtuosic sequences. With solos from Monique Jonas and strong duet work around full group sections. Young apprentice dancer, Alejandra Gissler, an alumni of LCDS, also stood out with her technical proficiency, maturity, and exuberant stage-presence.
Whilst a bitter-sweet occasion, the evening was truly a joyous celebration of the Richard Alston Company’s enormous accomplishments. The dancers were each of them beautiful and technically faultless, all no doubt with exciting careers ahead of them. The choreography enriching the music, as Alston has always done so well. Final Edition was the perfect finale to affirm the Alston Companies’ position in dance history.