Richard Alston Dance Company at Festival Theatre Edinburgh is not only a seamless example of how music and dance can merge together, but also how the music itself can be given a physical representation on stage.
Four works were presented on stage tonight, two choreographed by Richard Alston, and two by associate choreographer Martin Lawrance.
Starting the evening off, “An Italian In Madrid”, the Italian in the title being composer and court master of music Domenico Scarlatti who tutored the very talented Princess Maria Barbara at the Royal Court in Lisbon and at her request moved with her to Spain when she married a Spanish Prince.
This wonderfully fluid piece mixes the sounds of Scarlatti’s Baroque music with the Andalusian music sounds his new home introduced him to with dance formed from the languages of Spanish and North Indian classical Kathak together, and taking the inspired move to cast the hugely talented Vidya Patel as the Princess, the result is something very special to both listen to and watch.
All of this performance was brought into glorious colour and texture by the inspired costume design of Fotini Dimou
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Second in the programmes, “Mazur”. An interesting work set to the music of Chopin and based on an encounter between Chopin and a friend while he was in Paris and exiled from returning to Poland although neither of the two male dancers in this piece are representing either Chopin or his friend.
Based firmly on the sounds and movements of Polish Mazurka dance, this piece is a fine example of how to create something that is new, but at the same time keeps very traditional elements at its core.
Third performance “Stronghold” is choregraphed by Martin Lawrance and set to the music of Julia Wolfe who composed the work for eight double basses. Through a collage of fluid movement with sharper more angular movements we examine in this piece the concepts of what a “Stronghold” can represent both as a defensive structure or group of people.
Last, but by no means least, the wonderful “Tangent” choreographed again by Martin Lawrance. This work was getting its world premiere tonight (and was also supported by The Festival Theatre). Taking its passion and influences from Argentinian Tango, this work in wonderful expressive language tells the story of each couple as they dance together. For someone like myself who loves those classic Hollywood musicals, this was just a slice of the power and grace of Gene Kelly and Cyd Charisse brought back to life on stage before us. A bit like a fluid memory once more given form, and a large part of that credit has to go not only to the dancers, but costume designer Jeffrey Rogador.
Richard Alston has a company of hugely talented and intuitive dancers around him who seem to naturally understand whatever dance language he (and Martin) are talking to them in and how to express that language to the full. Also, very important to the feel of the evening was the piano playing of the very gifted Jason Ridgway.
Richard Alston was also giving a pre-show talk, and it was a pleasure to just spend 45 minutes or so just listening to someone who not only still has such enormous passion for music and dance and the way that both speak to him as a combined language, but also someone who can convey that passion to an audience in very simple language. Richard’s passion for what he does speaks far louder than anything else about him.
For further information on everything about Richard Alston Dance Company visit
Review by Tom King