Richard Alston Dance Company: An Italian in Madrid, Burning, Nomadic

Reviewer's Rating

The eclectic music mix spans Romany singing with urban hip-hop, the frenetic patterning of Listz’s Dante Sonata and the delicate, intricacy of eighteenth century court musician, Dominico Scarlatti. Celebrating twenty-one years as artistic director, Alston shows he is an experimentalist still. The triple sum makes for a thrilling whole. The collective theme is energy. Across a fusion of styles and culture, dance is the divining rod that seeks out commonalities. Alston’s vision is as crystal-clear now as it was in 1994.

The evening combines hot new talent with grounded grace. ‘Nomadic’ an edgy cocktail combination, features robotics, body-popping, rounded by Alston’s signature spatial lyricism, in collaboration with hip-hop choreographer and artist Ajani Johnson-Goffe. ‘Burning’ a truly electrifying piece by associate choreographer, Martin Lawrence, is sensational; worth the price of a ticket in its own right. While ‘An Italian in Madrid’ Alston’s latest work, in a playful Scarlatti riff, showcases the graceful, gestural poise of Vidya Patel, BBC Young Dancer finalist in 2015, in a perfect balance of Kathak and eighteenth century bravura; fused by the vibrant, Mediterranean designs of Fotini Dimou.

Under Alston’s twenty-one year aegis, dance is energy and energizing. He has created over forty works and his company of ten dancers clearly relish the clean-cut choreography, carving out space in a multiple series of airy jumps or graceful spins, as taut as springs; powerhouses in stamina and strength. Liam Riddick and Nancy Nerantzi are electrifying as Listz and his mistress, Marie D’Agoult, in ‘Burning’ matched as they are, sinew for sinew, in a series of desperate couplings, lifts and clutches. In ‘Nomadic’ Oihana Vesga Bugan’s effortless, vertical jumps strike a vertiginous vibe as he hovers in suspended animation. While the pulsating, repetitive, ensemble passages show stark, arrested movement with the precision timing of a Swiss watch.

‘An Italian in Madrid’ Alston’s latest work, is based around Scarlatti’s sonatas which ‘display the exotic and colourful influence of Andalusia.’ Of the three works this has a deliberate narrative arc. A youthful Scarlatti is the Italian. Spain asks for Lisbon’s hand, yet Princess Maria Barbara, an exquisite Vidya Patel, will consent only if Scarlatti goes to; thus ‘the music is born.’

The score is played on stage by Jason Ridgway, showcasing the sonatas’ complex rhythmic patterns, complemented by Alston’s compliant, and sometimes, complicit choreography. The inter-relationship between dance, movement and music is richly presented.

In sharp musical relief is the Shukar Collective’s album, Urban Gypsy, in ‘Nomadic’ using spoons, wooden barrels or darabouka to ‘create powerful and urgent sound.’ The repetitive movement as groups of dancers come together, break, fall away shows a community at odds with its self, restless, endlessly searching. It is a slow, yet evocative burn, particularly in its later stages. And if the recorded sound sets it at a distance, this is more than made up for by the dancers’ commitment and energy.

Yet the evening belongs to the dynamic, tempestuous ‘Burning’ which again features Ridgway at the piano. A Lisztomania feast up close and very personal, this is a master-class in tri-partite fusion. Dance as energy and energising force is dissected in an explosive display, as jealousy and obsession, raw in tooth and claw, vie for supremacy. It is thrilling to watch…But catch it all if you can.