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Oxford Playhouse, Oxford

The extensive January-through-May Spring tour of the Richard Alston Dance Company ended at the Oxford Playhouse on 27 May this year. They are next appearing at The Place in London on 10 and 11 June. I urge you to attend if you can. If you are interested in contemporary dance this is a company to note; and if you are not, this may be the company that converts you. For me they are one of the élite dance companies in the UK.

Small scale, comprised of a troupe of ten superb dancers at the moment, the programme I saw gave me immense pleasure and kept me interested throughout. The first half, danced to Benjamin Britten’s Rejoice in the Lamb and his Hölderlin Fragments, were classic pieces, superbly controlled, danced with superb attention to detail, with movement that was elegant, elegiac and visually beautiful. The second half, with a new ballet called Burning by Martin Lawrance based on the life of Liszt and danced to Liszt’s Dante Sonata (extremely well-played by Jason Ridgway), was a passionate, seductive and very appealing example of story telling in dance; as  was a brilliant finale – Illuminations to the music of the Benjamin Britten cycle. Liam Riddick as Rimbaud and Nicholas Bodych as Verlaine were outstanding throughout the earlier parts of the evening but were especially moving and gracefully athletic in the final piece and the use of the company for context was superb.

Perhaps I respond to the company positively because in some of the dancing I detect homages to or the influence of Agnes de Mille, Jerome Robbins, George Balanchine and an American style of contemporary dance that has always appealed to me. The choreography of all these pieces was apt and memorable and at the end of the evening I simply wanted to see more. The Richard Alston Dance Company has a distinct personality created by its choreographers and dancers. I will now seek out their future work and I encourage you to consider doing the same.

  • Dance Theatre
  • Choreographers Richard Alston and Martin Lawrance
  • Director: Richard Alston and Martin Lawrance
  • Cast Includes: Nichaolas Bodych, Liam Riddick, Ihsaan de Banya, Elly Braud, Oihana Vasga Bujan
  • Oxford Playhouse, Oxford
  • 26 and 27 May 2015
  • Review by Mel Cooper
  • 29 May 2015

About The Author

Reviewer (UK)

Canadian-born Mel Cooper first came to the UK to study English Literature at Oxford University and stayed. He was captivated by the culture and history of Britain, which he found to be a welcoming and tolerant country. After working in highly illustrated, non-fiction publishing for over a decade, he founded and edited the magazine Opera Now. Since then he has worked as a consultant to the Japanese broadcaster NHK, a broadcaster on British Satellite Broadcasting, a maker of audio shows and arts critic for several airlines, and as one of the team that started Britain’s first commercial classical music radio station, Classic FM, on which he was both a classical music DJ and creator and presenter of shows like Classic America and Authentic Performance. Throughout this period, he also lectured in music and literature in London and Oxford and published short stories in Canada. After working with the Genesis Foundation on helping to fund arts projects, he continues to write, review and lecture on music and literature. His first novel has just been published as an e-book. The title is City of Dreams. It is the first volume of a projected saga called The Dream Bearers. You can find the Kindle version of the book on Amazon.

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