A Dancing Delight

Richard Alston Dance Company, Snape Maltings, November 3.Having last having performed at Snape Maltings Concert Hall in 2004, Richard Alston and his company returned to the venue last week with a trilogy of differing dances.

Richard Alston Dance Company, Snape Maltings, November 3.

Having last having performed at Snape Maltings Concert Hall in 2004, Richard Alston and his company returned to the venue last week with a trilogy of differing dances.

The evening opened with Fingerprint, danced to live piano accompaniment by Jason Ridgway playing Capriccio in B Minor and Toccata in D Major, both by Bach. This was the newest of the pieces, first performed in Canterbury in March of this year.

Starting out with a blue theme and then changing to brown, the simple costumes of light trousers and block coloured blue and maroon tops, by Peter Todd, added to the simplicity of the piece. Not simplicity in terms of steps and choreography, but in the absence of set design - there were no curtain wings or a backdrop - special effects, or added extras you get so often with dance nowadays. This was pure contemporary dance with the emphasis given equally to the dancers and the music.

With five dancers performing Capriccio, followed by three for Toccata, it felt, at times, like watching a classical performance (perhaps because of the music chosen), thanks to the elegant way in which the dancers leapt, spun and moved as one, similar to a corps de ballet. It was all very elegant; not brash and edgy as some contemporary companies strive to be.

The second piece of the evening was About Face, this time choreographed by company dancer Martin Lawrence. Set to music, not live this time, by Marin Marais (Suite dans un Gout Etranger), the opening scenes had depth and atmosphere, due to the side lighting, which created huge shadows of the dancers on the opposite brick wall, and the dancers moving carefully and considerately to the harpsichord and cello music. In the second section, the lighting changed to directly above the stage, creating a solid blue square on the floor in which to dance. Now, the movements were frantic and hurried; in one bit, the music stopped all together, leaving the audience with just the dancers own sounds. I wasn't convinced the no-music section worked, as for me it felt like there had been a fault with the CD machine, rather than it being done deliberately.

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Then it was back to the slow, side-lit beginning with a sense of sadness as the dancers ended their piece.

And then to the piece I think most people had been waiting for: The Devil in The Detail, to music by king of ragtime, Scott Joplin. It was back to the live accompaniment by Jason Ridgway on piano, with a number of light and bright Joplin pieces danced to with precision and humour by eight of the dancers, all dressed in English summer picnic or boating attire - striped green shirts and skirts, summer dresses, and plain cream trousers.

Beforehand I'd not been able to envisage how you could put modern contemporary dance to ragtime but it worked very well, with flourishes and accents of the ragtime style of dance added in to connect it to the music, such as the girl, at the beginning, pretending to play piano for a few notes.

The last song was The Entertainer, to which the dancers paused each time the main, most well-known phrase in the music was played. I thought perhaps this was to give emphasis to the music, marking its equal importance to the dance.

Over all it was an enjoyable evening of performances, each one with their own characteristics but all 100% about the two most importance elements; dance and music.

On an individual level, Jonathan Goddard stood out as one of the best dancers. He was a joy to watch and had, I felt, more range of movement than the others. So light on his feet and with great facial expression, his solo and duet sections were the highlight of the evening, for me.

Katy Evans

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