BWW Review: RICHARD ALSTON DANCE COMPANY - FINAL EDITION at Sadler's Wells
Richard Alston is a man who doesn't need reviews any more. With a choreographic career spanning over fifty years ("entirely lacking any strategic plan" by his own admission), there is not much that hasn't been said. Alston is also adamant that this Final Edition is a celebration and not a funeral but there are moments in his generous mixed bill that feel heavily bittersweet. With the company closing after 25 years due to funding restrictions, Alston's work could always be guaranteed to bring quality additions to the dance calendar and its absence will be sorely felt.
The opener, Bari, provides an enjoyably upbeat warm up to the main events of the programme. It features ten dancers in loose clothing, tearing across the stage, joyfully hopping, kicking and jumping their way through peaks and troughs of movement. The music, Ta Travudia, the South Italian music of Pizzica usually accompanies a traditional dance used to overcome the effect of spider bites and is mirrored in the restless choreography.
A highlight of the early offerings is Mazur, a whimsical piece set to Chopin's Mazurkas that explores the sense of longing for the familiar. It is danced with great tenderness by Joshua Harriette and Nicholas Shikkis who share a devoted bond on stage, and a fondness that never relents. The men don neat little waistcoats and riff amiably off each other, dancing together and then each delivering athletic solos. Chopin's score is gently played by Jason Ridgway, soft enough to hear the physical exertion of the dancers in a demanding but lovingly curated work. It's roots firmly based in the classical repertoire the pair cut graceful, elegant figures enjoying a friendly reunion that ends with sincere handshakes.
After an interval, the emotive impact is upped with Shine On, a London premiere that reflects Alston's feelings regarding the loss of the company. Set to the music of Benjamin Britten and sung by soprano Katherine McIndoe, it's a full company work and unapologetically proud. The dancers demonstrate their power and unity as a group here in full company sections of defiance to a score that doesn't necessarily lend itself to dance but of course they pull it off with ease. Fotini Dimou's shimmering silver costumes add some eye catching glamour too.
A Far Cry is choreographer Martin Lawrence's love letter to RADC and packed with power and a snapping panache that brings the programme to new heights. It's full of fiendishly fast duets for pairs of dancers who rush on and off again, relentlessly and repeatedly matching the required and attack and then some. It's a notable shift from Alston's more lyrical work and an exhilarating injection of adrenaline.
The final segment is given over completely to Voices and Light Footsteps. A memorable pas de deux is danced with intensity by Monique Jonas and, again Shikkis, both dancers who feature throughout the programme displaying admirable stamina, fine lines and technical skill. The females wear varying autumnal shades from icy greys to warm auburns set to music from Montiverdi and lends itself beautifully to the light footed rhythms Alston uses so well. It's a finale to wash over the audience rather than pin them to their seat.
Final Edition is predominantly a run through Alston's most recent back catalogue, and for this reason it doesn't always feel like a goodbye which makes the departure of RADC all the harder to process. As Alston embarks on freelance life at the age of 71, there is much to celebrate, in these three special performances that bring the curtain down. May as well then, just sit back and enjoy the beautifully free, heartfelt movements from passionate, musical dancers who I'm sure we'll be seeing again soon.
Image: Chris Nash
Final Edition ran at Sadler's Wells on the 7 & 8 March