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Review of Richard Alston Dance Company at Royal & Derngate, Northampton

Despite having watched Strictly Come Dancing since Len Goodman almost had hair, dance is a generally rarely tapped area for me at the theatre. I have seen a very select few and been impressed by some University contemporary work, been amused by our own home grown Strictly and been generally bored by some ballet. However at the high recommendation of the blogging supremo The Real Chrisparkle, I found myself in the Derngate auditorium watching the Richard Alston Dance Company.

My actual evening had started an hour before the main show was to begin, as I sat in on a very interesting pre-show talk from Richard Alston himself. He guided us through the four pieces that were to be performed on the evening and I have to say that the background stories did help a great deal in appreciating the stories the dances were telling.

Our four pieces performed in order were Rejoice in the Lamb, Isthmus Remix, Tangent and An Italian in Madrid. Each of the pieces were choregraphed by Richard Alston, with the exception of Tangent, which was the work of Martin Lawrance. I have to say that rather awkwardly, considering the name of the show, my favourite piece was that by Lawrance. Much of this though was down to personal preference rather than necessarily quality, as the Argentine Tango is one of my favourite dances. It was of course different to many Argentine dances I have seen before on my main staple Strictly, not least that there was like all the other routines, an added contemporary and ballet flair to the proceedings. However despite that, the familiar were there, including those ganchos. However it was gentler and subtle, with each of the eight performers creating the "four seasons" sweeping piece expertly. This was also the first of two pieces in the evening that had present on stage the brilliant Jason Ridgway on piano, and without question the performance benefited from this live music.
Rejoice in the Lamb (Nicholas Bodych and full company). Photo: Chris Nash
The opening piece of the evening Rejoice in the Lamb was a world of weird of dance, creating from the words of poet Christopher Smart the bizarre, but fascinating adventures of his cat Jeoffry, and the mouse. the ever so brave creature of "personal valour". Set to Britten's music, this piece from Alston was hotfoot from a performance in New York, it was a powerful opening to the evening, despite for myself, as already acknowledged much better to come.
Rejoice in the Lamb (Marianna Krempeniou, Liam Riddick, Oihana Vesga Bujan, Nancy Nerantzi and Elly Braund).
 Photo: Chris Nash
The second piece Isthmus Remix was a brief but gloriously dynamic piece which I greatly enjoyed. Having watched and not really enjoyed the soft balletic approach at times, this being a much more aggressive, impulsive style was a much more captivating affair. Also at the interval, the attire worn by the performers, allowed my companion on the night to comment on how particularly impressive the gentlemen's bottoms were. My comment that there was a lack of gender equality present, due to the excessive length of the ladies tops was the best reply I was able to offer in reply. So much for my attempt at this being a serious review.

The final performance of the evening, An Italian in Madrid offered quite a diverse style with the introduction of Kathak as performed by Vidya Patel, this Indian style dance offered a fascinating contrast to everything else we had seen from the evening. It culminated the evening perfectly as Patel as the Princess and Liam Riddick as the Prince effectively had a dance off against one another to impress. It was beautifully performed and was at curtain call, rightfully acknowledged as a highlight of the evening.
An Italian in Madrid (Liam Riddick and Vidya Patel).
Photo:Jane Hobson
All of the dancers were exemplary in their own right, however a few stood out within the brilliance. Obviously with their Madrid routine, Vidya Patel and Liam Riddick almost stole the night, however my two favourites which the eye always seemed to rest on were Oihana Vesga Bujan and Ihsaan de Banya, the latter obviously possessing tremendous strength while channeling it perfectly to be so tremendously gentle at times. Bujan offered much the same, but also for me, so much emotion into the pieces, captivating at all times. These are however my personal favourites from a group that offered no weak performances in any way.

On top of the routines themselves, the staging was expertly handed, with the Derngate stage stripped right back to its visible edges and never having looked so large. All we had were the lights either side of the stage and a large expanse of area for the performers to create the work upon. It was perfect, and allowed for no distractions from the main event.

So an excellent evening of diverse dance which I think everyone would garner something from, even if one piece is not for you. Inventive, delightfully performed and also extremely calming, which is just a wonderful thing at times. I shall call it for a potential quote, a magnificent potpourri of dance!

★★★★


Performance reviewed: Tuesday 4th September, 2016 at the Royal & Derngate (Derngate), Northampton.

The Richard Alston Dance Company performed at the Royal & Derngate on 
Tuesday 4th and Wednesday 5th, September, 2016 and continue their tour into 2017. Details of dates and locations can be found at http://www.richardalstondance.com/

For further details visit the Royal & Derngate website at http://www.royalandderngate.co.uk/





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