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Richard Alston Dance Company: An Italian in Madrid review at Sadler’s Wells, London – ‘exhilarating’

Ihsaan de Banya and Jennifer Hayes in Richard Alston Dance Company – An Italian in Madrid at Sadler's Wells, London. Photo: Tristram Kenton

The latest programme from Richard Alston Dance Company is a strong combination of new work and classic Alston repertoire.

Stronghold, by associate choreographer Martin Lawrence, is stylistically Alston, but the rapidity of the steps and the attack of the dancers in their kicks and leaps is dynamically modern. Upstage, the company stand in line, watching, waiting. Groups, solos and duets break ranks and run forward, flying through space with strong, powerful movement. It’s exciting, fast and punchy, a statement that this long-standing company can still hold its own today.

Alston’s latest work, An Italian in Madrid, is based around the sonatas of Domenico Scarlatti, an Italian who found himself in Spain at the insistence of his pupil, Maria Barbara, bride to a Spanish prince. Played on stage by pianist Jason Ridgway, the sonatas’ trilling, rhythmical patterns are reflected in the skipping steps of Alston’s choreography. The work has an innocent, cheerful feel and features Vidya Patel, finalist of 2015’s BBC young dancer. The soft, gestural movements of her Kathak dance lie in contrast to the vibrant movement of the company, yet, as Patel dances with her prospective prince (Liam Riddick), their elegant, poised movement melts together in a shared, classical language.

Alston’s Mazur, a duet between two friends reminiscing over a beloved but lost homeland, accompanies these works. A sensitive, sophisticated piece, it captures the melancholy beauty of Chopin’s Mazurkas. Although a masculine competitiveness underlies the dancers’ alternating solos, their quiet showmanship simply lends to the old-fashioned charm of this piece.

Brisk Singing also makes a lively return, bursting into life with its quick steps, fleeting lines and agile jumps, the dancers seemingly suspended in the air.

Exhilarating programme that showcases its dancers at their athletic and technical best

Production Information

Richard Alston Dance Company – An Italian in Madrid
Sadler’s Wells
March 29, 2016
March 30, 2016
Press night
March 29, 2016
Julia Wolfe (Stronghold), Domenico Scarlatti (An Italian in Madrid), Frederic Chopin (Mazur), Jean-Philippe Rameau (Brisk Singing)
Artistic director
Richard Alston
Richard Alston, Martin Lawrence
Karl Oskar Sordal (lighting)/Zeynep Kepekli (lighting)/Charles Balfour (lighting)
Fotini Dimou (costume)/Jeanne Spaziani (costume)
Markus Tarasenko Fadum (lighting), Carly Hook (technical stage manager), Inca Jaakson (wardrobe supervisor), Anna Maria Genuise, Wendy Knowles, Hilary Wili (costume makers, An Italian in Madrid)
Cast includes
Ihsaan de Banya, Nicholas Bodych, Elly Braund, Jennifer Hayes, James Muller, Nancy Nerantzi, Liam Riddick, Oihana Vesga Bujan, Ryan Ledger, Sharia Johnson, Vidya Patel, Jason Ridgway (pianist)
Isabel Tamen
Running time
1hr 55mins