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Richard Alston Dance Company review at Sadler’s Wells, London – ‘a rewarding celebration’

Richard Alston: Mid Century Modern at Sadler's Wells, London. Photo: Tristram Kenton
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It’s been 50 years since contemporary dance doyen Richard Alston made his first work. Mid Century Modern is a fine celebration of the choreographer’s output, showcasing recent pieces and early Cunningham-inspired excerpts from dances over five decades.

The opener, Cut and Run, (which premiered last month) is a full-on affair. Dancers in dark gauzy garb swirl and scurry to a strident score by Michael Gordon and Damian LeGassick. Blasts of panpipe, tuba and something like the scream of a broken intercom induce the urge for Ibuprofen, but the dancers dazzle with arrowing limbs and the nervy energy of a supple springbok herd.

2017’s Carnaval, set to Schumann (played with elan by onstage pianist Jason Ridgway), dramatises the temperate and tempestuous sides of the composer’s nature amid some waltzing revelry. An homage to Frederick Ashton, it sands off the softness of the latter’s curvaceous classicism in favour of more bloodless Alstonian flat palms, straight arms and low dipped arabesques. Though it lacks a little in wit and charm, it’s engaging nonetheless, with a superb performance from Liam Riddick, who scuds effortlessly through terre a terre steps.

Riddick also shines in 1982’s Dutiful Ducks, a solo (originally made for Michael Clark) in which precise, propulsive kineticism is mapped onto the consonantal play of Charles Amirkhanian’s text composition.

Other highlights include an exuberant burst of 2004’s Gypsy Mixture (featuring authoritative London Contemporary Dance School student performances from Sebastien Kapps and Madeleine Millar) and a dreamy, Debussy-set solo for kathak dancer Vidya Patel.


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Rewarding celebration of Richard Alston’s half-century of choreography features standout dancing from Liam Riddick