Every so often a performer comes along whose stage presence and sheer charisma stay with us long after the performance has ended. Jonathan Goddard is one such; and his participation as a guest dancer in this 20th anniversary programme of the Richard Alston Dance Company brings an extra boost to what is already a good, at times exhilarating programme.
Goddard and the company’s own Liam Riddick are the sole performers in Mazur, Richard Alston’s latest piece which premiered on Thursday. Set to a series of Chopin mazurkas, this 15 minute duet is described by Alston himself as “a dance for two friends sharing what they love and what the feel they have lost.”
It’s constructed along the lines of a classical pas-de-deux, with an opening sequence for both dancers, followed by individual variations and a finale for both again.
Jonathan Goddard’s body is slight and neat, his movement meticulous, his lines superb. It’s the intensity of his gaze, though, his unwavering connection with his stage partner that brings his performance to quite a different level. Put simply, he is entrancing. Liam Riddick, himself an excellent dancer, responds well and the two dancers – Goddard in a blood-red satin waistcoat and Riddick in blue – are perfectly matched.
For those 15 minutes alone the evening would have been worth it.
There is, however, a lot more to this programme, most of it the kind of hugely satisfying performance we’ve come to expect from Alston and his superb dancers.
The evening starts with the high-octane Opening Gambit by the company’s Associate Choreographer Martin Lawrence. Set to Julia Wolfe’s pulsating music, this is a short piece for 10 dancers organised in groups that blend and separate, shape and reshape at high speed. It builds very much on Alston’s own choreographic language but accelerates it sometimes to vertiginous speeds. The dancers appear to relish the challenge.
Brisk Singing is a duet by Richard Alston on enrapturing music from Rameau’s Boreades. Full of sweeping movements, arms often raised to heaven, the piece communicates a sense of yearning, an almost mystical aspiration. On this occasion it was danced by two guest dancers from Michigan University who, we felt were a little colder and less expressive than the piece required.
Alston is aware of the need to create a path to the future; and to that end he has been giving choreographic opportunities to young, up-and-coming artists, some from his own company. This programme includes two such pieces, Rasengan, by Alston dancer Ihsaan de Banya and Unease by Joseph Toonga.
Rasengan is a trio for two men and a woman. It is a dark, experimental work, danced mostly to static and concrete music, again building on the style of the Master, but moving it forward. Unease is perhaps less successful, its blend of jerking hip-hop movement never quite blending well with the contemporary choreographic language Toonga appropriates.
The evening ends with Alston’s own Overdrive, to Terry Riley’s minimalist Keyboard Studies #1
It is an ensemble piece for the company’s 10 dancers, which perfectly illustrates Alston’s musicality, his ability to shape his choreography to the demands of his music, so that the two are inseparable and enhance each other.
The dancers come in groups, three women in bright red flowing pyjamas, the men in luminous grey, another set of women in grey and shocking pink. The dance, always flowing, is in fact a complicated mathematical set of point and counterpoint, meticulously crafted to fit the melodic fragments of the score.
This is a hugely entertaining programme and one that should not be missed for its variety, sheer joy, ability to engage brain and heart, and of course, the opportunity to see a splendid set of dancers with the outstanding Jonathan Goddard as a very special bonus.
Here’s to Richard Alston’s next 20 years!
|What||Alston at Home, The Place|
|Where||The Place, 17 Duke's Road, London, WC1H 9PY | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Euston (underground)|
10 Jun 15 – 13 Jun 15, 8:00 PM – 10:15 PM
|Website||Click here to book via The Place|