Brahms Hungarian is set to Johannes Brahm’s Hungarian Dances for piano solo, played live by the estimable Jason Ridgway. The result of a visit to Hungary, Brahms' composition is heavily influenced by traditional Hungarian, particularly Gypsy music, and flows through a variety of moods and styles.
You can just see how its enrapturing rhythms, folk references, sweeping cascades, sudden stops and occasional wistfulness would appeal to Alston; and he responds with sympathy and flair.
Put simply, Alston’s Brahms Hungarian is exhilarating. Choreographed for the full company of nine, the women wear ultra-feminine, 50s-inspired dresses with tight bodices and diaphanous flower patterned skirts of the kind that dance along with their wearers. The men wear dark trousers and waistcoats over bare torsos (costumes by Fotini Dimou and Hilary Wili).
Under Zeynep Kepekli's bright and warm lighting, the dancers sweep onto the stage for pas de deux, brief solos and full ensembles, where Alston’s limpid contemporary choreographic language incorporates gestures from the Hungarian czardas, with passing references to courtly dance, responding to every accent and nuance of Brahms’ music.
In the second slow pas de deux, for example, a woman lifted by her partner dreamily soars through space as if floating unaided; further on there are a couple of humorous exchanges as solo men give way to each other; the end is a lively ensemble of meticulous coordination.
The moment it ended I longed to see it again – immediately.
The evening started with Detour, a new work by Alston’s Associate Choreographer Martin Lawrance.
Lawrance’s work is always fascinating, because having spent the better part of his career as a dancer in Richard Alston Dance Company, he has absorbed the master’s choreographic language, but made it very much his own.
The keyword for Detour could be ‘ferocity.’ Intense and possessed of a dark energy, Detour treats the encounters between its dancers as very physical confrontations. When the men lift the women, the women cling on, legs wrapped around their partners' waists, as if to gain control of the encounter.
They are adversaries more than partners. When they move at a crouch there is something of the martial arts to their progress along the floor; they dance to two pieces of percussive music (Akira Miyoshi and Jóhan Jóhansson), their clear syncopated beats adding to the disquieting atmosphere, which is enhanced by sombre, moody lighting (Zeynep Kepekli).
In between, comes work from the company’s repertoire: a collage of four pieces spanning the current century, and Alston’s 70th birthday present to the American Minimalist composer Steve Reich, Proverb, choreographed on Reich’s piece of the same name, and brought back now to mark Alston's own significant birthday.
Together they illustrate the sheer range of the Alston canon, the dance-maker’s ability to elicit so many powerful feelings in his audience, most of all pure enjoyment. It’s hard to believe this remarkable company is reaching the end of the road, with dissolution announced for 2020. If it does indeed go ahead, we’ll all be the poorer for it.
|What||Richard Alston Dance Company Review|
|Where||Sadler's Wells, Rosebery Avenue, London, EC1R 4TN | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Angel (underground)|
01 Mar 19 – 02 Mar 19, 19:30 Dur.: 2 hours 20 mins approx inc two intervals
|Price||£15-£48 (+£3 booking fee)|
|Website||Click here to book via Sadler's Wells website|