Richard Alston Company, Sadler’s Wells, London

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One of the great pleasures in watching Richard Alston’s choreography over the years has been in his realisations of the most disparate, even unlikely (until he makes dances to them) scores. His movement has remained consistent in its long, clean lines, in dynamics that shift and course subtly through the bodies of his dancers; but it has also proved highly responsive to sonority, to melodic or rhythmic development.

So, in the programme he brought to the Wells at the end of last week, he sets dances to J S Bach, to Heiner Goebbels at his most challenging, and to cheeriest Scott Joplin, and shows that he can give them flesh that is neither flabby nor deforming. The Goebbels score he uses in Red Run inspires a sometimes fraught manner, but one which ends on a mysterious pianissimo – Alston is a master at closing images that ring through the imagination.

The final grouping for his Bach study, Fingerprint, is a superb example, with two men posed in opposition (or, perhaps, isolation, or even contemplation) of the seven other dancers in the cast. I am still savouring it in memory. Fingerprint, made this year, I think one of Alston’s most notable creations. That fine pianist Jason Ridgway is placed centrally at the back of the stage. He plays Bach’s brilliantly written, and early, Capriccio and Toccata, and Alston sets his nine dancers a-dancing. The manner is elegant, unforced , eminently civilised in its statement and in the implied relationships that we see, and as the Toccata nears its end, there is a solo for Jonathan Goddard that seems a celebration both of Goddard’s grand talent and of the idea of a male dancer in today’s contemporary style. (There is an analogy with Balanchine’s solo for a man in Square Dance, that portrait of a danseur as American Prince).

Goddard boasts clarity, wit, easiest-seeming skill in the armoury of his dance-gifts, and Alston exploits them in generous and handsome fashion. Fingerprint is a joy. Goddard is a joy. The piece should surely be filmed for posterity. The programme also includes a new work from Martin Lawrance, a very gifted dancer with the troupe who has also turned to choreography. On the improbable (though he proves it entirely probable) text of a Japanese tango (by Ayuo) this Brink features three couples who move with jagged, vivid dynamics, gesturing and touching and not-touching. It is clever, original in outline, true choreography, and I want to see more of Lawrance’s dance-making. A splendid evening.
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