Richard Alston Dance Company

Sep 27 2014 | By More

✭✭✭✭✩   Contrasting delights

Edinburgh Festival Theatre 26 Sept 2014 – & tour

In a series of contrasting pieces, the Richard Alston Dance Company offer a dynamic programme that both delights and wonders.

Rejoice in the Lamb Nathan Goodman, Marinna Krempeniou, Ihsaan de Banya. Photo: Chris Nash

Rejoice in the Lamb: Nathan Goodman, Marinna Krempeniou, Ihsaan de Banya. Photo: Chris Nash

First up and receiving its Scottish premiere, Richard Alston’s own Rejoice in the Lamb gives movement to the work of troubled 18th century poet, Christopher Smart. Set to a 10 part cantata by Benjamin Britten, the piece captures Smart’s religious fervour and embodies both darkness and playfulness.

Nicholas Bodych, as Smart, is separate from the rest of the ensemble, who in places stalk on to the stage with menacing undertones. Yet, he is never entirely separate and weaves among them. Zeynep Kepekli provides exquisite lighting effects that perfectly accompanies the mood on stage, accentuating both darkness and light in the poet’s psyche.

An expressive interaction between Smart, his cat Jeoffry (Ihsaan De Banya) and an intruding mouse adds a welcome element of fun. However, at times, the piece feels like a rushed series of movements rather than coherent connections between dancers, and in parts, the timing is not as sharp as expected.

The mood of the production changes with Alston’s second piece, Holderlin Fragments; a series of six small exchanges from another troubled poet, Friedrich Holderlin, set again by Britten. In contrast to Rejoice in the Lamb, this has an inherent fragility and fluidity, portrayed through the dancer’s elegant movements and Fotini Dimou’s costume design. There are moments of simplistic beauty in the sequences, set against a charming and humerous abandoned reserve, as seen in a solo from De Banya.

Star of the show

It is the third piece, Burning, which  is the star of the show – and quite rightly so. Receiving its world premiere in Edinburgh, Martin Lawrance’s piece is inspired by Franz Liszt’s Dante Sonata and tells the tale of Liszt, his adoring female fans and his love affair with Countess Marie D’Agoult. If the evening’s opener slightly lacks in connections between characters, this more than makes up for it.

Burning Liam Riddick and Nancy Nerantzi. Photo: Chris Nash

Burning: Liam Riddick and Nancy Nerantzi. Photo: Chris Nash

Beginning with a passionate and almost aggressive fervour, Burning accentuates a rapid and meaningless element to Liszt’s interactions, which changes with the introduction of Marie. The interactions between Liszt and Marie, played by Liam Riddick and Nancy Nerantzi, are breathtaking. They bring an expressive and emotive interplay to the piece that is both warming and sensual, with underlying elements of sadness and inner conflict. It is enrapturing and the dancers deliver exceptional performances.

Following Burning’s drama, the production takes yet another twist as it ends with Overdrive. Set to music by Californian composer, Terry Riley, Overdrive is energetic and rhythmical. The dancers match the music perfectly with harsh, defined staccato movements like clockwork.

The complex rhythm of the music demands precision and this is executed magnificently, with seamless coordination as each dancer enters and leaves the interplay. Alston manages to choreograph a dance movement that has both regularity and irregularity; it is sharp, precise and astounding.

Overdrive is a spectacular finish to the evening, a rapid, energetic and dramatic piece that contrasts against the slow build from the beginning of the show. It both energises and leaves a sense of anticipation for the Richard Alston Dance Company’s next instalment.

Running time: 2 hours (including two intervals)
Festival Theatre, 13/29 Nicolson Street EH8 9FT
26 September 2014 (run ended)
Richard Alston Dance Company website:

Richard Alston Dance Company autumn tour 2014:
Tue 30 Sept & Wed 1 Oct Northampton
Royal & Derngate
01604 624 811 Book online
Tue 7 & Wed 8 Oct Shrewsbury
Theatre Severn
01743 281281 Book online
Tue 14 & Wed 15 Oct High Wycombe
Wycombe Swan
01494 512000 Book online
Wed 22 Oct Yeovil
Octagon Theatre
01935 422884 Book online
Thu 30 Oct – Sun 2 Nov New Jersey (US)
Montclair State University
Book online
Tue 11 Nov Glasgow
Theatre Royal
0844 871 7647 Book online


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