Richard Alston's Second Chance
"This last season was Richard's best yet," said Val Bourne, artistic director of Dance Umbrella, England's leading presenter of contemporary dance. "He's riding high at the moment."
When the company makes its American debut on Tuesday at the Joyce Theater, it will present the same buoyant triple bill that won over London audiences last winter. One likely standout is Mr. Alston's newest dance, "Shimmer," an impressionistic reverie set to piano melodies by Ravel (played live by Jason Ridgway) and featuring bejeweled mesh tunics by Julien Macdonald, the edgy Welsh designer who just left Givenchy. The 11-member troupe will also perform "Overdrive" (2003), Mr. Alston's hypnotic meditation on Terry Riley's "Keyboard Study No. 1," and "Brisk Singing" (1997), his tender gloss on Rameau's last opera, "Les Boréades."
Mr. Alston, 55, is a modernist whose fast, plotless dances evoke the gentle lyricism of Frederick Ashton, the rhythmic intensity of Merce Cunningham and the keen musicality of Mark Morris. But London critics often complain that his choreography adds up to less than the sum of its parts.
"His dances are intelligent, well-crafted, sometimes unduly sober," Zoe Anderson wrote last fall in the Independent. "Anything that well made must be wholesome, but isn't necessarily fun." The Telegraph's Ismene Brown sneered at the "solid, wooden virtues" that temper his "meek, priestly dances."
But he refuses to sex it up with fragmented texts, physical abrasiveness or calculated irony — qualities that color so many new pieces for the stage.
"I don't want to be cutting edge," he said over lunch recently near his home in South Kensington. "To move in an art form, you don't have to push at the edges; you can dig down into the stuff itself. I'm taking risks all the time and being, for myself, very experimental."