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Richard Alston comes to NY

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From today's NY Times: (Alston was The Choreographer Most Likely awhile back. If anyone goes to see this, please report!)

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."

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I attended the Alston comany last tuesday night and was so immensely impressed by the choreography and the dancing that I rearranged my schedule, got rid of a ticket for ABT, and went back to see it again on Wednesday night.

My dance sectator experience was formed by attending Ashton ballets at Covent Garden in the late 1940s. Since then, much of my dance viewing has been of classical ballet, mostly in London, NY, and DC. But the Alston dances this week were so enjoyable for me that when I am next in London I will look first for

the Alston company program and second for what the RB is putting on.

It was the first dance on the Alston program, "Brisk Singing" (to parts of Rameau's Les Boreades) that most raised my spirits and my appreciation of what dance can achieve outside the restraints of classical ballet. It had form, it had joyful creativity, it had stylish, fast-paced performance by dancers free from point shoes (or any other shoes). The choreography had style and taste and exhubereance and dynamic lovliness. I can imagine Ashton enjoying this pertormance - and learning from it -- especially the movement (can one use the term "pas de deux" in modern dance?) danced by Sonja Peedo and, I believe, Martin Lawrence.

I feel I am doing a favor to classical ballet fans, especially RB fans, by alerting them to the marvels of this choreographer and this particular group of dancers.

Still a few nights left at the Joyce.

Ed Bock

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Thank you very much for that, Ed. It is a favor to let us know of such programs, and the Alston company doesn't get to New York, or the States generally, often at all.

It's great to see you posting -- I hope we'll be reading more of you.

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