Richard Alston brings life joy and humanity to the Cambridge stage

Liam Riddick and Oihana Vesga Bujan from the Richard Alston Dance Company in Holderlin Fragments.

Liam Riddick and Oihana Vesga Bujan from the Richard Alston Dance Company in Holderlin Fragments. - Credit: Archant

The Richard Alston Dance Company returned to Cambridge Arts Theatre with four pieces inspired by an eclectic range of music, ranging from Benjamin Britten’s setting of Friedrich Holderlin’s poetry, to contemporary Romany music with a drum ‘n bass beat.

The collection is united by the strength of the company as an ensemble who organically move as one body while offering a range of nuanced and evocative solos and pas de deux.

The performance opens with Tangent choreographed by Martin Lawrance, an interpretation of Marcello Nisinman’s piano arrangement of Piazzolla’s Las Cuatro Estaciones Portenas (The Four Seasons of Buenos Aires) played live by Jason Ridgway.

Lawrance discovers the passion and storytelling of Argentinian Tango through contemporary dance, with each couple exploring different moods of the seasons. Dancer, Nancy Nerantzi is particularly defiant and vivid in the Autumn pas de deux with Nicholas Bodych, in contrast to Jennifer Hayes and James Muller who bring a weightless and dreamlike quality to the stage.

It is Oihana Vesga Bujan and Liam Riddick’s duet as Winter that brings maturity and gravitas to the narrative with great strength and weight in entangled lines as they yield to each other through fear of separation.

Here, the end of the life-cycle powerfully carries the burden of loss. The piece concludes with a reprisal of the seasons at speed suggesting the swiftness of years as time passes, creating an altogether detailed and engaging piece. A joy to watch.

This is followed by a short piece choreographed by Richard Alston to Jo Kondo’s Isthmus (1985). The syncopated rhythms and discordant melody of the music reminiscent of chiming clocks transforms into charmingly staccato, mechanical movement with the joy of automatons. Liam Riddick’s solo is captivating as he moves downstage with effortless suspension and precision of line.

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The third piece, again choreographed by Alston, captures the essence of Benjamin Britten’s song cycle Holderlin Fragments, a setting of the poetry of “the visionary, mentally troubled poet Friedrich Holderlin.” (as the choreographer explains).

The piece begins with two stunning pas de deux the first entitled Public Approval, the second Home in which Oihana Vesga Bujan and Liam Riddick move with a hazy fluidity and underlying boldness that is mesmerising.

In Youth Riddick is joined by James Muller who through the simplicity of clean lines and extension find serenity and control in a wistful partnership. Whereas Ihsaan De Banya bursts onto the stage in Midlife with the ballon and gaiety of a sprite.

The final piece, Nomadic choreographed by the Richard Alston and Ajani Johnson-Goffe, brings us away from the dreamlike reminiscences of Buenos Aires and the tormented mind of an 18th century German poet into the present day.

The music comes from Shukar Collective’s album Urban Gypsy where the rasping vocal of Romany music and its age old restlessness comes alive anew with an electronic heartbeat. Peter Todd’s costume of vests and bold patterned yoga pants brings us into the 21st century and yet the story of human longing, the inevitability of travel and change and the perseverance of the human soul are timeless.

The movement is sensual and raw. Ihsaan De Banya and Nancy Nerantzi’s partnership is exciting, charged and free cast against Zeynep Kepekli’s lighting design of an electric blue backdrop. The full company than explodes onto the stage showcasing their strength as an ensemble comprised of eight gifted performers.

The Richard Alston Dance Company bring such life, joy and humanity to the stage that they cannot fail to impress.