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Warwick Arts Centre review: ALSTON - Final Edition

ALSTON - Final Edition, Warwick Arts Centre, to Nov 22. The audience knew this was going to be special evening for contemporary dance fans as Richard Alston walked on the stage to introduce the first performance.

His company has to close next March and it was fitting that the last date on the tour was Warwick Arts Centre, where the company’s first tour began 25 yeas ago. It was poignant that the opening performance was by a group of students from Wolverhampton’s Our Lady and St Chad’s Catholic Academy - the next generation developing street dance to express issues affecting young people. It was an energetic performance that blended the moves of urban dance with a narrative that was emotional and often showed tenderness in their youthful relationships. Next came Red Run, the opening piece by the professional dancers, which was physically powerful. The gender fluidity of contemporary dance is gradually becoming mainstream (thank you Strictly!), which allows the exploration of new dance relationships. The harshness of the musical score underpinned the constantly changing movements of the dancers and kept the audience wondering what would be next. After the first interval there were four shorter pieces. All were beautifully balanced against each other but the one that stood out for me was Mazur. When a grand piano is wheeled onto a stage you know you are in for something special. The music was Chopin’s The Muzurkas and the duet for two male dancers had echoes of Polish dance with contemporary expression. As the only piece that had the dancers in costume, it added a touch of nostalgia and yearning for the past. The final set was Voices and Light Footsteps. This was danced to Monteverdi’s Orfeo, the story of Orpheus and Eurydice; two lovers who must not look at each other as they flee the Underworld. The performance mixed the darkness of the myth with the lightness of the Renaissance madrigals. The stage shimmered with movement as the dancers wove around each other, sometimes ending in formal poses that reminded us of a world long gone. The company's final performance will be at RADA At Home, The Place, London. Fans of contemporary dance might think the journey worthwhile.

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