REVIEW: The Richard Alston Dance Company lights up the stage with humanity and joy at Cambridge Arts Theatre

PUBLISHED: 01:26 03 March 2020 | UPDATED: 01:27 03 March 2020

Voices and Light Footsteps: Jenny Hayes and Joshua Harriette. Picture: CHRIS NASH

Voices and Light Footsteps: Jenny Hayes and Joshua Harriette. Picture: CHRIS NASH

Chris Nash

A dancer said at the post-show gathering they could feel the energy and enthusiasm coming back to them from the audience.

Brahms Hungarian Dances. Picture: CHRIS NASHBrahms Hungarian Dances. Picture: CHRIS NASH

There is absolute perfection - and then there is The Richard Alston Dance Company.

Music comes alive when they dance to it. The chemistry between the dancers is so evocative you wonder why humans invented speech when so much can be conveyed without it.

These are dancers for whom the exquisite is perfectly natural and naturally perfect. The utmost is their standard. Sir Richard Alston doesn't create anything less than sublime.

This show, called Final Edition, which reached Cambridge Arts Theatre this week (Monday and Tuesday, March 2 and 3) is the company's final tour. It will end this week at "The Wells" - that's Sadler's Wells to us.

One of the dancers said at the post-show gathering that they could feel the energy and enthusiasm coming back to them from the audience.

The first piece, Voices and Light Footsteps, choreographed by Alston, is danced to madrigals by Monteverdi.

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The dancers are in modern dress, the men in white slacks with burnt orange sleeveless vests, the women in sleeveless silk shifts with low-cut cowl necklines but you can see an Italian Renaissance court in their demeanour. The mood changes from the passion of couples devoted to each other, to group dances. It ends with a fast-paced, exhilarating folk dance to music laced with tambourines, the composer's Damigella Tutta Bella.

Alston, made a CBE in 2001, says: "This is the earliest music I can remember hopping around to as a small boy - I loved it then and I love it now." His choreography is celebratory.

The second piece was the much more sombre Shine On, choreographed by Alston to Benjamin Britten's On This Island.

Dancing in costumes of black and white - with glittery tops for the men, there is a striking male pas de deux with interesting lifts. The piece ends with an upbeat sequence with notes of the 1920s. Live music was provided by pianist Jason Ridgway and singer Katherine McIndoe.

The dance called A Far Cry, choreographed by Martin Lawrence, is to sweeping, grandiose music by Edward Elgar, inspired, Alton suggests by the fierce winds of the Malvern Hills where Elgar lived.

This is contemporary dance at pace with the dancers twirling and whirling like leaves with beautiful shapes, wonderful lifts.

The finale at Cambridge was Brahms's Hungarian Dances, an utterly engaging, balletic interpretation of Eastern European tradition. Here we had Alston's favourite costumes, the female dancers wore colourful floral dresses "softened", as he said, with a layer of white chiffon over the full skirts.

I write this every time I see this company - but it has to be said: You haven't truly heard a piece of music until you have seen the Richard Alston Dance Company dance to it.

Alston's Final Edition will be at Sadler's Wells on Saturday and Sunday, March 7 and 8.

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