Dance review: Richard Alston Dance Company, Festival Theatre, Edinburgh

'That I was thinking of Frederick Ashton as I made this piece is pretty evident,' says Richard Alston in the programme notes for Carnaval. Yes, Richard, it certainly is. This brand new work, which had its world premiere in Edinburgh on Friday, is one of Alston's most balletic creations '“ and the grace and drama of late choreographer Ashton could be heard in gentle whispers throughout.

Richard Alston Dance Company perform Chacony
Richard Alston Dance Company perform Chacony

Richard Alston Dance Company ****

Festival Theatre, Edinburgh

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Inspired by the life and relationships of Robert Schumann, Carnaval depicted the German composer as not one, but two men. Schumann’s struggle with mental illness is well documented, but here Alston looks at it from his wife Clara’s perspective, as she tries to love both sides of her husband’s dual personality. Alston’s erstwhile pianist, Jason Ridgway joined the dancers on stage, tackling Schumann’s technically challenging score with apparent ease.

Which seems to be a theme with this company: the illusion of simplicity. Alston’s choreography is clever and inventive, crafted from top to toe with nothing left to chance. For some, that renders it too clinical, but there’s something utterly beguiling about the clean lines and polished precision of these talented dancers.

The works that followed Carnaval only served to illustrate that more: whether it was through the ensemble theatricality of Chacony, set to Purcell and Britten, or the hip-twitching heat of Gypsy Mixture, with its joyous Balkan soundtrack. Plus a solo by dancer Liam Riddick is officially one of life’s good things, and Alston hands him more than a few here – worth the ticket price alone.