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

Mid Century Modern summed up Richard Alston's vast contribution to contemporary dance. Picture: Chris Nash.
Mid Century Modern summed up Richard Alston's vast contribution to contemporary dance. Picture: Chris Nash.
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RETURNING to London in 1977, after two years absorbing the dance scene in New York City, Richard Alston created Rainbow Bandit. Performed in complete silence, the movement is free and vibrant, with more than a passing nod to Merce Cunningham and other American postmodern dance heroes.

Richard Alston Dance Company, Festival Theatre, Edinburgh ****

Rainbow Bandit is just one of seven excerpts which comprise Mid Century Modern – a celebration of Alston’s 50 years as a choreographer, performed at the Festival Theatre this week.

Also on the bill was Alston’s brand new creation, Brahms Hungarian – which had its world premiere in Edinburgh. This felt different but similar to that early work, perhaps because Alston’s output has always had the same stylish look and technically sharp backbone, and putting both these works on the same bill, along with a new piece by Martin Lawrance, made for fascinating viewing.

A neatly packaged reminiscence dating from 1970 to present day, Mid Century Modern is a dynamic mix of solos, duets, trios and ensemble pieces that perfectly sum up Alston’s vast contribution to contemporary dance. Special mention to dancer Carmine De Amicis, who made sure all eyes were on him in the solo from 2004’s Shimmer with his sleek, emotionally-laden moves.

Alston’s Brahms Hungarian has a well-dressed joyfulness impossible to dislike, and it also gave pianist Jason Ridgway the finger workout of his life. But the short, sharp shock of Lawrance’s Detour was the thrill of the night. Generating an almost sci-fi atmosphere on stage, this cleverly-lit, fast-paced, eight-minute work deserves expansion.

KELLY APTER