Richard Alston Dance Company

January 12, 2010

Richard Alston Dance Company

Joyce Theater, NYC

January 12–17, 2010

Reviewed by Susan Yung


Hannah Kidd and Wayne Parsons in Alston’s
Blow Over. Photo by Hugo Glendinning, courtesy RADC.


Richard Alston crafts technically tight dances that are linked closely to the music and polished to a cool, metallic gleam. At the Joyce Theater, his London-based company performed three works to varied music. Set to songs written and performed on (some scratchy) recordings by Hoagy Carmichael, Shuffle It Right (2008) has a playful, jazzy tone. Alston’s densely-packed allegro phrasing recalls the rhythm of well-written dialogue enunciated clearly. While done barefoot or soft shoe, his style is related to ballet; the dancers’ weight remains largely on the metatarsal, legs ready to extend into a developpé, arms balancing in opposition. But the work focuses on kinetic and dynamic aspects, rather than social and interactive possibilities, and it feels remote—even the witty gestural touches fall flat. Perhaps the problem is cultural, as some of the songs are so evocative of a bygone era in America that we expect a certain amount of pathos. But it isn’t found in the dance.


More emotion comes through in Movements from Petrushka (1994), which draws a parallel between Stravinsky’s Petrushka and the mental downfall of Nijinsky. The dancers, clad in peasant shirts, perform percussive folk-inspired dances in front of a painted drop. The painting slides away to reveal Jason Ridgway at the piano, which becomes the hub around which Pierre Tappon dances the dualistic lead. Tappon is a compact, explosive dancer who pushes Alston’s choreography to the limit in this psychologically expressive vehicle.


Songs from Liquid Days is a bit of an aberration for composer Philip Glass, who collaborated with pop songwriters on the project. Three vocal tracks from the 1986 album accompany Alston’s Blow Over (2008); strobe lights separate the sections. Like Glass’ music, Alston’s phrases produce drama through propulsiveness and subtle shifts from a well-defined structure. Alston alternates controlled, suspended poses with released energy, often working from the stability of a wide stance. His choreography is food for thought, but the heart and soul are unfortunately left wanting.