Richard Alston celebrates his 50th year of making dance with a show that starts deliciously hard and uncompromisingly modern.
Detour, a new work by choreographer Martin Lawrance, opens with sparkling glockenspiel, layers up into hypnotic layered percussion reminiscent of helicopters, hurricanes, machinery, modernity. The music is Michael Gordon’s Timber remixed by Icelandic composer Jóhann Jóhannsson, performed by Mantra Percussion, and these dizzying layers of complexity translate into a steely choreography that is fast and complicated, yet wintry and sparse.
The dancers wear simple drapes in building-site colours, spin like sycamore seeds, jump and crouch like concrete gargoyles, and finally wind the action up in dazzling, complicated style, spinning like cranes on the bleakly sparse stage. Quartermark, a cheerful ruffle through Alston’s rich back catalogue, starts with stunning solos from Monique Jonas and Joshua Harriette, languid and liquid explorations of longing and loneliness, at times in almost chiaroscuro darkness.
Bach Dances pairs utterly familiar music with a dislocating marionette tag-team dance. Finally, Signal of a Shake brings the whole company back onstage for some millennial magic in this optimistic, uplifting piece set to the mighty organ music of Handel.
A pause for applause, and then the almighty Proverb arrives, set to the Steve Reich vocal piece of the same name. Sharp contemporary shapes and colours jut across the stage, interrupted by splashes and shadows of deepest black; twitches of movement leap through the dancers, who swing and turn like a mid-century modern mobile. It is hypnotic, mesmerising, utterly beautiful, with elegant duets from Jason Tucker and Carmine De Amicis, among others.
The evening ends on Brahms Hungarian, a cheerfully indulgent pirouette of a piece with live piano from Jason Ridgeway, boho waistcoats, floaty dresses and plenty of fun for the dancers, who zip and skip their way to a happy finale.