Choreography: Richard Alston
Restaging: Martin Lawrance
Lighting: Kate Elliott
Costumes co-ordinated by Inca Jaakson
Mid Century Modern is made up of extracts from my fifty years of choreography. I’ve chosen dances which to me are some of the very best I’ve done. They are not performed in chronological order – this is not a history lesson. I’ve arranged them in contrasting order, to make if you like one substantial dance.
Music: Claudio Monteverdi madrigals Si dolce è’l tormento, Sinfonia; Orfeo,
Monteverdi’s music is extraordinarily expressive, just glorious. Si Dolce is the opening solo, set to a madrigal which is more or less just a downward scale. The Sinfonia has amazing dissonances and the duet is like some kind of intimate wrestling. ‘Fever’ is a languishing from lovesickness – a very prevalent image in Renaissance poetry.
NOWHERE SLOWLY (1970) solo
Music: Terry Riley, Poppy Nogood and the Phantom Band
This is my earliest surviving dance. The movement is linear in space, darting from one point to another. Pretty well fresh from art college, I thought of myself at the time as drawing with energy in space.
RAINBOW BANDIT (1977)
The first dance I made after two exciting years studying in New York. It’s very pure, not easy movement at all – it has a Cunningham inspired clarity, tempered by the softer liquidity of Trisha Brown. The dance tells of what I saw and loved the most in the mid-seventies New York Dance scene.
BLUE SCHUBERT FRAGMENTS (1972)
Music: Schubert Adagio from Death and the Maiden
Like Nowhere Slowly this was made when I was still a student at London Contemporary Dance School. I had a truly remarkable teacher there, Pytt Geddes, who taught us the Tai Chi Chuan, a quiet flowing sequence of meditative movement – you can see the influence of this language clearly in Blue Schubert. Six phrases of closely related material are run through in unison and then performed simultaneously in a complex group (the phrases are passed from one dancer to another) to the utterly simple ‘Death and the Maiden’ Theme of Schubert. I’d seen Twyla Tharp’s choreography for the first time just a year before and had been overwhelmed with excitement about her work. You can see that influence too.
BACH DANCES (2018)
Music: Johannes Bach, Forlane and Badinerie from Orchestral Suites No 1 and 2
Two solos never performed before now, were prepared to be taught to students at a French Conservatoire. When I got there, the ‘students’ turned out to be small children who arrived for class clutching their teddy bears – so I started again from scratch! Now I’ve had the chance to rescue these two dances and see them for the first time on stage. I can still feel now how much I enjoyed the chance to work with these delightful Bach pieces.
SHIMMER (2004) final solo
Music: Maurice Ravel; La Vallée des Cloches in an arrangement by Percy Grainger
Ravel’s exquisite music is often magical and Shimmer took off from that. Six dancers leave the stage and the last solo (to La Vallee De Cloches) is one figure left behind – he is something like Shakespeare’s Prospero, powerfully alone, surveying his domain. This solo is in all sorts of ways a close cousin of Soda Lake (1981) – a solo which many young people still study today. For me it is a more than worthy successor – I love this dance.
SIGNAL OF A SHAKE (1999)
Music: George Frideric Handel
The Signal of a Shake was made in 1999 but actually premiered in 2000, a slight cheat in covering the five decades. The music by Handel is some of the most exuberant I have ever chosen – I still believe profoundly in the life-enhancing joy of dance and this piece is clear evidence of the power of what I continue to love above all things on this earth. That’s why I’m still at it.