Q&A with Richard Alston, Artistic Director of Richard Alston Dance Company
Richard Alston 2014 6 (cropped) by Hugo Glendinningv2

What does a typical day for you involve when you are making a new work with the company?

I often stay at home in the morning and listen to music, or gather my energy just by being quiet. Now I‘m in the middle of making the piece it’s quite easy for me to come in and talk to you, but in the first days of rehearsal I would probably only come in just few minutes before the rehearsal, then go into the studio – ba-boom – something happens. I don’t know what it’s going to be, I don’t work long hours, I make movement very fast. I throw it at the dancers and see how they do it and then take off from what they do. Sometimes I give myself an hour or hour and a half and start working on different little sections. I don’t work from beginning to end. I find a point where I think I might know what I want to do but I’m not quite sure, and think to myself “let’s see what happens”.

Can you tell me a bit about the programme for The Point in Eastleigh?

It is very exciting for us as we will be previewing my brand new An Italian in Madrid, with wonderful music by Domenico Scarlatti. Alongside my company dancers is the very very talented young Kathak dancer, Vidya Patel who brings her beautiful dance language to bear on my choreography hopefully in a way similar to the Spanish influence on Scarlatti. Vidya was a BBC Young Dancer 2015 grand finalist and is an exceptionally beautiful performer. The rest of the programme covers a broad range of music. There is the soulful gypsy singing on top of electronic beats in Nomadic. The magnificent Baroque of Jean Phillippe Rameau who wrote music of joyously springing rhythms, accompanies Brisk Singing. Mazur, a duet for two male friends to Chopin’s Mazurkas, which express all of his longing for his homeland of Poland.

Supporting young dancers and choreographers is something that you’ve been involved with throughout your career, and in last 20 years in particular, working with students at London Contemporary Dance School and through your work as Chair of Youth Dance England. What do you enjoy most about this aspect?

With Youth Dance England I really love seeing very young choreographers and being absolutely gob-smacked by their courage. Maybe they are too young to have learnt to worry, I don’t know what it is, but they tackle very dark subjects and tackle them with great maturity and that’s what I find extraordinary. Youth Dance England’s Young Creatives Platform mentors young choreographers brilliantly.

What’s the one piece of advice you would give to a young person who’s considering pursuing dance as a career?

Be prepared for an uphill battle, it’s very tough for young people starting now. The kind of opportunities that The Place offers are amazing but there are not that many opportunities and it’s very hard for a young choreographer to get going these days. So you really have to believe in what you are doing. I think for me, the danger is that people feel like they have to grab whatever they are offered and grasp at success. Actually, when you are a young artist success shouldn’t be what you are thinking about. That’s very easy for me to say, because when I started in the 1960s it was a very, very different sort of world but I absolutely understand what happens now. I feel that young choreographers get pigeonholed and trapped, because the world wants choreographers and the world is used to having things very quickly now. But I think artists sometimes take ages to grow, and I think I was a very slow developer and was very lucky to have so many opportunities. I wonder where I’d be if I was 20 something now. I wonder how I’d get on, whether I’d survive. It’s very, difficult, very tough.

About Richard Alston Dance Company

Richard Alston Dance Company is the resident company of The Place, a leading centre for dance development, it has grown into one of the UK’s most avidly followed contemporary dance companies, performing the work of its Artistic Director Richard Alston and Associate Choreographer Martin Lawrance.

Richard Alston Dance Company’s high reputation on the British dance scene is now increasingly being matched overseas. In May 2004 the Company made its US debut with a week-long season at New York’s leading theatre for dance, the Joyce Theater. The Company returned to the US giving its third, critically acclaimed and sold-out New York season in January 2010. The Company continues to perform regularly in the US, including at New York City Center (as part of Fall For Dance Festival) Peak Performances at Montclair State University, New Jersey, and the Virginia Arts Festival

Other foreign tours have included China, Holland, South East Asia, Greece and Russia where the Company represented Britain at Moscow’s first International Festival of Contemporary Dance. The Company performed as part of the Schrittmacher Festival in Aachen, Germany and in both Aachen and Heerlen, Holland.

In building its repertoire, Richard Alston Dance Company focuses on Alston’s new choreography and combines this with the re-creation of seminal past works from Alston’s career. Music plays a vital  part in the Company’s identity and since its inception Alston has used the work of a diverse range of composers including Brahms, Britten, Hoagy Carmichael, Heiner Goebbels, Scott Joplin, Astor Piazzolla, Steve Reich, Terry Riley, Schumann, Shostakovich and Stravinsky.