Alston’s Dance is in the Detail

If you have no idea who Richard Alston is, don’t worry, neither do most UC Irvine students.
So it’s easy to imagine how clueless I felt walking through the doors of the Barclay Theatre on Monday, Jan. 22 to watch ‘one of the UK’s most celebrated contemporary dance companies.’
The tour’s opening performance, here in Irvine, was split into three numbers, each running approximately 25 minutes with 15-minute intermissions in between. The dances were ordered chronologically, from the earliest to the most recently debuted.
The first dance was ‘Red Run,’ first performed in 1998 to Heiner Goebbels’ composition of the same name. Alston’s choreography, which seemed as though it came straight out of ‘West Side Story,’ had the dancers moving on- and offstage like rival gangs plotting against one another. The graceful ‘fights’ and the final act of frustration by the captured leader were all beautiful sights to see.
Second was ‘Volumania,’ first performed in 2005. Where ‘Red Run’ kept me captivated by its story and emotion, the unusually-titled ‘Volumania’ made me wonder what was going on and why loud screeches were pumping out of the speakers.
It was difficult for me to take anything from the second dance, but the ‘Star Trek’-like outfits and spacey music made me think it was about an army of robots in space and two robot lovers trying to break from them.
The dancers didn’t seem as in sync as they had been during ‘Red Run’ and this may be a result of the irregular meter in Gyorgi Ligeti’s music.
This leads me to another problem: the sound quality seemed sub-par.
The last and most entertaining, number ‘The Devil in the Detail,’ from 2006, avoided this problem by having live pianist Jason Ridgway play the wonderful ragtime music of Scott Joplin.
If you are familiar with Joplin’s music, you are familiar with the mood of this number. ‘The Devil in the Detail’ is a joy to watch and, judging by the dancers’ expressions, a joy to perform as well. The dancers’ enjoyment and enthusiasm in this number transfers to the audience.
Looking back at the audience as the dancers performed ‘The Devil in the Detail,’ I saw nothing but smiles. I even heard a man behind me whispering to his wife, ‘This is wonderful.’
‘The Devil in the Detail’ didn’t have a cohesive story. Instead it was like a group of people walking in town and having a good time. There was a mischievous little girl