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Suffolk audiences to be treated to final UK premiere by dance giant

PUBLISHED: 19:06 31 October 2019 | UPDATED: 19:06 31 October 2019

Nicholas Shikkis, Jason Tucker and Elly Braund performing Detour Photo by Chris Nash

Nicholas Shikkis, Jason Tucker and Elly Braund performing Detour Photo by Chris Nash

Chris Nash

Sir Richard Alston is one of the most influential figures in contemporary dance but as retirement looms he is taking the opportunity to pay one last tribute to Benjamin Britten his favourite composer

Ellen Yilma and Carmine De Amicis, from the Richard Alston Dance Company, performing Brahms Hungarian Photo: Chris NashEllen Yilma and Carmine De Amicis, from the Richard Alston Dance Company, performing Brahms Hungarian Photo: Chris Nash

Dance giant Sir Richard Alston has enjoyed a long and rewarding relationship with DanceEast over more than ten years and has made five visits to Snape Maltings, one of his favourite venues in the country, during this time.

On each occasion Sir Richard has taken the opportunity to pay tribute to Benjamin Britten, one of his favourite composers, by creating a new work utilising the music of Aldeburgh's famous son. On the eve of his retirement, the Richard Alston Dance Company is making one last visit to Suffolk and will be premiering one final work at Snape.

"This tour is the last for my Dance Company and it's a chance for me to say a huge thank you to the marvellously loyal audiences who have come to see us year after year," said Sir Richard, "We are so lucky to have had such terrific support and I personally cannot thank you enough."

This tour is called Final Edition and provides audiences with a final opportunity to witness a live performance by what is undoubtedly one of the world's best dance ensembles.

Voices and Light Footsteps, Jenny Hayes and Joshua Harriette, members of the Richard Alston Dance Company, who are performing at Snape . Photo Chris NashVoices and Light Footsteps, Jenny Hayes and Joshua Harriette, members of the Richard Alston Dance Company, who are performing at Snape . Photo Chris Nash

Sir Richard said that he always looks forward to returning to Suffolk and always relishes performing in the concert hall because the acoustics are superb and the way that the brickwork reflected the light created a warm and inviting atmosphere to perform in.

"I love performing at Snape. It's a very special place for me and we will be using our final visit to premiere a new piece which is performed to music by Britten with words by WH Auden. It's taken from a very early song cycle called On This Island.

"They are five wonderful poems - quite dark, quite strange - which Britten chose and each of the poems starts out with something quite positive and quite lyrical and then strange darkness creeps in. Suddenly there's images of death...it's not mystical, it's very sophisticated, quite witty. When I choreograph to the voice I don't always listen to the words, I, more often, listen to the rhythms of the verse, but in this instance I paid a lot of attention to the words too because they are extraordinary."

"Having said that the music is wonderful and Britten is an absolutely superb writer for the voice and because of that there is breadth in his music and it's absolutely wonderful to dance to.

Monique Jonas, Elly Braund, Melissa Braithwaite, Ellen Yilma, from the Richard Alston Dance Company, performing Brahms Hungarian Photo: Chris NashMonique Jonas, Elly Braund, Melissa Braithwaite, Ellen Yilma, from the Richard Alston Dance Company, performing Brahms Hungarian Photo: Chris Nash

"Also, I don't choreograph to be in any way literal but in this instance there are moments when the movements are a deliberate response to the words."

Sir Richard said that the way he designs a programme is rather like the way a chef designs a menu with a selection of distinctive but diverse courses which bring out a multitude of different flavours which result in a satisfying evening.

He added that he relishes adding Britten to the menu everytime he comes to Suffolk.

"We have been to Snape about four or five times and on every occasion we have made a new piece using Britten's music. Britten was a very important part of my growing up. I first heard him as a teenager, I absolutely loved the music and I went to one of the first London performances of War Requiem. I think over the course of my career I have done at least 11 or 12 dances to Britten's music. There was a rumour going round at some point that Britten didn't like dance and I don't believe it for a moment. I think that arose from a difficult period when he was rehearsing Gloriana and everything was rather strained and difficult. I think there was an ill-considered remark and that was all. You couldn't write the music that Britten wrote and not have a sense of movement."

Nicholas Shikkis, Jason Tucker and Elly Braund performing Detour Photo by Chris NashNicholas Shikkis, Jason Tucker and Elly Braund performing Detour Photo by Chris Nash

Shine On features live musical performances from singer Katherine McIndoe and pianist Jason Ridgway. Ridgway also plays for another work, Brahms Hungarian, danced to the hugely popular pieces of Brahms. This special programme for Snape also includes Voices and Light Footsteps inspired by the glorious Madrigals and Sinfonias of Monteverdi and in sharp contrast, music by American composer Michael Gordon accompanying Martin Lawrence's speedy and exciting Detour.

Over the past 50 years, Sir Richard Alston has played a major role in the world of contemporary dance, developing a unique and distinct dance language. Determined to go out with flying colours, Richard Alston has put together a celebration of this company's unflagging creativity, a richly diverse mix of dance and music bringing some brand-new dances along with key works revived from the company's repertoire.

Richard Alston Dance Company's Final Edition is at the Snape Maltings Concert Hall on Friday and Saturday November 1-2.

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