Richard Alston: 'I still live in hope that I haven't made my best dance yet'

Richard Alston: 'I still live in hope that I haven't made my best dance yet'

Richard Alston, centre left / credit: Jane Hobson

With his dance company set to close, the great choreographer shares his thoughts on what comes next

Known as the godfather of British contemporary dance, Richard Alston has been creating and touring work since the 1970s. Having formed Strider, the UK's first independent dance company, he went on to serve as artistic director at Rambert before starting the Richard Alston Dance Company in 1994. But with the shock announcement that Alston is to close his company in 2020, after 25 successful years, we speak to him to find out why - and what comes next …

When you announced the proposed closure of your company, it sent shock-waves around the dance world – what prompted your decision?
Well, every three or four years you have to re-apply to Arts Council England to be a National Portfolio Organisation, and there is definitely a sense that you should re-invent yourself in some way, you can't just apply for business as usual. And so The Place [the London dance space], where our company is based, decided it wanted to get behind the idea of touring the younger artists it supports here – and there isn't enough money for both that and me. That's it in a nutshell.

So you've taken one for the team?
I didn't want to risk damaging The Place, so I didn't fight to keep the company going. I thought I have to accept this and say OK, we'll close the company – because if not, there was a real fear that The Place might lose its funding.

You've choreographed so many wonderful works over the past 25 years, what will happen to them now?
We're seeking support to set up a proper archive, because we have lots of videos but they need to be digitised. I want to make sure that they don't just disappear into thin air, so we'd like to set up a Richard Alston foundation.

Will you invite other companies to perform your work?
For the past 25 years, I've dedicated myself to my own company. I see myself as a bit of a backroom boy, I work in my own studio with my own dancers and so I haven't reached out and tried to sell my work to other companies. It may be that at the age of 70, it's too late – who knows, I'll find out.

So are you planning to keep choreographing?
Yes. I really believe that choreographers, like other artists, mature if they keep going. I've worked with other companies, mostly in America, and I'll have more time to do that now because it always had to be fitted in.

I'm sure there are some people who think why on earth hasn't Richard Alston given up, but actually as far as I'm concerned I really want each piece to be better than the one before – and I still live in hope that I haven't made my best dance yet.

Richard Alston Dance Company

The acclaimed dance company embarks on its last tour, before the company shuts its doors in 2020.

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