Out of the Strong is latest work by Richard Alston Dance Company
Abstract contemporary dance, now with characterisation and Prokofiev
For decades, Richard Alston has been one of Britain’s finest exponents of abstract contemporary dance. Now, however, it would seem he’s also rather good at telling a story.
Alston first dipped his toe in narrative waters in 2009, with Scottish Ballet’s hugely successful Carmen. His latest work, Out of the Strong, may not have quite so straightforward a storyline, but is rich with characterisation. ‘Choreographers aren’t always right about their own work, but I think this is one of the best pieces I’ve done for a long time,’ says Alston. ‘I loved making it, and I think the narrative elements are post-Carmen. This is the first piece I’ve made since then, and it’s interesting that I had to deal with telling a story in Carmen and there is certainly a lot of human content in this.’
Inspired by the life of Sergei Prokofiev, the piece opens with an anger-filled solo, set during the era when he was beholden to Stalin. This is followed by happier times spent in Europe with his first wife, a section when the Russian composer was preparing for the opening night of his ballet Romeo and Juliet, and finally Prokofiev’s postwar life in Russia with his second wife.
‘There’s a lot in there,’ says Alston, ‘and I’ve called it Out of the Strong because in spite of his anger, in the end Prokofiev is probably best known for writing really lyrical music. And I think by dealing with his anger he got back to what he could do so positively.’
Performed alongside Alston’s 1997 masterpiece, Light Flooding into Darkened Rooms and his joyfully uplifting Shuffle it Right, Out of the Strong is set to Prokofiev’s Piano Sonata No 6 – a piece Alston found particularly enjoyable.
‘I’d been listening to various pieces of Prokofiev and came across this particular sonata and was completely enthralled by it,’ recalls Alston. ‘There’s a lot of quite intense feeling in it, because at that time he was very much under the thumb of Stalin and in quite some danger. But it’s the most brilliant piece of music and it was a real pleasure to work with.’
Edinburgh Festival Theatre, Fri 12 Nov