Interview: choreographer Martin Lawrance on his Franz Liszt piece for Richard Alston Dance Company

Richard Alston Dance Company

Photo: Chris Nash

The 19th century composer 'was a bit of a player – he had an affair with Clara Schumann and lots of other famous people at the time'

In the 1960s it was the Beatles, today it’s One Direction – but the idea of women getting hot and bothered about musicians is nothing new, as choreographer Martin Lawrance discovered while researching the music of Franz Liszt.

‘He was a bit of a player,’ says Lawrance of the 19th century Hungarian pianist and composer. ‘He had an affair with Clara Schumann and lots of other famous people at the time. I’ve been reading stories about “Lisztomania” and women trying to get his cigar stub – if they could have thrown their knickers, they would have.’

At the same time, Lawrance came across Liszt’s Dante Sonata, written in 1849 and inspired by Dante’s poem The Divine Comedy. Dante, it turns out, was also quite the romantic, influencing Lawrance yet further.

‘I found all of that really inspirational and exciting,’ he says, ‘and I thought that, on top of the music, could work really well. I don’t want to tell a story, it’s not a narrative piece – but all of that has been in my head while I’ve been choreographing it.’

When it came to naming his new piece, which will run alongside two of Alston’s works in the company’s Edinburgh show, Lawrance once again drew on Dante and Liszt.

‘I was going to call it Inferno,’ he says, ‘but I thought no, that’s too obvious. So I’ve called it Burning, because in the music there’s this burning passion – and Liszt had a burning desire for his wife, who stood by him even though he had all those affairs. Then all of a sudden she just left him.’

Edinburgh Festival Theatre, Fri 26 Sep.

Richard Alston Dance Company

The acclaimed contemporary dance company presents a triple bill featuring Martin Lawrance's Tangent, and Alston’s Chacony and Gypsy Mixture.

Edinburgh Festival Theatre

Thu 20 Sep

£17.50–£23.50 / 0131 529 6000

Fri 21 Sep

£17.50–£23.50 / 0131 529 6000

New Theatre, Oxford

Thu 7 Feb 2019

£13–£26.90 / 0844 871 3020

New Victoria Theatre, Woking

Tue 30 Oct

£16.90–£32.90 / 0844 871 7645

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