Ever since he began making dances in 1968, audiences and critics worldwide have sung the praises of British choreographer Richard Alston's adventurous response to a score and spirited sense of invention. Three Alston dances, including the American premiere of "Ceremony of Carols," will be seen when the Richard Alston Dance Company makes its Peak Performances debut in Montclair, NJ, December 13-16. The work was co-commissioned by The Marlowe Theatre in Canterbury; Sadler's Wells in London and Peak Performances at Montclair State (NJ).
Set to Benjamin Britten's celebrated composition of the same name, "Ceremony of Carols" received its world premiere in Canterbury, England last February. Sidestepping the narrative of the music's medieval text and traditional religious connotations, Alston created an abstract dance, contemplative in spirit and formal in structure, whose great sweeping movement suggests the music's dark mysteries and ecstatic revelations.
First sung at the world premiere by 19 boys from the Canterbury Cathedral choir, the music for the Montclair performances will be performed by 23 female members of Prima Voce, conducted by Montclair State University's Choral Director Heather J. Buchanan. The accompanying harpist is André Tarantiles. "Ceremony of Carols" marks Alston's first dance to Britten, whose centenary is being celebrated this year.
In dramatic contrast is Alston's 20-year-old "Roughcut," whose quicksilver speed and furious energy rival Steve Reich's fast driving scores New York Counterpoint and Electric Counterpoint.
The third work on the program is Alston's "Unfinished Business," set to two movements of Mozart's unfinished piano sonata, Opus K533. To these Alston added Italian virtuoso Federico Busoni's arrangement of Mozart's Gigue in D, creating an energetic third movement for the dance. Pianist Jason Ridgway will play the music live.