The old adage of sending them out on a high note couldn’t be further reversed in this triple bill of dance from The Place’s Artistic Director, Richard Alston, and his dance company. The evening moves from the tame uplifting Devil in the Detail through the stretching, curling contemplative Shimmer right down into a dark, raw underbelly in Martin Lawrance’s brand new piece Madcap.
Alston is a choreographer celebrated for the way he uses music and this couldn’t be more evident than in Devil in the Detail’s lyrical phrases. Bright as a 1950s summer picnic, dancers in buttery shades of pastel move to the tunes of Scott Joplin’s rags, played upstage by Jason Ridgway on a piano in the corner, discreet as a gramophone brought down to the beach.
The bright, skipping and tripping to Joplin’s flighty beats develops in mood and fluidity, particularly in Nathan Goodman and Pierre Tappon’s duet to ‘A Strenuous Life’, as they lope, twist and sneak behind each other. Hannah Kidd and James Pett are like petals bending towards the sun; when he lifts her, bent-kneed, flex-footed, she floats like a dandelion puff into the air. It’s the little details like these that give this piece its delight.
Julien Macdonald brings star-power to Shimmer, not only in name but in his intricately woven spider-web costumes making shivering firefly auras round the dancers. Ravel’s music, in particular the opening Sonatine, is a flurry of notes and shifting moods, thick as a blizzard, light as snowflakes; and the dance mirrors this delicate touch with ensemble pieces and duets that seem always to return to motifs – pauses locked together in entwined support – in a reflection of the recurring da capos. In Nathan Goodman’s final solo he looks almost hunted as he paws, simultaneously introspective and expressive across the stage, sparking in fragile turquoise lace and crystal.
Goodman is a shining light in an altogether brilliant cast, not only in his liquid changes of direction in Shimmer, his swagger in Devil in the Detail but also in the energy he brings to his solos in Madcap. A febrile score from Julia Wolfe is the electric charge powering this piece that doesn’t stop or pause for breath, and even in its freezes feels unpredictable and wild.
Duetting Liam Riddick and Nancy Nerantzi yank each other’s arms. She drags him backwards, he kicks her across his body. It feels raw, dangerous and exhilarating, not to mention a complete contrast to Lawrance’s clean athletic Run For It, performed just over a week ago by Scottish Ballet. It’s the polar opposite to the show’s bright beginnings and while it may not leave you on the traditional proverbial high, the blood is pumping by the time the curtain falls.