Examine the key choreographic developments of Richard Alston from 1966-1987.
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Examine the key choreographic developments of Richard Alston from 1966-1987 Richard Alston (1948) started to study at Croydon College of arts in 1965 till 1967 studying fine arts and theatre design. His knowledge and interest in the artist and designer Robert Raushenberg encourages him to see Merce Cunningham Dance Company to perform. When visiting London he also saw Martha Graham Dance Company in 1967. In 1967 he was inspired by dance and started to take ballet lessons and in 1967 went to London School of Contemporary Dance, as one of the first fall time students. From 1967 to 1970 he studied Graham's modern dance technique, ballet, tai chi, Cunningham technique and historical dance. Influences of historical dance are present in Pulcinella in the third scene when partner work is present. He also found that he was more in tune with Cunningham technique and the style of movement, this was also a time when the art world was undergoing a period of upheaval. Old conventions and modernism were challenged by new experimental forms, which favoured fragmenting the dance, juxtaposing ideas to make college of different meanings and engaging the intellect of spectators.
Most strongly influenced by Cunningham technique and vocabulary and was interested in exploring abstract, movement based themes. Headlong (1973) was a 'quartet of tightly packed movement. The contentious work Tiger Balm (1972) is a dance of tensions, of energy poised and then released. Between 1973-1974 Strider visited Dartington College of Arts where Alston met Mary Fulkerson. She introduced him to contact and release techniques, developed from the American post-modern dance movement. Alston spoke of his time as a 'sorting out period'. Strider ended in 1975. Alston went to New York, which was his big turning point in his career, to study at the Cunningham studios. He also took ballet classes with Alfred Corvino. Alston saw many dance styles including George Balanchines New York City Ballet, many Fred Astaire films, and post-modern work by artists such as Trisha Brown, Twyla Tharp, Lucinda Childs, Sara Rudner and Douglas Dunn. He gave a programme of his own work, UnAmerican Activities (1976) at the Cunningham Studios and continued his connection with Siobhan Davies, who performed in his piece.
He changed the name of the company Rambert Dance Company to reflect the style of work being performed in the repertory. He also continued freelance work for ballet companies where his interests in ballet's allegro consolidated (fast, intricate footwork and elevations) and ballon (a light, buoyant quality associated with jumping) including Danse fra pagodernes Rige (1982) for the Royal Danish Ballet and Midsummer (1983) for the Royal Ballet. Eventually, economic recession hit ticket sales for contemporary dance, this style was thought to be too difficult and not broad or popular enough for audiences appeal. In conclusion Alston infused mainstream dance with methods that were once very experimental. In addition to his work with designers, Alston influenced the development of many choreographers. Alston is quite clear that he considers that contemporary dance has as much to contribute to our culture as the other arts, and has worked throughout his career to support it with those arts which are taken more seriously in the public domain, for example, visual arts, music and theatre. The addition of Merce Cunningham's technique in Alston's training and its influences on his choreography helped this style become more established and popular in the UK. Claire Shepley
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