|Roughcut. Photo: Chris Nash|
Alston's choreography is best suited for compact men. The standouts in his current company, seen at Peak Performances in Montclair on Dec 16, are Pierre Tappon and Liam Riddick, of a like size. Both dance with lucidity and purpose, "sticking" the deceptively difficult jeté landings, and hovering for an extra moment in relevés. They are both small enough so that even in their maximum extensions in circling leaps, they manage to stay safely within the bounds of the stage. Taller people might fail at this. Tappon exudes a serenity and intelligence that grounds the dances, while Riddick has a more aggressive, percolating energy.
|Liam Riddick in Unfinished Business.|
Photo: Chris Nash
It's somewhat lazy, but it's useful to put things in perspective by comparing Alston's dances to work that you might read in similar ways, such as Mark Morris, Merce Cunningham, Lucinda Childs, even a little bit of abstract Paul Taylor. Morris less so, but they have all identified specific vocabularies and stuck with them, built bodies of work on dance's formal aspects, and considered music, or its disregard, to be an important element. Alston, like Cunningham, is on the clinical side of things. The dancers relate lightly, but more in terms of physical proximity than emotionally. There are no stories, no outright scenarios. A world arises from the dancers moving onstage in relation to one another, in that moment, to that music. In that regard, it's twice as difficult to do well without narrative lifelines or simple dramaturgical fallbacks. On the other hand, its contained range at times feels like it's thirsting for these life-affirming totems. Still, Alston's clarity and conviction gratify.