Argentinian tango infused contemporary dance sizzles on a hot summer evening. Tangent, choreographed by Martin Lawrence for the Richard Alston Dance Company, draws inspiration from Las Cuatro Estaciones Porteñas (The Four Seasons of Buenos Aires) played on stage by pianist Jason Ridgway. Sometimes tempestuous, sometimes tender; four couples oscillate between summer storms and wintry chills. Lawrence captures the brooding characteristics of tango whilst deftly sidestepping pastiche. Dancers cut across each other with interlocking limbs and quick fire footwork. Their legs flick like blades from a sheath and their bodies are taut ready for flight. Oihana Vesga Bujan and Liam Riddick form a simmering partnership. Feisty and argumentative, they consume the space demanding of one another as they twist and spiral in a mutual orbit. Lawrence's choreography taps into the emotional seam of tango but investigates its properties with a finely tuned abstraction.

Oihana Vesga Bujan and Liam Riddic, <i>Tangent</i> © Chris Nash
Oihana Vesga Bujan and Liam Riddic, Tangent
© Chris Nash

In contrast to the virulent Tangent, Chacony (choreographed by Richard Alston) opens with a quiet and cut-glass formality. Clad in rippling burgundy tunics, the ensemble move seamlessly in a delicate counterpoint to Purcell's lilting variations. Britten's arrangement of Purcell's score releases the tightly coiled baroque phases setting free a sweeping and cathartic melancholy. This feeling is etched into the wide graceful arcs drawn by the dancers' bodies.

Alston choreographed the second half of the piece to an excerpt from Britten's own Chacony (Op 36. 1945). Here the intensity hinted at in the opening section builds as the company probes and exposes a deeper vulnerability. Again Bujan makes her mark and is compelling to watch. Her long limbs curl around the music - the articulations of her body need no utterance to convey meaning.

Gypsy Mixture is the final work. Here, Alston explores the music of Balkan Gypsy bands. Echoing their travels, their music is sponge-like - absorbing and expanding with the sounds of the societies they rub alongside. The piece is lively and convivial. There is a fast-paced patter to the choreography, picking up the vibrancy of the tracks by Electric Gypsyland. In particular, Nancy Nerantzi sparkles, expressing a sense of joy and fun. She moves with lightness of touch that tickles the choreography and rides the musical currents.    

Dancers of RADC in <i>Chacony</i> © Chris Nash
Dancers of RADC in Chacony
© Chris Nash
Gypsy Mixture is well-received by the audience, positioned to send us home uplifted and in high spirits. I'm less keen. Alston's aesthetic of clean lines and erect torsos doesn't translate into the playfulness of the melodies, failing to get under the skin of the diverse cultural influences that colour and reinvigorate the music of travelling communities.

The evening is prefaced by Glint. Introduced by Alston, he talks about his enjoyment of working with the students from the Rambert School of Ballet and Contemporary Dance to create the work. The piece is fast-paced and technical, for which Alston makes no apology, describing his choreography as a response to the energy and vibrancy of these emerging professionals.

Dressed in bold blocks of orange, yellow and green, the dancers look like colourful molecules. They buzz and fizz in sweeping ensemble patterns, a shifting kaleidoscope of shapes sharpened by John Cage's percussive score. Glint is a showcase for technical prowess of these young dancers and fertile ground to grow their experience as performers. 

****1