23/09/16, The Richard Alston Dance Company at the Festival Theatre
Modern dance is a new passion of mine. I came to Edinburgh in the autumn of 2015 and signed up to watch a series of shows at the Festival Theatre. The modern dance acts all through the year swept me away, so much more than ballet – which sticks to a story you kind-of have to follow. Modern dance is more abstract, allowing you to switch off subconsciously, or watch without focusing on what you think you should be focusing on. It kind-of lulls you, and on the more abstract canvas, perhaps more of yourself projects onto things. The music also tends to be more contemporary than ballet; last year's Richard Alston show included techno/trance music. It was one of my favourite shows of the year.
And this year? It was nice to be back at the Festival Theatre, with its Tiffany-styled lamps of an art-deco style; it makes me feel glamorous. I don't like all the breaks between acts, because it makes me spend more money. After the third act at nine o'clock, a man next to me left and didn't come back, and I wonder if he knew there was a fourth and final act. Even I had my bags with me, thinking that was that, when I heard ushers reminding customers there was one more act to go. If you didn't have a programme (usually around £4), it was difficult to follow.
Anyway. Act one had a French, aristocratic theme, all elegance. It included a fascinating new dancer I don't remember from last year, her style incorporated Indian or Thai styles of movement which were striking among the 'Louis XIV' vibe. Cliché alert: she moved like she was dancing on air, spinning gently in successions of graceful pirouettes before her signature Thai/Indian pose. You can see her in my accompanying photo in the middle, for those wishing to visualise her.
On that note, the blonde dancer is also interesting, they use her prominently for the Richard Alston promo photos (see at the front of the photo), she looks a bit like Lady Gaga, the same kind of oval face and aquiline nose. I guess some dancers have the X factor, and she's one of them – all the dancers are talented but she always grabs my attention. I admit I prefer looking at the female dancers.
This may explain my feelings about the show as a whole. Act one was the French aristocratic piece, all very pretty with its classical music. Then after the break (ice-cream: £3), two men dancing in a dance battle. I clapped politely and enjoyed my ice-cream (though not for long because you don't get much ice-cream in the quite-small tub). Act three was the best, edgy, the stage stripped of everything, with spotlights on stands, and the theatre's back wall of brick. The dancing too was edgy, and the music also, all strings like from a horror film or east European communist weirdness. I applauded enthusiastically – I think I was the first in the theatre to do so, I was so much into it. Then back to another break: crisps, £1.50. On top of the pint of cider at the beginning (£4.50), nearly ten pounds on refreshments. I'm tempted next time to sneak stuff in, but part of the fun of going to a place like the Festival Theatre is going to the bar and ordering stuff. I'm glad they don't have such shows so often. At the Cameo cinema, a film and a hot chocolate can be enjoyed for a tenner.So to my conclusion: I didn't enjoy it as much as last year, but it was still good. I wish I had more money and wasn't sticking to such a tight budget these days. If I had more money, I would turn up at the Festival and sample their many wines, eat their luxury £1.50 crisps like they were going out of business. I would eat small tubs of ice-cream and not think to myself: fuck me, £3 is a lot for this small tub of ice-cream. And while I was thinking this, I would check my £4 programme to see how many acts there were. But seriously, £4 for a programme you'll probably never use afterwards? I think it's better to be confused and hope you don't walk out too early. For what it's worth, I didn't think the fourth and final act was anything special, and the man who'd sat next to me had got the best part of the show before he'd left, with that brilliant third act.