Richard Alston choreographed his first work in 1968 as one of the original students at the London School of Contemporary Dance. He went on to choreograph for Robert Cohan’s London Contemporary Dance Theatre before forming Britain’s first independent dance company, Strider, in 1972. In 1975 he came to New York to study for two years. His teachers included Merce Cunningham, Carolyn Brown, Viola Farber, Valda Setterfield, Gus Solomons Jr., and Alfredo Corvino. On his return to Europe he worked internationally as choreographer and teacher. In 1980 he was appointed Resident Choreographer of Ballet Rambert, becoming the company’s Artistic Director from 1986-1992. During his time there he created 25 works for Rambert, besides being commissioned to create works for the Royal Danish Ballet (Dances from the Kingdom of Pagodas, 1982) and the Royal Ballet (Midsummer, 1983). As Artistic Director of Rambert, he commissioned work from Merce Cunningham (Touchbase, 1991); Lucinda Childs (Four Elements,1988, designed by the painter Jennifer Bartlett); and David Gordon (Mates, 1987). In the repertoire also were Antony Tudor’s Dark Elegies, Merce Cunningham’s Septet and Doubles, and Frederick Ashton’s Capriol Suite. In 1992, Alston was invited to create a full evening of his own work for the Ballet Atlantique based in La Rochelle, France. He made another full evening for London Contemporary Dance Theatre at the 1994 Aldeburgh Festival and it was therefore a logical step to go on to form his own company, which he did when he took up the post of Artistic Director of The Place. The Richard Alston Dance Company was launched at The Place in November of that year. Over the past 16 years, Alston has made over 37 pieces for his company. Recent commissions for other companies include Sheer Bravado for Ballet Theatre Munich, Walk Through A Storm for Ballet Black, and Carmen for Ashley Page’s Scottish Ballet. Alston was made an honorary Doctor of Philosophy (in Dance) at Surrey University in 1992, and in 2003 he received an honorary MA from University College Chichester. In 1995 he was named Chevalier dans l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres in recognition of his work in France and in 2001 he received the CBE in the New Year Honours list. In 2008 he was given the Critics Circle National Dance Awards De Valois Award for Outstanding Achievement.
Photo by Ida Zenna.