FEATURED: Acclaimed choreographer Sir Richard Alston announced as new patron for Northampton’s Royal & Derngate

Richard Alston by Hugo Glendinning

Royal & Derngate is thrilled to announce that the acclaimed choreographer Sir Richard Alston is to become a patron of the Northampton-based theatre.

Founder of the renowned Richard Alston Dance Company and Artistic Director of The Place for the last 25 years, Richard Alston is internationally recognised as one of the most inspiring and influential choreographers in dance. Over the past 50 years, he has played a major role in the world of contemporary dance, developing a unique and distinct dance language and shaping the art form in this country. Perhaps more than any other choreographer, Richard is known for his instinctive musicality and his very close relationship with music, taking inspiration for his work directly from the music he uses, to use the music as a point of departure for the choreography.

Richard is deeply committed to nurturing the talents and interests of children and young people, and this has led to him offering incredible opportunities over the years for many young people in Northamptonshire to get involved in dance projects supported by him and his company.

Richard Alston Dance Company has been a regular feature on the Derngate stage for many years, and the company will be performing in Northampton for the last time on Tuesday 1 and Wednesday 2 October, as part of its final tour before the company closes in April 2020. The programme will include a group of young dancers from across the region, aged 14 to 18, performing a new piece of work developed over a weeklong residency during the summer, as part of a project with Richard Alston Dance Company and Two Thirds Sky

Richard Alston commented: “I am truly delighted to be asked to become Patron of Royal & Derngate theatres. Northampton has been a part of my touring life for decades and over all those touring years the stage of the Derngate has always remained one of my favourites on which to present my dances. I am, yes, delighted to be Patron but also very proud.”

Jo Gordon, Chief Executive of Royal & Derngate, said: “We’re delighted that we are going to be able continue our association with Richard Alston into the future. Richard has always been incredibly generous with his time, building activities around his company’s visits to Royal & Derngate that can engage the whole community. As such he has developed really strong relationships in the county across the years and his continued support of the venue, through becoming our patron, will be greatly valued.”

Born in Sussex in 1948, Richard Alston was educated at Eton where he discovered his passion for music in the school gramophone library, listening to Bach and Billie Holliday, or blasting Wagner’s Ring at the cows grazing outside. He then studied fine art and theatre design at Croydon College of Art in 1965, before becoming one of the very first students at the newly established London Contemporary Dance School in 1968, where he first started to choreograph under the ground breaking teaching of Robert Cohan and leadership of Robin Howard at The Place.

In 1975 Richard Alston went to New York to study with Merce Cunningham at the Cunningham Studios. He returned to the UK to take on the post of Artistic Director at Ballet Rambert from 1986-1992 before returning to his artistic home The Place as Artistic Director in 1994 – the same year he launched his Richard Alston Dance Company.

He was made an Honorary Doctor of Philosophy (in Dance) at Surrey University (1992), received an Honorary MA from University College Chichester (1993), made an Honorary Doctor of the Arts by the University of Kent (2015), an Honorary Doctor of the Arts by Kingston University (2016) and an Honorary Fellow of Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance (2017). Alston was made Chevalier dans l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres in France (1995) and received the CBE in the New Year Honours list (2001). Alston received the De Valois Award for Outstanding Achievement from the Critics’ Circle National Dance Awards (2008). He was presented with the Award for Excellence in International Dance by the International Theatre Institute (2012).

Alston was Chair of Youth Dance England, a position he held from 2009 until March 2016 when he became U.Dance Champion and is a Trustee of the Dance Professionals Fund. Alston was knighted in the 2019 New Year Honours list.

Royal & Derngate hosts a diverse programme of dance, drama, music, comedy and film and is one of the major producing venues in the country, well-known for its acclaimed Made in Northampton drama productions. For more information about the theatre and its programme, visit www.royalanderngate.co.uk.

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