15 Mar 2019
The award is a wonderful acknowledgement of the remarkable contribution to the art form Richard has made over five decades as one of the most inspiring and influential choreographers in contemporary dance.
Richard has been a strong advocate for learning and dance in education for as many years as he has been dancing and choreographing, giving his time and energy through teaching, supporting and critiquing young dancers to help them progress in the dance world. He was the Chair of Youth Dance England and his work has been on the GSCE and A Level AQA Dance syllabus for several years influencing thousands of young dancers all over the country.
“I am of course delighted to receive such a tremendous honour, not only for myself but also for dance, the art form to which I have devoted the greater part of my life and which I love so much. “ – Richard Alston.
Clare Connor, Chief Executive of The Place says:
“Richard occupies a special place in the hearts and minds of dance and music lovers the world over. His sense of artistry combined with his deep commitment to young people and their learning through dance is rare. This is a wonderful and fitting celebration of decades of dedication to dance.”
Perhaps more than any other choreographer, Richard is known for his instinctive musicality and his very close relationship with music. Born in Sussex in 1948, Richard 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.
He went on to choreograph for The Place's resident company London Contemporary Dance Theatre before forming the UK’s first independent dance company, Strider, in 1972. In 1975 he left for New York to study at the Merce Cunningham Dance Studio and on his return two years later he worked throughout the UK and Europe as an independent choreographer and teacher. Richard was Artistic Director of Ballet Rambert from 1986 – 1992 before taking up the post of Artistic Director of The Place and launching his Richard Alston Dance Company in November 1994.
He was 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).
As 2018 comes to a close, the year that saw Richard celebrating his 70th birthday as well as his company’s 25th anniversary now marks a high point in his wonderful long career.