Richard Alston’s company is one of the world’s leading contemporary dance ensembles, which primarily performs his own works. Alston is one of the most musically motivated and sensitive choreographers, and much of his canon is danced to classical music.

However, for the first piece in this programme, Buzzing Round the Hunnisucle, he has chosen music by the Japanese composer Kondo. “It’s the title of the middle piece of Kondo’s music that I’m using. I came across his work when I made my piece Light Flooding into Darkened Rooms — the final music in that is by Kondo. I heard Hunnisucle then, and thought I’d love to do that one day. There are two fast pieces of music in which they dance very fast. They’re not pretending to be bees, but they do move very speedily.

“Hunnisucle itself is very, very serene. It’s a really beautiful adagio, and I’ve made a dance that fits with that. The faster pieces of music have got a fantastic sense of rhythm, so they really have a wonderful sense of dance in them. They’re also in a way quite odd, and sometimes very simple in texture, in a way that gets under your skin.

“This music certainly gets to me; it’s not abrasive music. Contemporary music can be very, very loud or quite aggressive, but this isn’t at all like that.

“I think the piece looks very Japanese too. It has very beautifully-coloured lighting, and the costumes are very simple, with big brush strokes on white silk tunics.”

Do the dancers respond well to this music?

“They certainly do respond to the rhythm in the music. This is a particularly lovely bunch of dancers, and they really seemed to just go for it when we started working on it.”

Next comes Unfinished Business, perhaps surprisingly, only the second work for which Alston has used Mozart’s music.

“I’m very cautious about using Mozart, but this is an unfinished sonata, and I felt, therefore, that there was a hint of less perfection. Sometimes I think Mozart is so perfect you just want to close your eyes and not see anything. But here there are two wonderful movements, and I made an eight-and-a-half minute duet to the adagio.

“I was very pleased when we were in New York just before Christmas and we got really good reviews for this — they really understood it. The New York Times said it was the best duet I have made, and I’m happy to go along with that. I actually found out that Mozart was very keen on dance; he loved social dancing. There’s a letter in which he talks about how he and his wife threw a ball which started at 6.30pm and finished at 7am! So I think he’s not going to mind someone dancing to his music.”

To end this very varied programme comes Madcap, by Martin Lawrance. Lawrance was for many years one of the company’s most exciting dancers, and is now well into a new career as a choreographer. Alston is most impressed with this latest piece, which is rougher and more raw than Lawrance’s previous work.

“It’s got a terrific drama to it, and it has a wonderful drive. I think it’s probably the best thing he’s made for us. The company do it terrifically, and it can look amazing on a very large stage, but it can have even more dramatic impact when it’s in a smaller theatre like the Oxford Playhouse.

“The proximity of the audience will really lend itself to that. There’s a narrative thread running through the piece, with an outsider figure who is quite clearly a trouble-maker and is malevolent in some way. He just slithers into the space and keeps coming between couples and causing them to break up and become very angst-ridden.

“But in the end the whole group get together and get away from him. This work has terrific music by a New York composer, Julia Wolf, who works for a percussion group called Bang on a Can. It’s quite rock-influenced, very percussive, and a very exciting piece.

“We always put it at the end, as the dancers just hurl themselves at it, and then they can’t get up and do anything else. Closing with Madcap is working really well on this whole tour.”

Buzzing Round the Hunnisucle

Oxford Playhouse

April 30-May 1 n Tickets: 01865 305305 or