Richard Alston choreographed his first work in 1968, as one of the twelve students of the newly formed London Contemporary Dance School. On leaving in 1972, he formed the UK’s first independent dance group Strider. In 1975 Alston went to New York to study at the Merce Cunningham Dance Studio. On his return two years later he worked throughout the UK and Europe as an independent choreographer and teacher.
In 1980 Alston became Resident Choreographer with Ballet Rambert and later was appointed Artistic Director, a position he held from 1986 to 1992. In his time there he created 25 dances for the company, and was also commissioned to create work for the Royal Danish Ballet (Kingdom of Pagodas 1982) and the Royal Ballet (Midsummer 1983).
In 1992 Alston was invited to create a full evening of his own work, including Boulez’s Le Marteau Sans Maitre, for the Ballet Atlantique in France. He made another full evening for London Contemporary Dance Theatre at the 1994 Aldeburgh Festival going on to form his own company when he became Artistic Director of The Place in 1994.
Richard Alston Dance Company started in the autumn of that year, and over the past 24 years Alston has made over 45 dances for the Company. Commissions from other companies have included Sheer Bravado for Ballet Theatre Munich (2006), Walk Through a Storm for Ballet Black (2008), Carmen for Scottish Ballet (2009), A Rugged Flourish for New York Theatre Ballet (2011), Even Song for the Holland Dance Festival
(2012), All Alight for Phoenix Dance Theatre (2013), Light Flooding Into Darkened Rooms remounted on New York Theatre Ballet (2013), Such Longing remounted on New York Theatre Ballet (2015), Brisk Singing remounted on the students of the University of Michigan (2015) and Carmen on Miami City
Ballet (2015). Sheer Bravado was remounted on the students of The Juilliard School in March 2017.
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).
Alston was Chair of Youth Dance England, a position he held from 2009 until March 2016 when he became U.Dance Champion. He is a Trustee of the Dance Professionals Fund. Alston was knighted in the 2019 New Year Honours list.