Expressively Deep and Wide Movement in Cousins’ There We Have Been

 United KingdomUnited Kingdom Without Stars/There We Have Been: James Cousins Company, The Place, London, 21.11.2014 (J.O’D)

Without Stars
Performers:Gareth Mole, Chihiro Kawasaki, Georges Hann and Albert Garcia
Choreography: James Cousins
Lighting Designer: Guy Hoare
Composer and Sound Design: Seymour Hilton
Music: You Always Hurt The Ones You Love by The Mills Brothers; Busted by the Black Keys, Dear Heart by Henry Mancini.
Costume and Set Design: Morgan Large

There We Have Been
Performers:Chihiro Kawasaki, Georges Hann
Lighting Designer:Lee Curran
Composer:Seymour Milton

Costume Design: Colin Falconer

As the audience takes its seats, a young man sits on the floor of the stage. With knees close to his chest and back turned to the auditorium, he smokes a cigarette. Without Stars (the first of two dances that make up the evening) will show this man (Gareth Mole) in the ‘troubled relationships’ with a woman and two men that may have brought him to his present state of introspection. His present state of introspection may, on the other hand, be the point from which he started the relationships. After the interval, a second, much shorter dance, There We Have Been (actually created before the first), will present the world through the eyes of the woman.

Inspired by Haruki Murakami’s novel, Norwegian Wood, choreographer James Cousins (one of The Place’s Work Place artists) successfully links depth of emotion to depth of movement. Large, sweeping gestures fill the stage; backs are pliant; legs trace wide circles on the floor. The dancers stretch their bodies, slowly or rapidly and often at floor level, to express yearning, indecision and desire. In Without Stars, all this happens in Guy Hoare’s highly responsive light or shadow.

It could be the fault of Haruki Murakami’s novel (which I have not read), rather than of James Cousins’s choreography, if over forty-five minutes the vacillations of the central figure between the woman (Chihiro Kawasaki) and one of the men (Albert Garcia) become a little tedious.

The woman, for her part, is always also attracted to the fourth man (Georges Hann), who spends much of the time before the interval hovering in the shadows. In There We Have Been, the more powerful of the two works, he takes an active role. And it is, quite remarkably, the role of porteur. For the seventeen minutes that the piece lasts, Kawaski’s feet do not touch the ground.

First seen, high up and in a strip of light (this time the lighting is by Lee Curran), Kawasaki’s hair is now in a braid. Her spotted blue and white dress has been exchanged for a calm, cream-coloured shirtwaister. She places her head to one side, and curves her arms as if around an absence. Lifted out from the shadows by Hann, the small and compact Kawasaki is able to climb over his much taller body. She stands on one of his thighs. She stretches out across both of them. When he kneels on the floor she clings to his shoulders. Confined as it is by the premise of the piece (a dancer’s lack of contact with the floor), the movement is still expressively deep and wide.

There We Have Been seems to show the way in which people are both able and unable to support each other. On her partner’s back, or in his arms, Kawasaki never loses her air of isolation and remoteness. At the end, she is returned by him to the position in which she first appeared. And her arms, once again, encircle emptiness.

John O’Dwyer

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