Pros: Awe-inspiring choreography set to an impactful sound track.
Cons: The complexity of the choreography and the athletic accuracy needed to execute it distract from the sentiment of the stories and the performances.
There is no question that choreographer James Cousins has crafted superb and beautiful contemporary dance in Without Stars and There We Have Been, exquisitely performed by Gareth Mole, Chihiro Kawasaki, Georges Hann and Albert Garcia. Inspired by Haruki Murakami’s best-selling novel Norwegian Wood, the two pieces explore the torment, ecstasy and intimacy of love and loss. Without Stars sees a man re-live his continuing struggle between whole-heartedly winning over a woman who will not stop loving a ghost and the vivacious relationship with his male lover whom he cannot love unreservedly. There We Have Been examines the woman’s world being in love with and embraced by a man who cannot reciprocate only because he is no longer there.
The first piece is a sequence of duets, intense, intimate and passionate that, at times, expand to trios and even to all four characters in an explosion of Cousins’ unique choreography. The sound design by Seymour Milton, quite filmic in nature, perfectly matches the ups and downs of this emotional journey. Occasionally a hard, chaotic beat bursts forth from the melancholy tones, as the characters come together in a rhythmic performance of confusion and longing. Particularly noteworthy is the last duet between Albert Garcia and Gareth Mole, which is extraordinary in every way.
The latter piece, There We Have Been, is a quietly intense duet between Chihiro Kawasaki and Georges Hann, the woman and her ghost of a lover respectively. It’s a feat of impressive strength, as most of the duet is performed while Hann lifts Kawasaki: a striking intimation of the intensity and dependency of a relationship that once was.
While there is some incredible imagery throughout the evening’s work, created by a combination of the movement and lighting by Lee Curran, I did find both pieces a bit too dark. Much of the dancing took place in the shadows, which, powerful and clever as the metaphor might be, is also distracting as the audience is straining to see what’s happening.
The imagery in both pieces tells a clear, emotional story and the performers are evidently fully committed to the work. Yet, the characters do not quite click: Cousins seems to have paid more attention to creating a complex and athletically demanding choreography than to enabling his dancers to emotionally connect with each other. As a result, there also exists a barrier between the characters and the audience, which prevented me from fully engaging with their story and experiences. With the sentimental side of the story relegated to the back seat, the show can’t quite deliver that visualisation of the human spirit the very best dance pieces can offer glimpses of. Nevertheless, this is a beautiful and compelling evening of dance: a fascinating story told through movement befitting of the plot.
Choreographer: James Cousins
Composer: Seymour Milton
Booking Information: This show has now completed its run.