James Cousins is unusually touring a bill of three contrasting duets – called Epilogues it has a London run at The Place from 6-8 March 2019. Full tour details.
Looking forward to your bill of duets and ‘Within Her Eyes’ particularly which seems to be based on earlier very much admired works (‘Jealousy’ and ‘There We Have Been’). It’s a piece of dance that never seems to be far from your heart; what makes it so special?
Note that Within Her Eyes is There We Have Been – it was renamed in 2016.
Within Her Eyes will always be a special piece for me as it was created as part of the New Adventures Choreographer Award, which marked an amazing point in my career – the moment I decided I wanted to choreograph not dance. I love the piece and it’s such a pleasure to see it grow and develop as new casts take it on. For me it was the piece that solidified my love for creating duets. For audiences I think the fact that one of the dancers is off the floor for the whole time makes it very exciting.
There are also two new duets on the bill – can you tell us about them and how the three works relate overall?
The two new works were conceived deliberately for me to return to the intimacy of the duet format but to work with stories that felt important to me now. The Secret of Having It All, for two female dancers, is probably the most physical piece I’ve ever made. It was inspired by watching family members deal with the impending loss of a parent. The other duet for two male dancers, In Between Us Is Me, is very contrasting and explores that moment of choice in a relationship where we either go for it and dive in, or let our daemons get the better of us and walk away. With both new works I wanted to challenge the stereotypes of how men and women dance. The women take on the powerful, at times aggressive, highly physical movement, and the men’s work explores care, tenderness and the emotions that so often men feel they can’t express.
What’s your creative process in the studio? Do you have nearly all the movement worked out beforehand? Do you ever lose your temper in the studio?
I have nothing planned out before I go into the studio. It all comes once I’m in the space and I have the dancers in front of me. It has to come from them for it to be true. I try to keep as open as possible for the first week to see what comes up, to allow the dancers to explore without feeling the pressure of creating the product. Nearly all the material comes from tasks – I feel my strength as a choreographer lies in pushing people to go beyond what they thought was possible.
And no, I try never to lose my temper! What’s the point, it’s not going to get the best out of people. I want to create a company which people want to work for, where they feel valued and able to contribute to the process.
How would you describe your choreographic style and who are your choreographic heroes?
Tricky question! I think for me it’s less about a particular physical aesthetic, although there is one to some extent, but it’s more about a narrative or emotive style. I try to draw the narrative from the physicality and therefore the physicality has to be strong, it has to push the dancers to a certain point that the emotion just pours out. That’s the space I’m interested in.
So what next?
I’m soon to begin as associate movement director on Nicholas Hytner’s new production of Midsummer Night’s Dream at The Bridge Theatre. It’s going to be good!
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