Interview: James Cousins at 2013 Edinburgh Festival with his own company and Scottish Ballet
New work from upcoming dancer and choreographer at International Festival and Fringe
This article is from 2013.
James Cousins has been hailed as a future star of British dance. Kelly Apter chats to the man who is plying his trade on both International and Fringe stages in August
When the most successful British dance maker in history gives you the nod of approval, you must be doing something right. Launched by Matthew Bourne and his company in 2011, the New Adventures Choreographer Award was set up to support emerging talent in the dance world. Bourne was, he said, looking for somebody with a ‘passion to communicate and entertain through movement’.
Step forward James Cousins, the inaugural winner of this new prize, and a young man destined to play a large part in the future of British dance. Despite only graduating from London Contemporary Dance School in 2010, Cousins has already won the aforementioned award, started his own company and received a number of notable commissions.
When I speak to him, Cousins is busy making a new piece for the National Ballet of Chile, and when he returns to the UK, his work will be performed at both the Edinburgh International Festival and the Fringe. In short, Cousins is on quite the trajectory. ‘Yes, I often feel like I’m on a very fast track, but I love the challenge of it,’ says the 24-year-old. ‘It’s so exciting and fulfilling, but also rather terrifying at times. I’ve never felt like I’m way out of my depth, though, because I have so many people to go to for help and advice.’ Not least Bourne himself, whose mentorship formed part of the award.
In the EIF, Cousins will choreograph two works for Scottish Ballet’s epic Dance Odysseys programme, in the ‘New Voices’ and ‘Duets’ sections. And at the Fringe, he’ll present There We Have Been, a duet inspired by Japanese author Haruki Murakami’s 1987 novel Norwegian Wood. Set in 1960s Tokyo, the story opens with three close friends, two of whom are left shattered by the third’s suicide, until they eventually start to find comfort in each other.
‘I decided to focus on the first four chapters of the novel, where the relationship between the two main characters develops from acquaintances into lovers,’ explains Cousins. ‘What fascinated me in the book was this constant pull in both characters between their feelings for each other and for the third character – the girl’s ex-boyfriend and the guy’s best friend – who has taken his own life.’
Exploring ideas of emotional support, Cousins took the bold step of using an unusual choreographic device for the entire duet: at no point does the female dancer touch the floor. ‘I wanted the female dancer to really emphasise her vulnerability and dependence on him,’ explains Cousins. ‘I thought maybe we’d manage ten minutes of that, then have a second section of something else. But I realised it was too strong an idea to follow with anything else, so we had to keep pushing it. Obviously that caused quite a challenge, as there are only so many things two people can do without touching the floor and it’s easy to get stuck in a loop. But I was fortunate enough to have time to really explore and push the vocabulary; I can still see it developing every time they perform it, which is really exciting.’
James Cousins Company: There We Have Been, Zoo Southside, Nicolson Street, 0131 662 6892, 19–26 Aug, 10.30am, £8
Scottish Ballet: Dance Odysseys, Festival Theatre, Nicolson Street, 0131 473 2000, 16 Aug, noon; 17 Aug, 5pm; 18 Aug, noon, 5pm; 19 Aug, 5pm, £12.
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There We Have Been
There We Have Been takes inspiration from the troubled relationships portrayed
in Murakami's bestselling novel, Norwegian Wood. Focusing on the first
half of the story and the development of relationships between the novel’s
protagonist and his late best friend's girlfriend, Cousins presents a