Review: James Cousins Company - Rosalind - The Place
Rosalind, from Shakespeare’s As You Like It is a symbol of progressive womanhood and here in James Cousins Company, imagined as a contemporary women, she is no less impressive. Danced by Chihiro Kawasaki, Rosalind excels in mental and physical agility, determination and wisdom as she dances defiantly through love, contempt, prejudice and repression, gracefully dismantling the social conventions that try and contain her. Together with dancers, Inho Cho, Georges Hann and Heejung Kim she shapes the space around her to create a more fluid, flexible and all-embracing world.
The abstract narrative, conveyed through movement and the resonant poetry of Sabrina Mahfouz suggests the various hurdles that this modern Rosalind has to negotiate: dealing with a lover, confronting an oppressive patriarch, supporting a damaged friend, working out who she is. These relationships are set up through high velocity contact work, unison phrases or contemplative solos. Kim slides off backwards from sitting on Kawasaki’s shoulders in slow, gentle repetitions; Hann pulls Kawasaki from the floor into a diagonal, body wrap, before hurling her away. She withstands the violence and returns for more until she conquers him with her calm power and unites him with Cho. A pensive walk or a sculptural solo is followed by a gutsy sequence in which all fling themselves across the floor in frenzied rolls, or leave it flying.
No one is weak here; female strength is perfectly matched with male and partnering flouts gender stereotyping. Yet each performer shows human vulnerability in the hesitant, introspective moments. Grounded, dynamically varied and technically challenging, Cousins’ choreography is as imaginative as its theme of a Shakespearean heroine negotiating the 21st century.
The use of costumes as light symbols of both gender and history is also effective – the bodice, Elizabethan velvet jacket, neck ruff and train, blends with sharply tailored jackets and casual modern-day attire. Clothes are added or peeled off as social codes are bent and re-invented – Rosalind, the famous cross-dresser, swaps masculinity for femininity as she needs to.
A big, illuminated metal cube designed by Cousins, Joe Hornsby and Lee Curran establishes a space or a home in which the dancers can perform, pass through and travel around. It’s a visually striking object on the otherwise empty stage and the minimalistic design complements the elaborately textured choreography. Inside this structure performers act out various transformations, desires and mental states. As there’s a lot going on throughout the 60 minute piece, repetition and unison are welcome breaks and one such section is an orgiastic club scene; here the company dance flat out inside the confined space, before spilling out of it, accompanied by Seymour Milton’s heavy rock music. This interlude of controlled physical abandonment is incredibly satisfying to watch.
Although Cousins’ Rosalind may not have the witty depth of Shakespeare’s character, and while the abstract nature of the show dilutes theatrical impact, it’s an intense, multi-layered physical feast.
Wednesday 15 to Saturday 18 March
£18 (£12 concessions)
Josephine Leask is a lecturer in Cultural Studies on the BA (Hons) degree course at the London Studio Centre and London correspondent for The Dance Insider.