I love watching plays, musicals and dance recitals. Just recently, my appreciation for dance was once again updated courtesy of James Cousins, a young multi-awarded British choreographer who came up with a grand idea of a contemporary dance version of Haruki Murakami’s best-selling novel Norwegian Wood.
Thus, the twin-bill productions of There We Have Been and Without Stars were born and had its Asian premiere and media/press preview last October 9 at the PETA Theater Center. James and his company of skilled dancers are on Asian Tour right now with Manila as its kick-off city. Their next tour stops will be in Malaysia, Vietnam and Indonesia.
Like most contemporary dance productions with no lavish backdrops or props required, this must-see performance featured the raw and rivetting dancing prowess of four international dance artists Chihiro Kawasaki of Japan, Albert
Garcia of Spain, Georges Hann and Gareth Mole of the UK who brought to life Murakami’s literary characters in Norwegian Wood. I was immediately impressed on how they dominated the stage and our full attention for 90 minutes!
There We Have Been focuses on the first half of Murakami’s novel wherein two dancers enact the development of relationships between the novel’s protagonist and his late best friend’s girlfriend. This anticipated duet sees the dancers intensely folding, wrapping and balancing with the female lead never touching the floor…for at least 17 minutes!
Without Stars on the other hand from the male protagonist’s point of view tells the story of a man on the brink of losing the love of his life. I must say that the whole dance routine was delivered almost flawlessly with the help of dramatic lighting and apt, scratchy music! Bravo!
During the Q&A that took place after the show, we got to know a little bit more of James and his fellow cast-dancers who also contributed and collaborated with him in their ever-changing dance routines for this production alone.
Watch out for the duet of dancers Chihiro and Georges in There We Have Been where she hardly touched the floor! Simply A-maaaaazing!
James points out, “I pushed the dancers, and the dancers pushed themselves. We started with 10 minutes; then, we pushed it further to 13 minutes, and eventually to 17. I pushed the dancers as far as they could.”
As a choregrapher, Cousins has created numerous works that have been performed throughout London and abroad to great acclaim. In August 2011, he became the first winner of the inaugural Matthew Bourne’s New Adventures Choreographer Award. There We Have Been was the resulting showcase piece. In 2012, James put up his own company with Franseca Moseley as creative producer.
Trust was also the key among the artists as Georges was proud to declare, “I don’t think I dropped Chihiro here today, so I guess she can trust me now,” as she reciprocated with laughter and a big smile of confidence.
Choreographers that they are, Gareth Mole and Albert Garcia for the Without Stars production executed their dance routines to a tee and do observe constant wrapping and weaving movements and lifts coming from a male couple. I still could not get over how they interpreted the moving and emotional portions of the whole routine. Off stage after the show when I got to chat and mingle with them, these guys are nice, amiable and at times wacky goofy. They candidly admitted having to drink liters of water to replenish every bit of energy they pour out during rehearsals and in all of their performances.
If you are familiar with the novel and film adaptations of Norwegian Wood, don’t be confused and even if the whole dance concept was based with respect to Murakami’s piece, James went on and did his own interpretation as what most choreographers do and enabling their creative juices to come out on its full swing. I’m very excited for your next cool project, James! As they say in theater and dance…”Break a leg!”
You can still catch the (2) remaining shows of There We Have Been and Without Stars this October 11-12 weekend at the Cultural Center of the Philippines’ Tanghalang Aurelio Tolentino (Little Theater) at 7:30PM.
The James Cousins Company in Manila shows is presented by the British Council, Philippine Educational Theater Association (PETA) and Cultural Center of the Philippines. For tickets, contact Ticket World at 891-9999 or Ticketworld.com or PETA Theater Center 0915-493-3728.
As a bonus James will also hold a contemporary dance workshop open to all dancers and choreographers this Saturday Oct. 11 and Sunday Oct.12 from 9AM to 12Noon at CCP’s Little Theater. Workshop fee is P500. A 25% discount will be given to those who will be attending both the Workshop and the Evening Performance.
The workshop is also open to observers at only P200. A rare chance to meet and interact with James Cousins upclose.
Many thanks to publicist Sir Toots Tolentino and Ms. Gay Castro of PETA Theater Center.