REVIEW: James Cousins Company’s ‘Epilogues’ is full of breath-taking tenderness

James Cousins - Epilogues. Photo by Camilla Greenwell

by Anna Mortimer

The train is late, the platform exposed and cold. The few who are waiting are busy on their phones and no one bothers to exchange a look of empathy. My sense of ‘aloneness’ deepens as I walk from the station to Dance East, the street dull and greying in the dusk.

Epilogues presented by James Cousins Company opens with a duet entitled Within Her Eyes. For the entire work the female dancer dressed in cream does not touch the ground, the other half of the duet a male dressed in dark blue holds her in a feat of physical strength. She seems to float, fly and hang in space recalling a fabric work by Louise Bourgeois Couple 1 which I had seen the day before at Kettle’s Yard, Cambridge.

The weight of the two dancers, balance and fall as they reach towards one another and then pull away. As lovers, just as in the work by Bourgeois they both need and want each other as well as long for freedom and separation. They are bound and constrained by one another in a seemingly endless round of desire and dependency. As they move together ever more tightly the tension between them increases and suddenly snaps.

The final minute sees their separation but even as the audience remains spellbound the moment is unfortunately broken by early applause. We are left uncertain as to whether either can survive without the other, but the poignancy of that unanswered question is lost in noise.

James Cousins - Epilogues. Photo by Camilla Greenwell
James Cousins – Epilogues. Photo by Camilla Greenwell

After the interval In between us is me & the secret of having it all opens with two male dancers in a slow and touching duet echoing many of the motifs of the first half of Epilogues. Pull, push, lean; catch and drop; hold, clasp, clutch; stroke and slap; attract and repel; draw and reject; call and answer; entreat and ignore recreate a familiar conversation on love. A conversation that seems to linger in their absence as seamlessly two female dances burst on to the stage.

These are two women in the flesh, they are real and visceral and very present. They debate and argue, bicker and play and vie for attention. They want to be seen and to be heard! Their language is emphatic, insistent and unequivocal. Yet the sensitivity of their movements, the nuanced, earthy choreography is full of breath-taking tenderness.

As the work reaches its climax all four dancers are on the stage. The two male dancers continue their gentle questioning, the slow explorations of each other in a quest for understanding and connection. Behind them the two females have slowed their pace and are sensuously dressing each other from little piles of garments.

These are acts of kindness, nurturing and caring; they are mothers with their children, sisters, lovers and friends. Ending on a note of humour, the fun of dressing up and disguise, this work is powerful iteration of what it is to be human, warts and all!

As I walk back from the train, the only passenger to alight at my station I have been touched and lifted by tenderness. Warmed by the care of the dancers I no longer feel quite so alone.

Reviewed on 9th of  February at Dance East, Ipswich by Anna Mortimer