New Adventures Choreographer Award Showcase – James Cousins: Sadler’s Wells, 7 September 2012

Keeping it in the family

On your marks. Lisa Welham and Aaron Vickers prepare for take-off in James Cousins’ There We Have Been. Photo by David Foulkes

In 2010 Matthew Bourne, in celebration of his umptieth birthday, set up the New Adventures Choreographer Award (NACA). Over 200 applications later the independent panel of judges, including Monsieur Bourne, Scottish Ballet’s Christopher Hampson and Phoenix Dance Theatre’s Sharon Watson, chose former New Adventures dancer James Cousins as the inaugural winner. Following a year’s mentoring from Señor Bourne and his estimable company, tonight’s showcase was the fruit of the young choreographer’s learning.

Anyone expecting a Matthew Bourne-style fairy tale would have been sorely disappointed. Virtually empty staging and grinding electronic music played to basically abstract works, pumped full of invention none-the-less and with a sure eye of how to use the stage.

The first piece, Here in Darkness, and the last, Everything and Nothing, were linked, the former using the latter as inspiration for a summer intensive for the Centre for Advanced Training students at LCDS. Here in Darkness was fine but the constantly innovative Everything and Nothing was excellent. Athletic use of small groups of dancers across the entire stage pared into the judicious changes of tempo, although the slower movements sometimes sagged. Elements of Hofesh Shechter melded into Forsythian lighting flashes and it was great to see a contemporary piece delight in abandoned uptempo movement.

Prior to that was a superbly contrasting work, There We Have Been. Beautifully lit by Lee Curran, Lisa Welham and Aaron Vickers played out a shadowdanced duet, Welham’s feet not touching the floor once during its 20 minutes or so running time. Slow entwining lifts draped luxuriously around the music, leaving a sense that we were watching a much larger work. It was, however too long, and gawd knows what the descending row of lights at the end were for.

Sandwiched amongst all these Cousins works was the hugely disappointing Vanity Fowl by the NACA runner-up Tom Jackson Greaves. It started promisingly with video footage of a party and an interesting jump to the real–life Jackson Greaves engaged in an awkward encounter with a hoighty-toighty member of the beautiful people. After that it just descended into a repetitive mangling of Michael Jackson and right-on hurling oneself about. Jackson Greaves is clearly an excellent dancer, mind.

But it was Cousins who quite rightly that won the day and it’s to be hoped that he now finds somewhere that continues to exploit his considerable talents.

Gerard Davis

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