James Cousins Company: Rosalind – 'the ebb and flow of orbiting, tangling dance rarely seems to pause' (4 stars)

Rosalind

James Cousins' tribute to Shakespeare's heroine is a dream-like meditation on gender

It may take inspiration from Shakespeare's lively pastoral As You Like It, but this pensive, lyrical piece from James Cousins Company is definitely a slow burner. A quartet of dancers take on changing roles of lovers, companions and doubles in a deconstruction of the play, though the focus is very much on Rosalind, the bard's heroine, famed as much for her frank tongue as she is for disguising herself as the boy Ganymede when on the run in the forest of Arden.

Cousins' choreography of shifting tempos and spiralling bodies has a chaos to it and sometimes feels as if it is rambling beyond the bounds of its themes – meditations on gender, identity and the split-self. But mid-way into the piece you realise that, perhaps in a nod to a source text littered with pairings – two cousins, two genders, two fools – this is definitely a work of two halves, with structure playing more of a role than it would first seem.

It's hard to say more without giving away what feels like a beautiful revelation. One of the joys of the second half is a game of memory and perception, questioning what you have seen, what you think you might have seen, and what you might be projecting from your own gendered perspectives. Was that conservatively gendered duet in the first half intentional? And does it seem more of an equal partnering if performed by two men? Is a man's movement really more solid and muscular and are you imagining the tangibly female grace of a particular performer?

If that sounds enigmatic, then it might go some way to conjuring up the tone of Cousins and co-creator Francesca Moseley's vision; a haunting dream of sea-turquoise and nude lighting, pared-down baroque costumes, and ambiguities, where the ebb and flow of orbiting, tangling dance rarely seems to pause, images feel deliciously uncatchable and gender is up for grabs.

Rosalind

A collaboration between rising stars of the British and Korean dance scenes. Shakespearean heroine Rosalind is placed in a contemporary setting to explore what has changed in society.

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