Art Review: Creation of a Work in a Week

Choreography by James Cousins, Online, 24th – 28th April

The Scottish Ballet’s most recent offering, ‘Creation of a Work in a Week’, pretty much delivers exactly what you would expect from such a title. Showcased as part of the Scottish Ballet’s inaugural digital season ‘Under the Skin’, this latest project follows award-winning choreographer James Cousins and twelve dancers as they create a completely new five-minute piece in a week, with the final product to be revealed directly on Facebook. But that’s not all: from the 24th to 28th of April, the process was streamed live in half-hour daily segments, an innovative practice that undoubtedly exposed the painstaking nature of crafting creative work.

Watching the half-hour videos is certainly revelatory: on the first day Cousins states that he’s aiming for nothing more than ‘just trying a few things’, and the organic and intuitive responses of the dancers makes fascinating viewing for anyone who’s interested in dance. Days two and three sees Cousins work more closely with dancers including Principal Sophie Martin and First Artist Thomas Edwards, as initial ideas develop into more cohesive movement and issues are meticulously worked through. Music is added to the mix and, by day five, the piece is well on its way to becoming a fully-fledged whole.

With the final instalment reaching over 20,000 views, there’s no denying that Scottish Ballet’s digital project has been a pioneering success. For dancers and non-dancers alike, it’s fascinating to see the choreography unfold; to see how a piece can progress from a vague outline to a seamless movement. The video footage itself is necessarily fragmentary – each day’s output is delivered as a half-hour slice of recording rather than a heavily edited summary of the day (which is understandable, given the time constraints). Yet sometimes this lack of sequence can be a bit disappointing for viewers who are interested in the wider process of creating choreography.

But the final piece itself, titled ‘Adrift’, is certainly worth the effort. Although the performance is literally a bit shaky, the athletic and accomplished movements of the dancers fit perfectly with Sigur Ros’ ‘Óveður’. Cousins’ vision is breathtakingly executed in choreography redolent with emotion and balletic grace.

[Rachel Walker]

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