It is quite simply the most compelling fifteen minutes of dance on film I have seen during this lockdown; and trust me, I have seen a lot.
Within Her Eyes by James Cousins is a film based on his stage duet of the same title (although it started life as There We Have Been). Set to an atmospheric score by Seymour Milton and superbly shot by David Foulkes, it opens with a brief glimpse of Lisa Welham walking down a deserted street and then burying her face in a wall. It’s only a few seconds but it speaks volumes and sets the following duet up perfectly.
In that duet, set in the hills and forests of the Brecon Beacons, Welham is partnered by Aaron Vickers, she in a beige buttoned-up blouse and skirt, he in just as everyday dark trousers and jumper.
Within Her Eyes by James Cousins
She shoots heavenwards, held by his strong arms. Held and supported by him, time and again she appears to attempt to escape or fly off. She falls only to be grasped inches from the ground. She dives forward only to be caught at the last minute. She smoothly wraps herself around him, the twisting, circling dance occasionally interrupted by unexpected pauses. And just as on the stage, not once does she touch the ground in the whole fifteen minutes.
It’s physically challenging; a remarkable feat of controlled strength and agility, especially given the less than clement weather. The sight of grey clouds covering the tops of the hills only adds to the heavy mood.
It’s a dance of dependency, appropriate perhaps for these times when many depend for so much on others. She definitely needs him, but one senses strongly that it’s reciprocated too. They are bound and constrained by each other.
Much of the duet is filmed at distance, the couple appearing as almost otherworldly figures, whether seen on the hilltops against the big sky or through the starkly upright trees of the forest.
There has been a sense that all is not well. She is troubled. That becomes all the more obvious around eight minutes in when we see her face in close up. As they look intently at each other, gentle hands touch and hold. Quite why is ambiguous but there’s a powerful sense of upset and need; a sense of loss. It’s emotional and real.
As the duet continues the space closes in. From the openness of the hillside, to the hilltop where Welham and Vickers seem perched on the edge, to the depths of the forest. The light closes in too as dusk approaches and night falls, the clouds getting darker and darker. It ends without and end, with those black, stormy clouds and the last light fading away.
The film version of Within Her Eyes is also feature as part of Nottingham Lakeside Arts’ online programme #inwithLakeside and #WeAreUoN