London's leading dancers
‘A lot of people don’t know how varied dance is,’ claims choreographer Jasmin Vardimon. ‘They might see Richard Alston or Rambert and think: This is contemporary dance. My work is completely different. It’s almost another art form. It’s not beautiful shapes or aesthetic visuals.’
Early in her career the Israeli-born artist was obliged to take two years off to conduct IQ and job placement assessments for the army. Plainly the experience honed her grasp of the quirks of human nature. Moving to London, Vardimon formed her eponymous company in 1996.
‘Normally stories and sociopolitical issues drive my work,’ she says. Past productions have tackled child abuse (‘Lure Lure Lure’), obsessive relationships (‘Ticklish’), illness and hospitalisation (‘Lullaby’). ‘I’m interested in whatever engages my thinking or throws me into another place. I find it more in theatre and films than in dance.’
Vardimon’s brand of serio-comic dance theatre combines neurotic vigour with athletic invention. There are narratives, characters, themes – it’s a bit like the work of DV8’s Lloyd Newson with a touch of Matthew Bourne. Like them, Vardimon knows what she wants.
‘A good choreographer chooses the right collaborators. I’m not asking the dancers to repeat the moves I set up. I’m an initiator and catalyst who edits, directs. It’s like polishing a stone, or a diamond, till it shines.’
Vardimon’s latest piece, ‘Park’, performed at the Peacock in June, marks a move into mid-scale touring, meaning bigger sets and casts and, ideally, bigger audiences. ‘Parks are islands of nature in the middle of an urban world,’ she says. Hers hosts a group of characters whom she dubs ‘refugees of our culture’ – bullies, foreigners, tourists, exhibitionists, the homeless, all of whom ‘arrived there more by chance than choice.'
During the creation process Vardimon and her performers hung out in parks. ‘We followed people, took notes,’ she says, searching for ‘different stories and states of mind’. She prefers ‘hairy parks’. Hairy? ‘A lot of trees and wildness, not just grass.’ She’s partial to Brixton’s Brockwell Park, near where she lives.
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