Jasmin Vardimon Company
The Castle, Wellingborough, UK; November 14, 2012
Jasmin Vardimon Dance Company in Freedom. Photo Alistair Muir.jpg [ 35.71 KiB | Viewed 1867 times ]
That no-one is ever really free is one of the great truisms. We are all bound by conventions, rules and restrictions, all largely unwritten, but all hugely influential on the way the act and think. That was the starting point for Jasmin Vardimon’s latest creation, “Freedom”.
“Freedom” bears similarity with a lot of Pina Bausch’s work. Guy Bar-Amotz and Vardimon’s set dominates the stage. It’s very reminiscent of a rain forest, or maybe a mangrove swamp. There’s a huge hanging green wall but the rest of the ‘vegetation’ is very industrial, all flexible pipes, hoses and wires. Like Bausch, there’s much repetition of ideas too. Again and again, a giggly Aoi Nakamura comes to the front of the stage and tells us, “I want to tell you a story. It’s about…” When she finally does, she charges through it at top speed, and in Japanese, so pretty much no-one understands anyway. The ensemble dances repeat phrases over and over again, and there are more than a few male and female stereotypes.
To all that, though, Vardimon has injected a very contemporary, aggressive, harder edge. She explores freedom through a montage of scenes. There are moments of abandon. Júlia Robert Parés runs free, arms outstretched, her dress flowing. Estéban Fourmi experiences the freedom of the waves on his surfboard. There are dancing fireflies, a mermaid, a refugee swan from Swan Lake, but each time they end up bound in one way or another.
There are moments where it’s the man who is bound, notably in a femme fatale scene, but Vardimon largely focuses on the freedom, or rather the lack of freedom, of woman. That surfboard is actually a woman. The docile and uncomplaining Parés grins her way through the imaginary waves, but she is just an object. Free is the last thing she is.
For all the energy, one scene stands out. Chuang Kai-wen, in a simple white dress, had previously flitted across the back of the stage Giselle-like. When she reappeared on pointe and in a classical tutu, thoughts turned immediately to “Swan Lake”. The tubing becomes extensions of her arms, giant wings that will make her free. Reality hits home as she realises they are chains. Her dance becomes ever more frantic as she thrashes around trying in vain to escape. The music, “Somewhere over the rainbow,” only emphasises it’s all a dream that can never be realised.
You don’t often see anyone on pointe in contemporary dance, and you certainly don’t often see shadow puppetry, but Vardimon treats us to that too in a story about a mermaid and a white rabbit. As always, she thinks she is free, but he leads her into a trap and imprisons her.
The ensemble dance sections are typical Vardimon. Dancers ebb and flow across the stage. The choreography swings from often floor-based big, expansive and athletic dance that spirals and coils across the stage, to detailed close-ups of individuals. The cast attack it with great conviction and great energy. The score is often just as driving. The combination of Led Zeppelin, John Lennon, Roy Orbison and others with various electronica is most effective.
As is always the case in works like this, there are moments when “Freedom” doesn’t quite hang together, but it is hugely watchable and the 90 minutes or so flew past. The mostly young audience loved it, quite rightly giving the excellent cast a great ovation at the end.“Freedom” continues on tour to May 2013. See
http://www.jasminvardimon.com for details. Those in the New York/New Jersey area of the US can catch it at Montclair State University on April 18-21.