Dancing in the park. Fighting, playing, falling in love... all in an urban oasis
- Credit: Archant
The Park is like a self-contained community. All human life is there. It’s a microcosm of wider city life – life in Britain in the 21st Century.
Park is the current playground for dance auteur Jasmin Vardimon, the Sadler’s Wells associate artist, who is using this enclosed space as a platform for her exploration of human relations in modern society.
The piece was first performed 10 years ago to great acclaim and now she is taking the opportunity to revisit the idea with a brand new cast of dancers.
She said: “We are delighted to present this updated and reworked production of Park. Surprisingly I find the themes explored and social comments even more relevant now than they were 10 years ago. Bullying, otherness, alienation, gender and homelessness are all explored in this island of urban lives. It is exciting to revisit these concepts with the perspective of time and with a fresh and multi-talented cast and we are happy to bring the work back to our repertoire following high demand for its return.”
She said that of all the works she has created over a 20-year career, Park remains the piece that people most want to talk to her about. She says that she enjoys making work that reflects the way we live our lives and forges some emotional connection with the audience.
“One of the main reasons to bring it back was that I felt that it was now more relevant than it was 10 years ago. I wanted to revisit the subjects of the story with a fresh eye. I had amended aspects of the show, tweaked the choreography to crystallise some of the ideas and to give them another viewpoint.
“I am looking forward to re-visiting Park with a completely new cast of dancers and with a new emphasis on the audio-visual aspects on the production.”
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She describes the piece as a piece of urban dance theatre which will combine newly-introduced 3D imaging, with a visceral, kaleidoscopic and athletic slice of modern dance allied with elements of physical theatre, text and funky music. Park is an urban oasis, a place of refuge from the ordinary world where eight characters play, fight, fall in love and learn to survive. In this playground of relationships, young lovers wrestle in a historic fountain, a graffiti artist sprays his story, a busker finds his only appreciative audience in a bag lady and a flag-waving bully rants worn out political beliefs. Their stories intertwine creating a modern day fairytale that is alternately sharp, funny and cruel.
Recipient of the International Theatre Institute Award for Excellence in Dance and newly- appointed honorary doctorate at Royal Holloway University, Vardimon has built a reputation of challenging, exciting and visually stunning dance. Born and raised in Israel, she has been an associate artist at Sadler’s Wells since 2006.
She said the secret of her success was keeping the work fresh and relevant to the times. “We have a few productions which we have been touring for seven years now. But, we don’t have the same cast we did when we started a piece. So whenever we have a new performer come in, it is an opportunity to revisit it and make sure it is still relevant to the world outside.
“I always enjoy revisiting pieces we have performed in the past because you get to look at it afresh with the benefit of distance and time and it allows you to explore it in a slightly different way. So with a repertory company we are always looking to develop, improve and enrich the production.
“In my work as a whole I am interested to observe our contemporary society and things that concern me. So Park looks specifically at public space and the story and the relationships of the people who we meet there. What makes the story even more relevant today is that the Park which features in our piece is being sold to a private investor. It is to be developed as a commercial space, so it won’t belong to the people, to the community any more. They are losing an area which they feel belongs to them – somewhere they can meet on equal terms.”
She said that she has long been fascinated by the politics of public land and how areas which are deemed to be held in trust can suddenly be sold if the right buyer comes along. But, she said that really Park is concerned with the personal dramas of the people who we meet in the park.
“We meet the homeless, the street busker who just manages to make enough money to live, and a whole variety of individuals who visit the space on a daily basis for a variety of reasons and they feel that the park belongs to them.”
Jasmin said that with the benefit of hindsight she feels very proud of this piece of work and feels that it represents her ideals when she first created her company which were to create a body of critically acclaimed, artistically respected yet accessible work which could be performed by her company and some of the leading dance companies across the world.
“What I think is so powerful about this piece is that it focuses on issues which can be applied to whole cities, regions, even to whole countries. We focus on one small park but those same issues about ownership, about belonging can apply to whole countries. Because our company is multicultural those international elements are easy to develop. We have eight performers and they come from eight different countries so it adds a certain richness to the performance.”
Jasmin said that when she is looking to develop a new piece, she doesn’t have regular themes which she returns to. “I am more influenced by what is going on in the world at the time – by what people are talking about, by what is on the television and in the newspapers.”
She said that the earlier dance piece 7734 examined our capacity to justify torture and brutality. It is set in a Nazi concentration camp but also looks at brutality throughout history. Justitia looks at the nature of the justice system while Lullaby looks at illness and hospitalisation.
“They all start with very big subjects but come down to personal stories which arise out of the situation.” She said that now was a particularly rich time to be involved in dance as it was possible to incorporate different art forms and expanding technologies into the performance.
“My work has always dealt with the dialogue between dance and theatre. From very early on I have used different tools like computer technology, projections and animation to tell the story. I want to create a multi-layered performance that can communicate with audiences on different levels. I have always been interested in using different artistic languages to understand how we can communicate aurally, visually and intellectually through different contexts and emotions. Sometimes I want to reference specific things which can be hard when just using movement so I use text when I want to convey information that would be impossible in pure dance.
“I use technology when I want to illustrate something which you can do any other way. For example in Freedom, which we did at the DanceHouse last year, we had a projection of a lizard crawling over the body of one of the dancers, showing that the lizard was controlling him and obviously I couldn’t have a lizard on stage, so I realised this through animation.
“When I am creating a new piece I want to use the entire capacity of the performer and I want everything to serve the performance so I will harness everything: the physical, the emotional, the intellectual, the technological – everything I can to communicate the themes and concerns of the story I am telling.”
This will be Jasmin Vardimon’s fourth visit to the Jerwood DanceHouse in Ipswich. Her company will be staging the critically acclaimed Park on Friday October 17 and Saturday 18.