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Jasmin Vardimon explores Medusa legend for 20th anniversary show at DanceEast

PUBLISHED: 16:05 10 October 2018

Rehearsals showing Medusa by Jasmin Vardimon Company Photo: Tristram Kenton

Rehearsals showing Medusa by Jasmin Vardimon Company Photo: Tristram Kenton

©Tristram Kenton

DanceEast, on Ipswich Waterfront, is playing host to one of the world’s leading dance companies next week. Jasmin Vardimon is marking her 20th anniversary with an exploration of the Medusa legend. Arts editor Andrew Clarke spoke to her

Rehearsals showing Medusa by Jasmin Vardimon Company Photo: Tristram KentonRehearsals showing Medusa by Jasmin Vardimon Company Photo: Tristram Kenton

Myths and legends have long had an important role in inspiring new work in the arts. Theatre, dance and music have long benefitted from exploring the history and stories of ancient civilisations and choreographer Jasmin Vardimon has chosen to re-examine the legend of Medusa as her 20th anniversary production.

Created on the coast of Barcelona but staged at the Jerwood DanceHouse on the Ipswich Waterfront, this production is about more than Greek legends. It also embraces the historical roots of the Gorgon legends, the role of women in society and even ventures into the worlds of zoology and philosophy.

Jasmin Vardimon has a long history with Suffolk-based DanceEast, having staged productions of Park and Pinnochio at the regional dance facility but she says that, whereas several of her more recent productions have had more of a narrative structure, this latest piece is a more thematic, abstract work.

As far as the connection between the Greek myth and the free-floating jelly fish populating the world’s seas, it’s all down to the name. Medusa is also the name given to sexually mature/active jellyfish.

Rehearsals showing Medusa by Jasmin Vardimon Company Photo: Tristram KentonRehearsals showing Medusa by Jasmin Vardimon Company Photo: Tristram Kenton

For Jasmin, the discovery of this connection was significant moment in the creation of the show as it explored the gendered historical significance of Medusa; the myth, the symbolism and the philosophical idea of reflection.

How did the idea for a work of Medusa come about?

JV: I have long been fascinated by Greek mythology and by the myth of Medusa, the only mortal gorgon, who was decapitated by the Greek hero Perseus but Medusa is also a powerful symbol of womanhood and was looking forward to being able to deconstruct the myth and at the same time explore the aquatic symbolism contained in her name and look at the environmental future of our seas.

Choreographer Jasmin Vardimon who is celebrating 20 years as an independent dance maker Photo DanceEastChoreographer Jasmin Vardimon who is celebrating 20 years as an independent dance maker Photo DanceEast

It sounds wonderfully ambitious, did it take a long time to get what you wanted to do straight in your head?

JV: “I knew early on I didn’t want to do a straight re-telling of the story by Ovid. I wanted something that more reflected contemporary life. One of the areas in story which is less well known is the rape of Medusa by Poseidon, her banishment by Athena and her transformation into the monster we know.

Rehearsals showing Medusa by Jasmin Vardimon Company Photo: Tristram KentonRehearsals showing Medusa by Jasmin Vardimon Company Photo: Tristram Kenton

How does this relate to the ecological theme within the show?

JV: “There is the link with the name Medusa, that is how jellyfish are described in most Latin languages, but also parallels can be drawn by the rape of our oceans, with all the plastic and pollution. There are also physical simularities between the tentacles and Medusa’s hair and the fact that these tentacles can kill those who come into contact with them.

“Jellyfish have existed for 600 million years, they have been floating thorugh our seas for all that time and with global warming they are thriving and may yet become the dominant life form on the planet. This is just one of the ideas explored in this new piece. It is a piece all about current concerns.”

Medusa, directed and choreographed by Jasmin Vardimon is at DanceEast, Ipswich Waterfront, from October 18-20 before moving to Sadler’s Wells, London.

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