Mixing art, dance and life

The Jasmin Vardimon dance company brings its experimental vibes to Israel for a second time.

‘7734’ 370 (photo credit: JV Laban)
‘7734’ 370
(photo credit: JV Laban)
Fifteen years ago, Jasmin Vardimon was a little-known name in the international dance community.
A former member of the Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company, Vardimon won the British Council’s prestigious On The Way To London choreography award. In 1997, Vardimon arrived in London as many artists do, with a vision of cracking the harsh exterior of the big city. And, as most success stories go, a special combination of timing, luck and a generous helping of talent propelled Vardimon into London’s cultural center.
Shortly after her arrival, as a resident artist at Sadler’s Wells, Vardimon first wowed British audiences with her unique ability to tell stories. She founded her troupe, now Jasmin Vardimon Company, then called Zbang.
In the years since her arrival, Vardimon has become one of London’s most beloved choreographers. Her movement vocabulary and compositional touch have changed the British dance scene forever, inspiring a sea of emerging choreographers and dancers.
The residual effects of her creativity can be seen in the choreographies of former company members such as Hofesh Shechter. Her troupe travels extensively throughout the UK and Europe, with occasional jaunts to the USA and Canada.
Two years ago, Vardimon presented Yesterday, a celebration of her company’s 10-year anniversary, in Israel. This month, with her gang of gifted artists behind her, Vardimon will return to Israel with her newest creation 7734.
The piece will be performed twice at the Tel Aviv Performing Arts Center.
The creation, which undoubtedly bears the marks of Vardimon’s handiwork, is an investigation of man’s tendency toward brutality.
“‘7734’ is a reflection on the capacity of the human nature to produce brutality, how it has been presented in history in many different places, as well as the parallel to brutality, which is man’s powerful urge toward creativity and art,” explained Vardimon in a recent interview with The Jerusalem Post.
Take a moment to consider the title upside down and you will get a better idea of where this piece takes place in Vardimon’s vivid imagination.
“Many times when I start a creation I start from a location,” she said. Her past works have swept audiences into a courtroom in Justitia, a grass knoll in Parks and a hospital in Lullaby. One of the defining qualities of Vardimon’s stage aesthetic is her use of set and props, creating scenes that immediately transport the audience to the halls of Vardimon’s inner mind. In 7734 the stage is covered with heaps and heaps of clothing.
“I looked for something that would represent the huge amount of people and I decided to work with clothes. There are different elements in the piece that reflect and coincide with that decision.”
“I decided to locate the piece in a place that could look like a concentration camp,” she said. “I grew up in Israel with people who survived the Holocaust. It was very much about telling and remembering and I carried that with me through life. In the work I look at inherited memory and pain, not so much about the Holocaust but at global brutality.”
In the center of the stage, amid the frayed rags and black trash bags, stands a large tower. “The tower is there and it’s used as both as a guard or watchtower, and then it completely changed... to, like, a lifeguard’s tower. There is something in the piece that is about perspective and the way that perspective shifts. It’s also about the way that identity and perspective are linked.”
As with most of Vardimon’s work, 7734 is interdisciplinary. Text, music, video and lighting elements all help to set the scene in which Vardimon’s highly physical movement lives.
Though Vardimon employs many unison sections, each of her nine performers is presented as an individual, highlighted by their strengths and charisma. With what appear to be superhuman skills, Vardimon’s dancers hoist each other into the air, crash to the floor and tumble with the speed of light.
Abroad, 7734 has been received warmly. Sold out houses and standing ovations have met Vardimon many times along her tour route. However, bringing the piece to Israel is both exciting and a bit unnerving for Vardimon.
“I’m very curious to see what the reaction will be in Israel,” she said.
With a subject so near to the locals’ hearts, Vardimon knows that 7734’s impact will be felt here.
Jasmin Vardimon Company will perform at Tel Aviv Performing Arts Center on May 24 and 25. For tickets, visit www.israel-opera.co.il.