Tomorrow’s yesterday

Jasmin Vardimon, a protegee of the Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company, will present her company's rich repertoire in Israel for the first time.

Foreigners are enveloped in a certain mystique. We always want to know where their accent is from, what brought them here, what it’s like where they came from. As an outsider in any culture, these questions can be a drag, but there is no denying that drawing attention to oneself is a key to success. Perhaps that is why so many artists find themselves straying from their homelands to create in greener pastures: Fresh perspective and mysterious origin often gives the newcomer an edge over the locals.
For choreographer Jasmin Vardimon, the plan never included staying abroad indefinitely. However, the warm embrace she has received in Britain over the past 14 years has compelled her to stay put in London.
The Jasmin Vardimon Company, formerly Zbang, was founded in London in 1997 and is a major part of the British dance community. Next month, after years of prosperous work abroad, Vardimon will present her company for the first time in Israel.
Vardimon began her career in the Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company, where she spent five years as a dancer. At the end of her time with the troupe, she won the prestigious London Calling competition, sponsored by the Suzanne Dellal Center and the British Council. In a recent interview, she expounded on the forces that compelled her to leave Israel.
“I wanted to explore more as an artist,” she said. “I was interested and curious about physical theater and a theatrical approach to dance. I lived in Paris and Geneva. I worked in different projects.”
In 1997, two years after her departure from Israel, she found herself in England.
Vardimon immediately won over her audience with Therapist, which she created soon after arriving. Her use of narrative combined with an intensely physical movement language startled and impressed British crowds. Vardimon collaborated with scriptwriters to keep the theatrical side of her work sharp.
“I deal with social issues that concern me,” she said. “I’m very much an observer. I love to comment on our contemporary society. Most of my work is located in a specific environment. Lullaby was in a hospital; Justitia is in a courtroom. I deal with the dynamic that each place has.”
Vardimon works on a large scale. She explained, “Most of our productions in the last seven years have been huge. We have really big sets, which means enormous costs to transport overseas. So we mainly toured in the United Kingdom and around Europe.”
Which explains why a celebrity Israeli choreographer such as Vardimon has never performed in her home country.
She had planned on enjoying her first artistic exploit in Israel several years ago. In 2007, the artistic directors of Muza Dance Company approached her to set one of her works with the ensemble.
“Unfortunately it fell through,” she said, “because the company collapsed. I was quite excited about that idea. I rarely do pieces outside my company, and at that stage I felt it could be right. The directors were very open to letting me choose the cast, which is very important to me.”
Vardimon is careful when selecting her dancers, as her work requires a great deal of openness from the performers.
“Versatility is the goal,” she said. “They have to become different performers in every production.”
Now, three years later, she has been invited to perform in Herzliya, Haifa and Jerusalem.
For its visit to Israel, JVC will perform Yesterday, the company’s most recent creation.
Yesterday’s location is the memories, it’s a virtual place. It’s less theatrical and more physical. It’s a journey,” she explained. The piece is danced by a cast of eight and includes duets and solos from Vardimon’s rich repertoire. To enhance the dreamy atmosphere, Vardimon has incorporated text and animation; yet unlike her other pieces, Yesterday has a relatively manageable set.
Her partner, Guy Bar-Amotz, an artistic consultant for JVC, engineers the company’s elaborate sets and stage design. Bar-Amotz, a thriving visual artist who also hails from Israel, was first marked as an upcoming success during his time at the Bezalel School of Art and Design. Shortly after finishing his degree, he was offered an exhibition at the Israel Museum. Eventually he settled in London, where he has presented work at the Tate Britain and the Ikon Gallery Birmingham, among others. Bar-Amotz’s aesthetic has been an integral part of Vardimon’s pieces for the past six years.
OVER THE years, Vardimon has become increasingly sought after. In the late ’90s she was appointed in-house choreographer of The Place. Today she is an associate artist of Sadler’s Wells in central London. Her company, which is based in Brighton, tours extensively throughout Europe.
“It’s going to be a very busy two years,” she said. “We are touring Yesterday and Justitia around the world. I’m starting to create a new work, which will premier in autumn in Sadler’s Wells. I’m also working on Tannhauser at the Royal Opera House.”
In addition, Vardimon is planning an international festival of physical theater, which she will direct.
And on top of everything else, Vardimon is the mother of a four-and-a-half-year-old girl. The challenge, she said, lies in finding a balance between all of the things she wants to do.
“Juggling all of the responsibilities of life is the challenge. Being the director of a company which tours all the time, being a performer, which I am giving up slowly, and being a mom. And finding a way not to compromise [on] any one of them,” she said.
Despite the hectic nature of her work, Vardimon speaks of her craft with pride and excitement.
“I am able to express myself in a way that I’m creating every time from the beginning – getting in the studio to play and having the time and the place and the very talented artists that I work with to play with,” she said.
After more than a decade in the UK, Vardimon is still thrilled by what the country has to offer.
“The dance community here is very versatile. The art form is varied. The English are very supportive of the variety. They want as wide a range as possible. It has created a very colorful texture,” she said, adding, “It’s a very multicultural place. There are a lot of influences. There are a lot of cultures and ways of thinking and behaving. That’s what I’m excited about as a creator, as an artist. Interpreting codes of behavior.”
Of course, Vardimon is awaiting her Israeli debut with bated breath.
“I visit a few times every year,” she said. “I’m very excited about the performances in Israel, because my family and friends haven’t seen my works. It’s a closer audience in relation, and closer to where I grew up.”
Jasmin Vardimon Company will perform on March 2, 3 and 4 at the Herzliya Performing Arts Center (1-700-70-29-29), on March 6 at the Haifa Auditorium ((04) 841-8411) and on March 7 at the Jerusalem Center for Performing Arts ((02) 560-5755).