writers on dancing


Digging for Fun
Jasmin Vardimon Dance Company
Peacock Theatre, London
November 24 & 25, 2005
by John Percival
copyright ©2005 by John Percival

It was only with hindsight that a comparison occurred to me which would put Jasmin Vardimon’s “Park” into context. "Park" all takes place in the public open space of the title; it brings a collection of disparate characters into varied confrontations; it is set to a potpourri of popular music and songs; and the action mingles speech and singing with movement incorporating natural acting, acrobatics, comic or dramatic exaggeration and straight dancing. Sound familiar? Not so long ago commentators would surely have evoked the name of Pina Bausch as Vardimon’s inspiration, but today that hasn’t happened. Now that I’ve thought of it, however, let me say that of course this isn’t up there at Bausch’s level, yet I can add that there’s no reason to write it off as hopelessly inferior, as would have been the case with earlier choreographers who, doubtless more consciously, emulated the genius of Wupperthal.

I don’t know where Vardimon came from; her biographical note in the programme dismisses her early career with the summary phrase “Following many years of performing”.  We are told, however, that she founded her own company in 1997 and only a year later she was made an associate artist at The Place, London’s prime centre for small-scale experimental dance.  She has since won awards for her choreography and been accepted by Arts Council England for financial support.   Her website lists four previous shows that she has toured; she has also made choreography for four other companies.  In “Park” she has moved up to a larger scale than hitherto, needing middle-size theatres, and it is being presented by the Dance Touring Partnership of regional venues. For the first time, she does not herself perform but concentrates on choreography and direction.   

She uses a cast of eight, some playing more than one character: Kath Duggan, for instance, starts as a comic bag-lady, becomes a tour guide, and later a business woman (largely by removing garments to reveal another costume worn underneath).  Mafalda Deville is alternatively a very cool, harsh, almost masculine character or a hysterical drunk. But maybe YunKrung Song is always the same Korean tourist; and although Fernanda Prata, who begins and ends as a mermaid, appears as a flirty young woman for most of the show, it seems likely that this is only a disguise, so that when she and one of the guys strip to their underpants to make love in a fountain, she is finally seen to have wounded him, fatally I guess, before adopting her tail again.   (This reading also fits with the ripe ululation of her singing.)

The men, perhaps, are less specific in their characterisations, except when Leon Baugh suspends his rather violent role-playing—with its impressive jumps to land on narrow ledges—to become a pet dog (“painful on the knees—but fun” he says).  But we do see a busker and a lover. Vardimon, I’ve read, made her performers spend time following and observing a person whose behaviour they could imitate and build upon, but it looks as though this material probably got transmuted during the work’s formative process.   

There is not much greenstuff in this park—just a few stems in containers behind one of the walls that hem it in, together with metal webbing. There are three seats and a container for dog-mess, and the area is paved (one man scrawls messages on it). The idea, we read, is for it to be a place of refuge for these town-dwellers, but the programme introduction shows that Vardimon, presumably encouraged by Guy Bar-Amotz (credited for artistic advisor and dramaturgy), has an underlying purpose: “Floating like an island in the urban ocean, 'Park 'is the backyard for worn out beliefs and redundant ideologies.   In this playground, Vardimon and her eight dancers create a new hybrid of metaphors and tales, a collage made from these remnants: 'Park' becomes the place where the individual escapes the everyday in order to play.”

Does all that come off?  I don’t think so. On the other hand, “Park” is lively, amusing, often imaginative, and shows off its performers to good effect. The women especially; there is one memorable sequence when the four of them just bounce up and down on the spot, and you would be surprised what fun that is. Fun in fact is quite a strong element, established from the very first moments when bag-lady’s parcels repeatedly swing her around.  The dancers all have different backgrounds, training and experience; what they do have in common is a readiness to submerge their own lively personalities into making plausible the interactions of the group of sometimes implausible characters Vardimon has imagined.

Photos by Gavin Parry.

Volume 3, No. 44
November 28, 2005

copyright ©2005 John Percival



DanceView Times

What's On This Week
Index of Writers

Back Issues
About Us


Mindy Aloff
Dale Brauner
Mary Cargill
Nancy Dalva
Rita Felciano
Marc Haegeman
George Jackson
Eva Kistrup
Gia Kourlas
Alan M. Kriegsman
Sali Ann Kriegsman
Sandi Kurtz
Alexander Meinertz
Gay Morris
Ann Murphy
Paul Parish
John Percival
Tom Phillips
Naima Prevots
Susan Reiter
Lisa Rinehart
Jane Simpson
Alexandra Tomalonis (Editor)
Lisa Traiger
Kathrine Sorley Walker
Leigh Witchel
David Vaughan
last updated on November 28, 2005