JV2 / 2017

Marilena Darea, Jukstapoz and Jasmin Vardimon
Jasmin Vardimon
Lilian Baylis Studio, Sadler's Wells

Wear Your Wounds Credit: Bill Knight
Vohlfs Credit: Bill Knight
Tomorrow Credit: Bill Knight

The programme presented by the ensemble of international dancers who have been participating in the Jasmine Vardimon Company’s professional development programme is a triple bill that demands tremendous energy and commitment and this group give it all they’ve got.

Marilena Dara’s Wear Your Wounds, to music by Otis Jones, begins with text from a poem by Charles Bukowski, both as part of the score and spoken by dancer who gets it started. “If feel like a…" gets multiple completions: “a drink” seeming most heartfelt.

This is an agonised piece about love that goes wrong, frantic and painful. It is full of convulsions and bouncing bodies. The dancers repeatedly re-form into lines that establish brief order but then keep fragmenting. The whole company seems to express one person’s pain, each one facially and physically loaded with dramatic emotion.

Jukstapoz is the joint name used by choreographers Paul Blackman and Christine Gouzelis. I’m guessing that the title of their ballet Vohlfs means Wolves in some language for it traces the competitive hierarchies of pack life to a score of rock, punk and avant garde music.

It opens with a tall, dimly-lit figure with a mask or a headdress that looks lupine towards which crawls first one and eventually the whole pack until they surround him, clawing upwards to fell him and literally tear him to pieces. When they move apart he has gone but the stage is scattered with the debris they have cast out around them.

In a sequence of dances that inevitable recall rituals like those of Rite of Spring, a piled ramp of figures that owes something to Les Noces, a succession of new leaders takes place. A body passes through the pack like a rebirth; there is a ritual crowning with the entrails of predecessors. It can be seen as tooth and claw nature or as an analogy of human struggle for commercial control or political prominence.

Jasmin Vardimon’s Tomorrow, to a mixture of music from Brian Eno to Mozart and Wagner, is a compilation of material extracted from some of her previous works but seamlessly put together enwrapped in a flurry of feathers.

A girl enters and walks forward, her arms full of white feathers that are stirring and falling with every movement. Is she an angel gradually becoming human or a beneficent being bringing happiness? After the angst of the Wear Your Wounds and the darkness of Wohlfs, this seems a much happier ballet, though the bleeding-heart that she wears could signify something different.

Rows of dancers cross the stage rapidly in both directions; they too spilling feathers from their hands and stirring up those that have already fallen. Where the previous ballets have paid no attention to gender in their choreography, the only male dancer in the ensemble now becomes a male lover in an amorous duet that makes him ecstatic.

There are slides to the ground where bodies are rolling and spinning in Vardimon hallmark choreography (and they feature in the other pieces, showing her influence) and moves are passed along a line as though they are dominoes. When the snowstorm of feathers subsides for a time, dancers invade the stage lying flat and blowing feathers before them until the girl left centre stage becomes buried beneath them. It’s a magical moment.

Performed with only short breaks between works, just time to change costume and to sweep up the detritus left on stage, this is a programme that makes great demands on the dancers but they deliver, quite literally throwing themselves into it with an apparent abandon that disguises their perfect precision.

Reviewer: Howard Loxton