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'Medusa', Jasmin Vardimon Company - Sadler's Wells Theatre

Photo credits to Tristram Kenton

Jasmin Vardimon Company celebrates twenties years of creating ground-breaking work with its latest production Medusa. Provocative, avant-garde and unique concepts and ideas permeate Vardimon’s work, gaining the company a deserved seat at the European contemporary dance-theatre table. Inaugurated in 2012, the Jasmin Vardimon production space dedicates its existence to the promotion and training of graduate dancers and creative research. Her company is at the forefront of progression and forward thinking in the arts.

Vardimon’s composite artistic approach results in a multiplicity of concepts, themes and narratives. This multiplicity is, in fact, an over-saturation of ideas, which leaves the re-working of the Ancient Greek myth somewhat incomprehensible conceptually. The narrator voice of this eerie story uses Sartre’s text Being and Nothingness and Ovid’s Metamorphoses to further develop and enrich the plot. Although, audience’s gaze is the target of the piece’s incessant scenography, iconography and repeated choreography, which proves challenging to process and reconcile to the story of Medusa. Vardimon’s passion for complexity and innovation somewhat delights the audience, with a diverse and interdisciplinary approach, music from Aphex Twin and Arca featured. This delight is replaced with confusion, as too many contemporary issues such as rape culture, toxic masculinity, plastic pollution and the consciousness of being, unfortunately, hinder comprehension.

The inaugural scene engages the audience immediately: a powerful and poised female figure asserts herself in the midst of billowing sheets of pearlescent plastic that reveal dancers housed beneath. Vardimon is successful in creating a paradoxical work.

The opening is one of few choreographic delicacies that the audience can experience, although intense arm and finger undulations and mudras restrict and exhaust the movement vocabulary. The pertinent theme of waste and plastic pollution is given superficial treatment; a more nuanced exploration of the engulfing plastic could have been taken further. Fierce effeminate walks and prowess contrast stag like masculine tricks - this choreography was supposedly to incite discourse on the dualism of stasis and dynamism through the myth of Medusa’s concrete-inducing gaze, contrast with the patriarchal male-gaze. However, arbitrary moments of female dancers swishing their hips and dresses, and jumping up and down, paired with men intermittently grabbing their crotches, dampens this conversation. Vardimon’s corporeal signs that she is famed for her are recognisable constants that the audience can indulge in. Dynamic back-bends that crescendo as the dancer lands on the floor, flying low technique that necessitates knee pads and corkscrew jumps on 720-degree planes, although impressive in isolation, lamentably becomes symptomatic of a novelty that soon wears off.

The interplay between sound design and choreography is an element that Vardimon has utilised. Although, arbitrary and sudden shifts in mood and temperament of the music means that nuanced glimpses into the realm female conformity and oppression are obliterated, despite a four to five-minute exploration. In terms of variation, the piece is well curated due to the breadth of composers, the avant-garde of pop music and symphonies from the Yoshikazu Mega Japan Philarmonic Orchestra help to construct the thematic worlds. However, the audience receives these gripping compositions as a cliché, as the relationship between the music and dance at times is an overly safe and emotional choice.

An overload of conceptual direction means that explicit intent is lost on the audience. Boredom, however, is not a feature of this piece as attention is held for the duration of the performance because of the multitude of props, imagery and even text. Despite the relevance of contemporary social and environmental concerns they failed to add to the cohesion of the narrative.

Sadler’s Wells - 22-24th October - £12-32

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