Video: Jasmin Vardimon’s Yesterday
Jasmin Vardimon started her promising dance career right here in Israel, performing with the Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company while venturing into choreography. In 1995, she won the “On the Way to London” competition for young choreographers, which was sponsored by the Suzanne Dellal Center and the British Council – and shortly afterwards, she found herself headed to Europe and, indeed, on the way to London. There, in 1997, she burst onto the British dance scene with her company, originally titled Zbang and now known as the Jasmin Vardimon Company (JVC).
By all accounts, Vardimon has achieved an extraordinary level of success. She was an Associate Artist at The Place in 1998 and a Yorkshire Dance Partner from 1999-2005, and she is currently an Artistic Associate at Sadler’s Wells. Over the course of her career, she has received awards for her artistry in both Israel and England, and she has also created works for a variety of dance companies internationally.
While Vardimon’s company hasn’t toured to Israel until now, the buzz about her choreography was loud enough to reach my ears from England. And after talking to her partner, dramaturge, and set designer Guy Bar-Amotz a few weeks ago, I’m even more excited than ever to finally see Vardimon’s Yesterday when it opens at the Herzliya Performing Arts Center tonight. Yesterday runs through Friday in Herzliya and will then travel to Haifa and Jerusalem so that audiences around the country can catch a glimpse of Vardimon’s greatness.
For more on what makes Vardimon’s work so uniquely striking, read my preview below, which was first published in the Jerusalem Post as “Mixing art, dance and life.” You can also check out my full interview with Guy Bar-Amotz here on Dance In Israel.
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Mixing Art, Dance, and Life
“I think the real art is the one that mixes all [the disciplines],” declares Guy Bar-Amotz. This belief – and a singular talent for fusing art forms – has made the England-based Bar-Amotz a prominent figure in Israeli and international art circles. Bar-Amotz is best known for innovative sound installations, and he has also experimented with dance performances in museums. His current project, which is scheduled for a solo show in Tel Aviv at Rothschild 69 next year, centers on three talking robots who follow a theatrical script written by Bar-Amotz.
But on this trip to Israel, Bar-Amotz is not exhibiting his own work. Instead, he’s here as the associate director and dramaturge for the Jasmin Vardimon Company, which is bringing the dance production Yesterday to Herzliya, Jerusalem, and Haifa.
Jasmin Vardimon’s Yesterday. Photo by Alastair Muir.
Bar-Amotz and Vardimon have been collaborating for well over a decade, since he was a student at Bezalel and she was an emerging choreographer here in Israel. Moving abroad in the mid-1990s, Bar-Amotz studied for his Masters of Fine Art and Vardimon established her company in England in 1997. As Vardimon honed her highly physical and deeply psychological style, she became one of the leading choreographers in England, and with Bar-Amotz by her side, she has developed one of the most visually striking, cutting-edge aesthetics in the world.
Asked about the nature of their collaboration, Bar-Amotz laughs, “Basically, we live together, so it’s naturally a mixture of everything, life mixed with art!” Sometimes, he notes, “Jasmin is working with me, advising me or doing some movement sequences or choreography for performances that I’m doing inside my own installation.” But when it comes to their work for the company, Bar-Amotz says it is Vardimon who comes with the vision. “My role is basically to do the artistic advising and to do the sets and to think about things that I don’t know how to do,” he remarks.
As a dramaturge, Bar-Amotz brings his background in the fine arts to his discussions with Vardimon and other designers involved in each project. His finely trained critical eye comes in handy for observing rehearsals and offering constructive feedback that pushes the work to the next level. “I see myself as the first audience,” Bar-Amotz explains. “We think when you’re making art – and this is also with my own practice – I don’t want to see the viewer as less than me. I treat them as if they are me and above . . . So I’m the viewer, basically, for Jasmin. And we’re doing the work for someone like me and better than me.”
While Bar-Amotz’s constant dialogue with Vardimon may help shape her choreography, it is his extraordinary set designs that are most clearly visible in her productions. “With the set,” he clarifies, “I’m trying to build a system, a technological and conceptual systematic arrangement, that’s not like making a decoration for the stage. It’s more like a tool; it’s more like a machine that the choreographer can use.”
Jasmin Vardimon’s Yesterday. Photo by Alastair Muir.
In Yesterday, Vardimon uses Bar-Amotz’s inventive machine to stunning effect. A backdrop shredded into vertical strips allows dancers to enter and exit the space and also doubles as a screen for real-time projections of the dancers, captured by cameras placed strategically onstage.
Live media and previously filmed footage abound in Yesterday, which was premiered for the company’s tenth anniversary and contains excerpts from several works in Vardimon’s rich repertory. Both the existing movement and video art have been creatively remixed, and the result, Bar-Amotz asserts, is that Yesterday “is really becoming a new piece.”
Since this is the company’s first tour to Israel, all of the recombined material in Yesterday will be brand-new to Israeli audiences. And while Bar-Amotz notes that Vardimon’s work is quite different from most Israeli dance, he thinks local crowds will love it. “[When] we tour in Germany and France, we can’t leave the stage,” he marvels. “I’m sure it will be the same with Israel.”