Jasmin Vardimon Company are currently in the midst of touring their new work, 7734, and I was lucky enough to see it on the prestigious Sadler’s Wells stage. There was a buzz of excitement in the foyer, as a few hopeful Vardimon fans eagerly awaited returns from the box office. Thankfully I wasn’t among them, but I could feel the anticipation lingering in the air. This same expectant baited-breath greeted me as I found my seat; amongst chattering college students (who did provide some hilarious running commentary, including ‘he’s jokes man... obviously on crack’ referring to one of the male dancers). Needless to say, I am a pretty big Jasmin Vardimon fan. Having been following the company since 2005, with slight avid fascination, my prior knowledge and expectations for Vardimon’s new piece were probably higher than average. The company have been performing to critical acclaim, fuelling my pre-existing fire and hunger to see the work.
7734 is a powerful piece to say the least, as an audience member you are handed all of the ingredients that make Vardimon’s work so very compelling. The movement is extremely physically demanding (and bruise inducing), the subject matter heart wrenchingly close to the bone; and the performers each finding the perfect balance between breathy, undulating movement sequences and punchy virtuosity. One thing I love about Vardimon’s choreography is the excellently timed comic relief, at moments even catching the audience out (I found myself laughing right across into a Holocaust reference). All this and they make it look so easy.
This, however brings me to the use of text in the piece, Vardimon’s handling of speech left me feeling a little uneasy. Ok, so the subject matter of perception and authority was made as haunting as it possibly could have been, amongst such images was a pile of almost naked female bodies, being ‘burnt’ by a smoke machine. So for anyone to come out of the auditorium and be completely unfazed by this, I would consider them dead inside. I was meant to feel unsettled, but it was not just the harrowing images that provided this, it was also the way the choreography was assembled. The music used was loud and mind-bending, by this I mean at times a tone akin to that of tinnitus was emitted, so it was designed to mess with our heads (the college students had great fun with that one). At certain sections, music came to a jarring halt; and the dancers, all in place and ready to go as their ‘characters’ would start a dialogue. Unfortunately, the term over-acting came to mind. The sections of pure dance set against pure dialogue was slightly jarring on my senses, not to mention my inner fanatic of the previous skill at which Vardimon had effortlessly intertwined the two. This abrupt reminder of reality had the successful result of distancing me as an audience member, meaning that I left the theatre feeling slightly affronted, having entered in heady excitement.
However, Vardimon must have realised the need to distance the audience member, and if I may be so brave to claim that this cleverly displays a theme which frequented the work, that of human memory becoming less and less evocative as it fades and travels along generations, as a kind of natural estrangement to periods of high stress.
So, all in all I would highly recommend seeing this, and for all those hardcore Vardimon fans out there, you have been warned!