What does ALiCE in your new production embody?
ALiCE is re-imagination of the classic Alice in Wonderland. I focused my adaptation on the narrative of a young girl undergoing the powerful experience of adolescence and the effect that her body changing has on her identity and her relation and understanding of the world around her.
What is your memory of the first moment you thought about creating AlLiCE?
Time. Representation of time moving. It is the first theme that appears in the book, and it represents the cycle and transitions through life.
In reimagining ALiCE you are telling the story of a woman or child and their identity. How do you relate your growing up years and that of the current generation to this theme?
Through my current perspective and experience of being a mother of a teenage girl, I reflected on that transitional time into womanhood. Although times have changed, the issues are as relevant today, as they were when I grew up, and they will always be – the realisation that the time to be a child is running out, and one’s own changing identity as we progress through life. Questioning our identity, while dealing with body changes, both in adolescence and later on in menopause are key to our emotional journey and I reflect on these through the characters of Alice and the red queen.
Do you think that the perspective of the society has evolved through time in respect to women and identity?
Certainly, now we have much more awareness and openness to questioning one’s own identity.
Through the story the caterpillar is changing into a butterfly, while questioning Alice for her identity. For me it represents our changing identity as we progress through life.
In terms of awareness of the issues many women are facing through both adolescence and menopause, I think there is still a long way to go.
Please share some highlights of the creative process for you and the team while making ALiCE?
One section we’ve enjoyed creating started from a sort of a personal wink to my own teenage daughter. It was a fun day playing and creating this section which stayed in the piece. Another moment the dancers enjoyed a lot was a game we’ve created, but in the end, I decided not to include it in the piece.
Any challenges you faced as a young dancer or when you first set out to start your own company. How did you overcome? This is for all the young aspiring dancers looking up to you and are inspired by your journey.
Starting the company was very challenging on many levels. I moved to London to be with my partner after a serious injury I had, which I thought would lead to the end of my dancing career. I’ decided to start creating but had no money to even book a rehearsal space. I got access to an old, deserted gym, which was dirty, cold and with concrete floor, but it was enough as a place to explore ideas. That’s where I and two friends I met in London created my first piece Therapist. One of them is Luke, who has been one of the main company dancers over 18 years and is still working with me till today.
We’d like to share a little story before we move on to the next question. During Lockdown Abundant Art created a documentary film called Moving Forward Looking Back #2020 supported by Arts Council England, on the real-life stories of three dancers coping with the pandemic and how it affected their careers. One of the protagonists, a young dancer from Nottingham who had then recently graduated from Trinity Laban had moved base to Wales. The pandemic hit right at the juncture when she was about to start her dance career. Overnight she lost work. All sources of income dried up, she faced the worst challenges that life could bring and lost hope to dance again. She mentions in the film that, thanks to Jasmine Vardimon Company for introducing online classes in those early days of lockdown, which she could access, that she couldn’t otherwise dream of attending. This was the turning point during lockdown for her. She felt renewed hope and strength to move on and look for work as conditions gradually eased.
We would like to take the opportunity to thank you for Jasmin Vardimon Company’s initiatives during those dark days to support dancers.
Thank you for your kind words. I wasn’t aware of this film, and it truly makes me happy to hear.
Please could you share a little bit about these lockdown initiatives which you had started in the early phases and what helped you as a company to survive the storm?
When Covid started, I thought about how to continue and engage our freelance dancers, and how to continue our artistic work. We decided to offer our dancers work leading classes and sharing our practice with others. It was free for all to join, and at the same time it provided work to our freelance dancers.
Later we’ve created Alice in VR Wonderland, which was a way I chose to both continue creating and sharing artistic experience, and at the same time researching ideas for the stage production of ALiCE.
The company is about to move into its new home in Ashford. Will the new space in any way contribute to new creative thinking?
I hope it will be a place where we exchange ideas, develop creative thinking and investigate new collaborations – creative hub for artistic research and creative study, where there is a fertile ground for both creation and new learning.
What are the audiences looking forward to next from Jasmin Vardimon Company?
We are planning to open more training programmes, like our JV2 programme, and to offer other opportunities to collaborate, produce and present works in our new building. At the same time, we will continue touring and presenting work elsewhere.
Footnote: Jasmin Vardimon’s ALiCE is currently on tour and is at Sadler’s Wells on 28 & 29 October. Full details – https://jasminvardimon.com/ The company’s new building JVHome opens in Ashford in December.
Image ©Tristram Kenton
Interview by Protima Chatterjee