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Review: Park by Jasmin Vardimon Company at Dance City

Jasmin Vardimon Dance Company's depiction of park life puts all subsequent pale imitations in the shade

****
A scene from Park by the Jasmin Vardimon Company
A scene from Park by the Jasmin Vardimon Company

Ten years on from Israeli-born Jasmin Vardimon’s first run of her seminal dance show, Park, the piece has lost none of its power and relevance.

It is a must-see contemporary dance ‘classic’ for anyone who loves physical theatre, performance and comedy and for any student of the arts.

The eight characters in the piece tell a story of life in a suburban park that is soon to be converted into a cocktail bar by a cash hungry developer.

They fight and resist its conversion, playing out their own day to day life dramas, but the end is a capitalistic frenzy of debauched fun in the set’s centrepiece Mermaid fountain.

In fact, so enduring is this theme of public space becoming private, that its opening scene with its overly big-bummed dancing Gypsy woman, homeless man and thug reminds you of the more recent stand-off over London’s Marble Arch gardens.

A scene from Park by the Jasmin Vardimon Company
A scene from Park by the Jasmin Vardimon Company

The only things that give away that the piece is 10 years old are its segments of brilliantly uplifting dance music – very mid 2000s, and perhaps some of the B-boy posturing and hip hop-influenced moves that arrive early on.

The story-telling is sublime, however, with comedy and voice used perfectly to keep the audience on edge.

I’m tempted to say the story is so compelling on its own that this is a show for the whole family, no matter what age or gender, but it does feature some partial nudity – although that didn’t seem to bother a family who had taken their six-year-old daughter along.

Every single second of this show is being performed to you. Refreshingly there’s no introspection on the part of the dancers or sombre, miserable scenes. In fact, a lot of it is laugh-out-loud funny.

The athletic dancing is extremely physical, with every cast member taking their turn to fling themselves into metal fencing or onto the cardboard floor. And there are technically difficult moves – tiny Greek dancer Maria Doulgeri’s manhandling of her male dance partners is quite something.

Group scenes in which all eight dancers are beautifully in time are pleasing to the eye, especially a quirky jumping dance sequence to a computerised dance tune everyone in the audience remembers but can’t quite recall the name of.

Serbian dancer Uros Petronijevic is both wonderful and highly irritating in his roles as the hardman thug with a basketball, breakdancer and pet dog.

He leads on the dance’s key scene, which definitely has a renewed meaning for 2015, where he whips a St George’s flag over the heads of the dancers, who flail in his midst.

All the female dancers are exquisite and super-fit but Belgian dancer Silke Muys steals the show with her fluidity, sexually charged character acting and general draping of herself around the set in a green shimmering dress.

We should take Park’as the genesis of an entire genre of contemporary dance and the show’s 2015 rehearsal director, Vinicius Salles, isn’t exaggerating when he tells the audience after its first Newcastle performance that attempts at mirroring its style are just pale imitations.

Park will be performed at Dance City today (Thursday, March 26) at 1.30pm and 7.30pm.

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