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Fun in the park with the Jasmin Vardimon Company

One of Britain's most celebrated contemporary dance companies is to perform in the North East this week

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

For fans of all things North East, here’s another achievement to boast about – that Newcastle-based Dance City is currently staging the biggest programme of dance outside London.

That’s the assertion of Dance City boss Anthony Baker but an ambitious programme only really counts as an achievement if people are turning up to watch.

So are they?

“It has gone really well,” Anthony says. “Audiences have been great and we’ve been really pleased.

“People have responded to the excitement around the programme and the quality of the work we’re bringing in.”

One of the recent big hits was Akaash Odedra, Birmingham-born but steeped in the traditions of Indian classical dance and now a big draw here and overseas.

He formed his contemporary dance company in 2011 but a solo performance at Dance City attracted a large and appreciative crowd.

This week brings another of the season’s highlights in the Jasmin Vardimon Company with a work called Park, set in “an urban oasis, a place of refuge from ordinary life where eight characters play, fight, fall in love and learn to survive”.

This is gleaned from the website which adds: “In this playground of relationships, young lovers wrestle in a historic fountain, a graffiti artist sprays his love story, a busker finds his only appreciative audience in a bag lady and a flag-waving bully rants worn out political beliefs.”

A “modern day fairytale” is in the offing.

Anthony says ahead of the performances on Wednesday and Thursday: “This is one of the most significant British dance companies that we’ve had here over the last 10 years. Jasmin Vardimon tours internationally but doesn’t tour quite so much in this country.”

Vardimon was born on a kibbutz in Israel and for five years was a member of the Kibbutz Dance Company. In 1995 she won a choreography award from the British Council which brought her to London where she set up her own dance company two years later.

Both she and her company have since picked up awards and accolades around the world. Previous shows include Freedom, 7734, Yesterday, Justitia and Lullaby.

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

Park has been described by one critic as “extraordinary... sexy and beautiful”. The Dance City website warns of – or promises – “adult themes and partial female nudity”.

Coming up fast on the tail of Park is a regional platform called Pulse, which will feature some of the best young dancers and choreography from across the North East.

“Groups of young dancers from various sub-regions (Newcastle/Gateshead; Northumberland; Durham; South and North Tyneside; Stockton) have been taking part and this is the regional final,” says Anthony.

“But it is a celebration of dance and definitely not a competition.”

Two other notable dance companies are heading for Dance City in April. Varmints, the creation of East London Dance in collaboration with Sadler’s Wells and Stratford Circus, is, says Anthony, “a brilliant show based on a fantastic book for children. While it is aimed at children, adults will enjoy it just as much.”

The show is to get 10.30am and 1.30pm performances at Dance City on April 8.

Scottish Dance Theatre arrive later in the month with two programmes of dance.

On April 23 and 24 they will present a double bill comprising Winter, Again, a “Nordic fairytale” by Jo Strømgren, and Dreamers by Slovakian choreographer Anton Lachky.

Then, on April 25, the company will give two daytime performances of the family-friendly Innocence, inspired by the fertile musings and imaginings of William Blake.

Before all this, though, there will be fun, games and physical fireworks in the park with Jasmin Vardimon.

Performances are on March 25 (Wednesday) at 7.30pm and on March 26 (Thursday) at 1.30pm and 7.30pm. Book tickets at www.dancecity.co.uk or tel. 0191 2610505

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