JV2 is the training programme led by Jasmin Vardimon. Tailored for young dancers, it provides participants with the opportunity to train in dance and theatre, develop as versatile and multi-disciplinary performers and gain precious experience performing alongside Vardimon’s main company. Bridging the gap between professional training and professional career, the scope of this ensemble is also to introduce a younger audience to dance. The new triple bill, JV2 2017, presented at Sadler’s Wells' Lilian Baylis studio, has a dark, violent undertone. While it was not conceived as a triptych, the three dysfunctional fairy tales present clear thematic and formal echoes.

The evening opener, Wear Your Wounds, by Greek, UK-based choreographer Marilena Dara, deals with rejections. Casting a dystopic view on relationships, her characters are so affected by grief that they become manic. In particular, the grimace of one of the dancers, a splendid Caterina Grosoli, while ordering the others – shadows of herself – around, reminds me of Jack Torrance in Shining. Performed to the poem by Charles Bukowski “Man and Woman in Bed at 10 pm”, it has a retro touch, almost an acrylic smell. The existential touch brings to mind the loneliness of Edward Hopper’s images and the savage aggression of the dysfunctional couples of Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf or Tennessee William’s A Streetcar Named Desire. The group amplifies the main character’s feelings – loneliness and anger – and state of confusion. A gang in pseudo denim jumpsuits moves in canon copying her movements whilst behind her. Sometimes the group freezes, sometimes it follows her, as if an embodiment of her thoughts. Formally interesting with great counterpoint work and canon movement, the images are nevertheless disturbed by the use of space; the lines seeming squashed, thus taking away from the effect. Possibly, on a larger stage, the effect would have been different.

The violence of the second work, Vohlfs by Jukstapoz (Paul Blackman and Christine Gouzelis) is less subtle. Describing “the life of the pack and the hierarchy within”, it creates a gothic atmosphere seemingly going back to the horror of the original fairy tales of Charles Perrault or the Grimm brothers. Imbued with an atmosphere that swings between the hypnotic power of the dark queen in Snow White, the wolves’ pack of Francis Ford Coppola’s Dracula and the disarticulated trolls of Peter Jackson’s Hobbit or Lord of the Rings, images of fierce animals, monsters and witches hunts the dance. The work opens on a lonely, and somewhat a little comical figure in a cone of red light. It is soon devoured by a pack, the dancers clad in rags, strips of fabric discharged in the frenzy. These cannibalizing scenes happen more than once, announcing a change of leadership. Each time, the new evil queen, surrounded by a mosaic of hands gesturing around her, gets the bloody necklace. Despite clear research of movement material, this work is, structurally, less crafted than the previous one. What is more successful though, is the use of theatrical effects.

If the previous section was about the maleficent queen, the third, Tomorrow by Vardimon, is about Snow White. A well-conceived and delicate remix of iconic sequences from her repertory, it adds a positive note to the otherwise bleak programme. It starts with a lonely figure clad in a light dress holding a bundle of white feathers. The group, as wind, swishes in and out with a sideways motion bringing more feathers and making her slowly lose her precious wrap. Left in a floating state, she is soon joined by more of the group. As sleepwalkers, they now move towards the audience, with two dancers catching the others as they get too close and carrying them back as if rag dolls. All along a couple madly in love exchanges tenderness. The scene reminds me also, musically, of Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker’s Verklärte Nacht. Possibly the most beautiful image is a sleeping figure being surrounded by feathers blown by the group sliding on their stomach. The splendid use of theatrical effects, with great images created by the light design and the props, is spoiled by a less successful soundscape: a mash-up of different genres (from Mozart to Spiderbait) that clashes with the otherwise constant atmosphere.

There are several echoes between the dances. Recurring elements such as canon work executed in a line or, the dancers slowly walking towards the audience, heads lowered – as bloodthirsty zombies in the first two works, and as dreamy sleepwalkers in the last – point to a relation between the works. At the same time, looking closely, there is none, creating a little friction. Nonetheless, there is a risk of giving the impression that the works are rushed copies. On the whole, the programme is accessible to everyone, and appealing, most particularly, to horror and fantasy fans.

 

Update: a previous version of this review contained comments based on the wrong impression that this performance was aimed at a young adult audience, which JV2 have informed us is not the case. We have amended the review accordingly and apologise for any inconvenience caused.

***11