In what way would you set the stage for an exploration of freedom? Jasmin Vardimon’s vision adorns the Sadler’s Wells stage with large, spinning set pieces dripping with duct tube and green vines of industrial plastic. A camouflaged blanket made of rustling synthetic leaves makes sporadic entrances and exits to the scene. With a title like Freedom, you can’t help but anticipate a sort of happy-go-lucky traipse through the set pieces, lots of smiling, and a few peace signs. And while there was a section of ecstatic, open-armed running, and quite a few smiling faces, there was a lot of imagery that I didn’t expect – but still appreciated, as an honest exploration of an enigmatic concept.

Jasmin Vardimon, Freedom
Jasmin Vardimon, Freedom

Vardimon explained in a post-show discussion that she found freedom was best defined by what it wasn’t, and this came across in the variety of events that fell along the freedom spectrum. A woman begs to be bound by her male partner, offering her wrists and dancing a sultry duet. A puppet show with a morose ending tells the tale of a curious mermaid, trapped by her own naïveté. Two lovers go from displaying the freedom of loving each other, to the cramped aggression of soured affections. With intricate sets and props, Vardimon and her dance artists weave a patchwork of witty tableaux and extended, distorted storylines that seem to balance and complete each other, prodding at the corners of the idea of freedom, and showing us that being free isn’t as simple as it seems.

On a movement level, the dancing in Freedom was in line with Jasmin Vardimon Company’s typical physicality and athleticism. Dancers flew through the air into expertly landed rolls, and moved in and out of the floor with speed and agility. The group sections had a dynamic, almost tribal energy, while the duet and solo material was well varied, from slinky floorwork solos to the surprising appearance of pointe shoes. Freedom keeps you engaged from start to finish.

However, the drawback to this variety is that you never quite felt like each mini-plot had a conclusion. It was like flipping through channels of a television, the stories faded in and out despite any attachment you might have had to the characters. It was very Pina Bausch, to be honest, complete with a strong underlying commentary on the objectification of women. Still, it was interesting to see the movement style of Vardimon coupled with the collage-like Bausch structure, and I believe it was an effective pairing to explore the concept of freedom.

Overall Vardimon and her dancers presented a work that was playful yet meaningful, and the performance kept you interested with a sprinkling of cultural references and creative quirks. While not revolutionary, Freedom did delve into the many dimensions of freedom, and it was a highly entertaining and visual evening.