Freedom is in many ways an idea that can only really ever be expressed fully by dance – the sheer abandon of movement without restriction or concern for social protocols. In taking the concept of freedom as their inspiration, the Jasmin Vardimon Company bravely dived into a bottomless pit of human feeling, for what is more endless, and more important to the human soul than freedom? It is one of these things, much like control, that are only defined by their absence or felt in moments of restriction. Yet we spend a good deal of our time ignoring it, existing in the grey area between, plastering smiles upon our frustrated faces.

In Freedom Jasmin Vardimon’s choreography plays with this concept – this tug of war between the two extremes of emotional captivity and release.  The choreography uses the pull and push of wave like motions to capture the fragility of freedom. The wave motif continues throughout the performance – sometimes a joyous expression of physical and emotional freedom and sometimes a desperate beating against the boundaries of perpetual inhibition or restraint.

The performers interact with each other in an intimate, and often playful, manner. In one light hearted sequence dancer Esteban Fourmi handled his partner, Julia Robert Pares, as a surf board – she endlessly grinning as they surfed towards freedom. Yet in another, more intense, moment a dancer balanced, crab-like, upon her partner’s thighs as she performed an eerie, almost ritualistic dance as he both supported and restrained her. The size of the cast is perfectly judged, allowing for these intimate duets and for larger pieces of rhythmic movement in unison.

The set was particularly fluid – a fine example of this is the opening sequence. A single performer enters the stage and begins to climb what appears to be a rock formation in forest clearing. As the dancer climbs higher it is evident that the rock is of human form – the rest of the performers move under netting to fit her form as she climbs, raising and lowering her.  What at first appears to be a tangle of forest foliage is revealed to be a mass of industrial tubing by the intelligent lighting design. This deceptive quality allows for a scene to instantly manoeuvre from tranquillity and liberty to impotence and restraint.

What really got me excited about this production was the use of animation, which both interacts with the performers and constitutes a performance on its own merit. Threatening birds made of light and shadow dive at the dancers, repeatedly attacking in cresting waves. This vignette is so vivid and menacing it is practically cinematic. Interaction with the animations is also used in a comic and endearing manner, as when dancer Luke Burrough reacts to an animated lizard crawling about his torso. Puppet animation is also exercised, and the changing forms this accommodates allows for the story of a beautiful young mermaid and a rabbit to gradually develop from an enchanting forest tale to a darkly sinister one.

The mish-mash of styles, tone and media in Freedom made it a dynamic and rather thrilling performance. There is a distinct lack of pretension in the production, the performance maintains a simplicity despite the ingenious set. This simplicity is found in the shared human experience of freedom – both the greatest joy and the worst misery.

Eleanor Jones

16th March 2013