Monday 25 March 2019

The pair who move to the same beat

Jazmin Chiodi and Alexandre Iseli are at the forefront of the contemporary dance scene in Tipperary, writes Andrea Smith

Jazmin Chiodi and Alexandre Iseli have made their home in Ireland. Photo: Tony Gavin
Jazmin Chiodi and Alexandre Iseli have made their home in Ireland. Photo: Tony Gavin

Andrea Smith

Jazmin Chiodi and her partner Alexandre Iseli feel they embody the spirit of their home countries in many ways. Argentina-born Jazmin is passionate, fun and fiery and fizzing with ideas that wake her up at 4am. By contrast, Swiss Alex is deep, thoughtful, cool and rational, and while she is the one who drives their dance projects and connects the people and ideas, he shapes them and handles the paperwork.

Jazmin (42) and Alex (48) first met in 2007 while working for Dance Theatre of Ireland. They weren't looking for love as both were coming out of previous relationships. Jazmin initially found Alex "serious and different" while he thought she was lively and intense in a passionate Latin American way. When she fell and hurt her knee, he was very attentive, and their friend, Rob Diaz, helped the budding romance along.

"We started to connect more physically," says Jazmin. "As dancers, you never know the boundaries as we're constantly touching, so you wonder, 'What kind of touch was that?' We began to date when the project was over and there was something very easy between us physically. Sometimes connection is through the skin, and we could be together without talking much initially."

Jazmin liked Alex's eyes, his body and the way he moved, while he thought she was very attractive and there was something special about the way she laughed. While absolutely opposite in many ways, the way they thought around dance was very similar. Alex wasn't fazed that she had a child, although it took four-year-old Ceara a little while to warm to him - happily, they get on like a house on fire now.

Now 15, Ceara is also in regular contact with her dad Daire, who lives in France and is remarried with two children. His parents, Vera and Alan Shaw, are wonderful, says Jazmin, and have been an amazing support around Ceara, particularly with their own families living abroad.

"They are so important to Ceara and to us," she smiles. "They have always travelled from Kenmare to take care of her when we're away with work, and have been very present in her life. They're very culturally aware and have made her into the reader and writer that she is, and have been our saviours really. Our friend Roy has also been a great support."

Jazmin and Alex live in Ballylanders in Limerick with Ceara, and use English for business, Spanish at home and French when they are discussing their projects. They often speak sentences that encompass all three. Their attitude is 'Who knows?' when asked if they will marry, although they very much see their future together. While they considered having children, the timing wasn't right when they got together, as their circumstances were a bit turbulent with Jazmin's divorce and visa issues.

One of the most challenging aspects of their lives is missing their own families. Jazmin grew up in Buenos Aires as the elder of Ana Maria and Jaime's two children. Alex is from the French-speaking Canton of Vaud in Switzerland and is the younger of Raymond and Marguerite's two children. Although he studied biology at university and did an MSc, he decided to pursue contemporary dance as a career. He was mentored by Philippe Saire, and worked with the National Choreographic Centre in La Rochelle. He came to Ireland in 2001 with his former girlfriend. Jazmin joined various dance companies and travelled around Europe, before spending two years in Montpellier. She met her former husband there, and they moved to Ireland in 2006. Sadly they separated in 2007. She and Alex have been dance artists-in-residence at the Excel Theatre in Tipperary since 2009. They run Tipperary Dance Platform, which is a programme for arts development in a rural environment, and it also presents an annual international dance festival. ( They have also presented contemporary dance pieces and shows all over the world through Iseli-Chiodi Dance Company, and are grateful to the theatre, Arts Council and their local arts office for giving them space for improvisation and creativity.

They will present their new mystical contemporary dance show Merlin next month at Projects Arts Centre, before taking it on tour. The pathways of several fairy-tale characters cross and intersect in this dark present-day tale, as they recount attempts to formulate the human composure in a relentlessly invasive wilderness. Alex and Jazmin will both perform in it along with Clara Portar (France), Sarah Ryan (Ireland) and Kiko Lopez (Valencia)

Jazmin says Alex is deep, thoughtful and full of integrity and he grounds her and makes her see the world in a different way. Alex admires Jazmin's wild streak and great drive, which he attributes to her background. "I grew up in one of the richest places in the world where everything was working, and we expected to find a job at whatever we liked," he says. "Jazmin grew up in a country where nothing ever worked at the time and you had to figure it out and make things happen, so she knows how to do that and I don't. She is very positive and while we can be a bit tempestuous at times, we both agree on everything that brings dance to the forefront."

'Merlin' is at Project Arts Centre from March 28-30, Excel Arts Centre, Tipperary, on April 2, Dance Limerick on April 4 and Firkin Crane, Cork on April 6.

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