Choreography: Alexander Whitley, Yasmeen Godder
Reviewer: Peter Jacobs
Candoco Dance Company are the UK’s leading company of disabled and non-disabled dancers, founded in 1991, and successfully creating work that challenges perceptions and preconceptions with a passionate commitment to celebrating diversity, in all its forms.
2017 has seen a change of artistic leadership for the company with long-standing co-artistic directors Pedro Machado and Stine Nilsen standing down and Ben Wright and Charlotte Darbyshire stepping up. It is too soon to see this change deeply reflected in the company’s artistic vision and ethos, however, the company was awarded for ‘Outstanding Achievement in Dance‘ at the UK Theatre Awards in 2015 so even with excitement for the company’s future there ain’t nothing broke here.
Here, Candoco present two brand new commissions, from rising British star Alexander Whitley and Israeli choreographer Yasmeen Godder.
Alexander Whitley has become known for his fluid, highly-technical and aesthetic choreography and this new work Beheld fits with his growing trajectory. The work considers aspects of what is seen and unseen, revealed and concealed, and plays with defining and redefining space – making intriguing use of fabric and darkness. Initially, the dancers are concealed and revealed on a tenebrous stage by way of a large piece of darkly shimmering fabric, which is folded and refolded and transitions across the stage by the dancers’ skillful manipulation.
A central section sees a solo by Mickaella Dantas, her crutches sometimes extending her lines, eventually discarded. Unseen hands press through a dark metallic silver backcloth creating shimmering points of light – like benevolent spirits materialising and fading away, communing with the present before manifesting more strongly as hands pulling Dantas into darkness.
The final section sees the full company again caught up in a dark world of swirling fabric and interconnected movement, driven by the simmering electronica of Nils Frahm’s score, which has been reworked by Rutger Zuydervelt.
If Beheld is characterised by darkness and a quiet steady gaze, Yasmeen Godder’s Face In is strikingly characterised by light and colour and pulled faces. Face In is an audacious work that encourages the dancers to completely let loose in a fun and uninhibited way. The occasional rainbow lighting of the stage and the mixed-gender interactions of the dancers make it clear that all kinds of diversity are being celebrated here in a work that celebrates touch and joy and intimacy and abandon in a way that delights and challenges assumptions and the permissions we rightly attribute to people’s personal spaces.
Joel Brown is in and out of his wheelchair – quite intentionally as his manipulation of his chair is remarkable – with Toke Broni Strandby clambering all over him or Olivia Edginton flailing crazily on his back. Edginton and Laura Patay are delightful as they tussle with amiable, almost inappropriate, abandon. Strandby’s overwhelming sense of bewilderment throughout is engaging. Megan Armishaw and Nicolas Vendange relish the opportunity to play out. Anything goes in this colourful, slightly-disconcerting work that pushes our comfortable understandings of dance and permissiveness: that thrusts sexiness and silliness and disabled and non-disabled dancers into a gloriously entertaining melting pot. The varied music soundtrack and brightly layered cut-off denim, string and sportswear costumes by Adam Kalderon bring added zing and vibrancy.
Candoco are a dance company that constantly challenge assumptions, subtly redefining our understanding of human capabilities and making telling use of points of difference – as well as erasing them – to create art that entertains and educates but never forgets to be forward-thinking bold contemporary dance.
Reviewed on 24 October, 2017 | Image: Hugo Glendinning