Candoco Dance Company: In Side Out – Sadler’s Wells, London

Reviewer: Scott Matthewman

Choreographers: Seke Chimutengwende, Annie Hanauer and Kat Hawkins

Last year, Candoco Dance Company celebrated its 30th anniversary. To celebrate, the company has curated what they term a “prologue to the next chapter”: three new commissions that, as ever, showcase the company’s commitment to physical integrated dance.

In Worlds Unknown sets five dancers on a journey of exploration, navigating strange lands with intricate choreography by Seke Chimutengwende. Jamie McCarthy’s slow, subtle music underscores poetry written by the company’s dancers, and read or signed as they dance.

The imagery in the dancers’ words – ascending staircases made of jellyfish, or exploring ruined cities – is evocative rather than narrative, and that is reinforced by the dance. This is storytelling of mood rather than of character, and it washes over the audience like a warm ocean.

In contrast, soft shell, choreographed by Annie Hanauer, chooses to explore not an outer world but an inner one. Four of the previous piece’s five dancers combine self-expression with a desire to cooperate, mimic and unify with their colleagues. Individual moves expressing one dancer’s psyche are picked up and echoed by their peers, although always with one of the quartet doing their own thing.

It’s a work that is as thoughtful as it is kinetic, inspiring us to look at what we portray to others, what we keep inside, and how those two may differ.

Performer Kat Hawkins rounds off the evening’s dance with Object Permanence, their self-created piece exploring their connection with assistive devices. Starting on two prosthetic legs, Hawkins traverses the Lilian Baylis Studio space as if negotiating a tightrope, the need for control and precision delicately demonstrated. Then comes sudden bursts of speed, running around the space before switching once more to a more methodical pace.

This motif of alternating slow and rapid movements is echoed in Hawkins’s interactions with other assistive devices – crutches, a wheelchair, and shorter prostheses that allow for more fluidity of movement in their dance. There’s also a sense of playful eroticism at work – treating crutches or prosthetic legs as objects to be fetishised and as sensual playthings, rather than merely utilitarian. 

It’s clearly a highly personal work and one in which Hawkins bares their soul, and its inclusion in Candoco’s “prologue” leaves one looking forward to the next chapter in the dance company’s life (other performances of In Side Out will include work by Markéta Stránska and Charlie Morrissey in place of Object Permanence).

The dance pieces of the evening over, activities move to the back of the studio’s café, where company member Joel Brown leads with songs and chat. For a show which maintains a relaxed performance vibe throughout, the idea of an informal session to conclude is a fine one, even if the pleas for people who are standing at the bar to move to the performance area don’t quite fit the chilled vibe the evening is going for.

But even with that, there is a sense of informality and community that is representative of the whole evening, and of Candoco in the wider world. If this is the prologue, the next chapter is going to be very interesting indeed.

Continues until 18 November 2022

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The Reviews Hub London is under the acting editorship of Richard Maguire. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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