Candoco's Double Bill: social conversations with dance and humour

Diversity shapes an interesting pattern. The key to make of this ingredient a success is the right balance. Candoco, a professional contemporary dance company, as Megan Armishaw and Olivia Edginton also emphasize, is a wonderful evidence of how diverse elements can interact for a perfect mix of art, social debate, and humour.

Sadler’s Wells was the first host of Candoco’s tour around the country with two new provocative and bold productions: Face In and Let’s Talk About Dis. Both acts share a circular ending.

How gestures initially incomprehensible become very rational and pleasing indeed with all the actions in the between; the returning and recurring of situations in our lives; a starting point that it’s actually a conclusion or vice-versa: as the whole show, the openings mirroring the finale have a wealth of meanings. The audience has plenty of material to carry on the debate outside the theatre.

Photo Credit: Hugo Glendinning
Face In, by multiaward-winning Yasmeen Godder, is a visionary dance.

Bright colours projected on the walls of the acting space prepare the setting for the lonely entrance and first sequence of Toke Broni Strandby. The dancer moves slowly, pausing many times and for so long to question whether he actually forgot the next steps. As he is joined by others, electronic pulses are inserted into the soundscape.

From colourful training suits, to neon shirts: the bodies of the dancers stand out against the background which gradually becomes more and more neutral.

After the first segment, accompanied by the rather subtle but punchy beats, an indie score starts, followed by a more melodic record in the third and final part. The music now paints the periphery of night life, the desire of freedom of movement, the esprit of independence.

The dancers compose complicate figures. Not lonely anymore, each and every one finds their couple, or even a trio, with the movements becoming more fluid. They recreate distorted scenes, recalling the Surrealism. The figures play with the categories of beauty and interrelation.

The final segment brings the company together on the stage, repeating that same initial sequence of the lonely dancer, now so coordinated and clear with and within the group.

Despite all the physical differences manifest in the show, just after the first few minutes, the wonder of looking at a dancer without the left arm vanishes. Able or disabled, the performers are part of a unique body, that cherish those disabilities-abilities.

Candoco articulates in words the explosion of life and a humorous take over conventions and clich├ęs – as so many canons appear to be thrown away - in the second piece of the double bill, Let’s Talk About Dis.

As the title already reveals, this segment doesn’t involve a lot of dance, in order to leave space to an actual script. Although it sounds strange to listen to performers’ monologues instead of watching them moving, this second act matches Face In and gives to the previous piece a perfect conclusion.

As visual artist, Hetain Patel pictures very clearly how, at the heart of the problem of inclusion, there is an interpretation issue. The challenge is to put down the social and stereotyped labels and just listen more, respect the other and his/her right to privacy (just like anyone else), and embrace the difference as cultural enrichment.

Fragmented in its development, featuring a good mixture of movements and lines, the piece is provocative along the humoristic vein that runs through. The dialogue started in this second set proves the open and flexible approach of the artists.

Laura Patay wants to open a conversation about disability. She talks of her personal story, the silly questions on her missing arm and the awkward incidents at the train station. The problem is that the performer speaks French, thus Toke Broni Strandby promptly translates in English, but misinterpreting the meaty subject of Laura’s talk, overlooking the disability debate and changing it into a matter of height difference among the members of the company.

There are parts of the act translated in Sign language, whereas some movements are explained. Here is how ‘Fleming morphs into a dolphin’ rather than a caption for a sequence of dance figures, appears more as a childish description, but it all fits in the general picture of saying what you see, no filter, no posh labelling.

The accent in Let’s Talk About Dis is on the link integration-interpretation: if we don’t speak the same language, if we don’t put ourselves on the same level – whether this implies slow down our actions or make a step further towards the other -, we humanely lose a lot.

The amazement about how disabled dancers can move with such deal of energy and in graceful coordination, whether on a wheelchair or with crunches, leaves soon space to the admiration for the high standard of the technique and the multiple arts involved on the stage for both acts.

Candoco proves to be a passionate company, ready to experiment and test itself, making diversity an added value to preserve and appreciate rather than leave out.

Dates: 9 - 10 March, then on UK tour until 26 April 2018
Venue: first performed at Sadler's Wells