This March, acclaimed contemporary dance company Candoco return to Sadler’s Wells with a double bill: Face In and Let’s Talk About Dis. Founded in 1991 by Celeste Dandeker-Arnold OBE and Adam Benjamin, Candoco was developed out of integrated workshops at London’s Aspire Centre for Spinal Injury. In building its work around the integration of disabled and non-disabled artists, the company became the first of its kind in the UK. Having toured to over 600 countries with audiences of over 18,000 in its first 25 years, Candoco remain a leading organisation recognised for its dedication to encouraging diversity. Touring nationally and across the world, the core company of seven dancers perform works by exceptional choreographers in order to challenge modern perceptions of ability through art – the impact of which, has been outstanding.
Choreographed by Yasmeen Godder, Face In focusses on releasing the innermost desires of the performers through impulsive and unrestricted movement. Immediately there is a sense of gravity shifting, giving way to a change in natural phenomenon. Three white screens contain this world that is born amidst deafening silence, its right side lit up with the colour spectrum. A single body is added to, layered by balance, trust, and the creation of new personal spaces. Faces pinch grotesquely as invisible limbs pull foreign forms into a tight embrace, mirroring one another between urban vibrations, like the scratching of a seismograph. The creaking intensifies to become the sound of a record spinning under a needle, then a furious beating that soon provokes feral behaviour. Suddenly, crutches grow into phallic objects, a change greeted by wagging tongues and wild mouths stretched into a scream. Each performer has a different way of moving within Godder’s intricate and complex body language. Internal and external narratives blossom, charged with fearlessness and a magnetism that attracts a potent confrontation of the human form.
Aesthetically, Hetain Patel’s Let’s Talk About Dis is the exact opposite of Godder’s vibrant production. Nine black chairs gather upon a dark floor, their legs fixed within an inky enclosure. Boundaries are drawn with the help of adhesive tape, a four-sided space to be treated with classic thespianism. Movement is narrated by a sarcastic transcript, creating a comedic premise to this witty acknowledgement of the notion of political correctness. Patel uses the stage as a platform to discuss disability, namely the essence of human curiosity in relation to physical characteristics that seem unusual. French is translated into English, which in turn is illustrated through the use of British Sign Language. When three dancers choose to speak in sign alone, the poetry of their movements compliments a hilarious sequence of interpretive dance that could mean absolutely anything. Here, stories demand to be told in unison, and youthful experiences of sexuality as a disabled individual collide with visions of growing up in a world permeated by inaccessibility – a system that is rich in humour and delicately handled.
As the group of seven clamours together under a spotlight, they sing in harmony, their vocals dotting and dashing as if signalling in Morse code. When their volume climbs higher, it drowns out any hopeful speaker among the troupe – a keen observation on the difficulty of being heard in a society that is built on inequality, even when you are screaming for change.
Face in and Let’s Talk About Dis played at Sadler’s Wells until March 10