Candoco Dance Company review – it all just works, beautifully

Sadler’s Wells, London
Fascinating in its form, enigmatic in its meaning, this double bill is full of delights

As a company of variously abled and disabled dancers, Candoco generally presents choreography that has been created for its own performers. Set and Reset/Reset, a transposition of Trisha Brown’s classic Set and Reset (1983), is a masterly exception to this rule, and in the 10 years since it was first performed has become something of a signature work for them.

Why does it hit the sweet spot? Certainly Laurie Anderson’s obstinately pulsing score, and the translucent set and costumes (after Robert Rauschenberg), are delights. But fundamentally, it is down to Brown’s impeccable composition. On the surface, it has the air of happenstance: loose swings, casual lopes, fly-by encounters, a curve here, an angle there, the odd ricochet or trip. Underneath, a lively coherence is in play. Lineups of dancers keep coalescing and dissolving. Circular runs, dropped elbows, frog-jumps, near-misses: everything and anything becomes a motif that can be echoed and refracted, the open-winged stage becoming a game between the random and the regular. Rather than adapt the choreography to the performers, here the performers can happily adapt themselves to the choreography, and no matter whether they’re spinning a wheelchair, swinging a crutch or just extending an arm, it all just works – beautifully.

Anastasia Sheldon, Olivia Edginton, Ihsaan de Banya and Brown.
Anastasia Sheldon, Olivia Edginton, Ihsaan de Banya and Brown. Photograph: Tristram Kenton/the Guardian

It’s a good primer, too, for Jeanine Durning’s new Last Shelter, which likewise mixes order, chance and change. The dancers arrange officey-looking furniture – chairs, tables, microphone, mat – into small sets through which they move in jigsaw fragments of motion. They repeatedly dismantle and reconfigure the setup, and themselves around it. Sometimes a group sits and watches, like an onstage audience. Sometimes they’re all in it together, swivelling around a table, or forming a ragged circle, both alert to and coolly distant from each other.

Built on actions, not acting, this composition and decomposition of scenarios is strangely fascinating: the form is clear, the content is not. The ravishing, enigmatic sonorities of Tian Rotteveel’s unobtrusive score – itself a series of scenarios in sound – hold the mood of mystery. Still, the piece does sometimes wander off into its own world, adrift from its audience, especially when the dancers monologue breathlessly about time, directions, eyes, hearts and more. An unexpectedly emotional turn at the end returns a sense of focus, and purpose.

• At the Riley theatre, Leeds, 6 November. See Candoco.co.uk for more information.

Contributor

Sanjoy Roy

The GuardianTramp

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