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 for more information.


Sanjoy Roy

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Candoco Dance Company review – compelling document of human possibilities
Disabled and non-disabled performers tackle political correctness and prejudice with mischievous humour

Judith Mackrell

11, Mar, 2018 @10:40 AM

Candoco Dance Company – review
Candoco's performers look at home within a first-rate work, and we can simply watch the perpetual motion, slipknot formations, off-the-cuff accents and accidents – and marvel, writes Sanjoy Roy

Sanjoy Roy

17, Oct, 2011 @5:16 PM

Article image
Candoco Dance Company - review
Candoco's ambitious programme reveals the effort and brutality involved in striving to embody an unforgiving ideal, writes Sanjoy Roy

Sanjoy Roy

12, Oct, 2010 @9:15 PM

Dance preview: CandoCo Dance Company: Double Bill, on tour

The Junction, Cambridge, Mon 10; Jersey Arts Centre, St Helier, Thu 13

Judith Mackrell

08, Nov, 2008 @12:01 AM

Article image
Candoco Dance Company review – smart show skips through the unsayable
Mining conversations with the disabled and non-disabled dancers, Hetain Patel’s Let’s Talk About Dis tackles physical difference with guile and confidence, writes David Jays

David Jays

11, Dec, 2014 @12:11 PM

Article image
‘I’m celebrating my body for the first time’: Dan Daw’s kink dance show
The Australian dancer allows himself to be dominated on his own terms in a duet bursting with pride – and he’s never felt more free

Lyndsey Winship

29, Sep, 2021 @10:49 AM

Article image
Young Associates / National Youth Dance Company review – the future is cooking
There are plenty of ideas and energy in this showcase for young choreographers and dancers, with scope to hone skills further

Lyndsey Winship

21, Jul, 2019 @4:07 PM

Article image
Judith Mackrell's top 10 dance of 2015
Wayne McGregor distilled the essence of Virginia Woolf while others tackled Milton and Samuel Beckett, and the beauty of maturity found champions in Alessandra Ferri and Sylvie Guillem

Judith Mackrell

16, Dec, 2015 @7:00 AM

Article image
Step-by-step guide to dance: Candoco

They have performed with wheelchairs and crutches, but Candoco's groundbreaking performers refuse to be dismissed as 'disabled dancers'. Sanjoy Roy traces their determined journey to the top

Sanjoy Roy

06, Jan, 2009 @11:01 AM

Article image
Richard Alston Dance Company review – class and craft
Classical virtuosity combines with contemporary sensibility in this latest programme exploring the relationship between music and dance

Lyndsey Winship

03, Mar, 2019 @3:41 PM