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CandoCo Foundation Course and the CandoCo Dance Company

by Ana Abad-Carles

March 9, 2005 -- Lilian Bayliss Theatre, London

On Wednesday 9th of March, CandoCo’s Foundation Course in Dance presented their first students’ performance at the Lilian Bayliss Theatre. The performance was introduced by Jeanette Siddall, Director of Dance at Arts Council England, who reminded the audience of the importance of the programme course, as it is the first integrated foundation course in the country. The first part of the evening consisted of the first ever performances of a pioneer course, while the second part of the evening presented CandoCo Dance Company in a performance of a work choreographed for them by Stephen Petronio.

The students’ performances consisted of an individual presentation of a short, self choreographed solo in which they had been asked to work following improvisation techniques (as we learned later). The final results varied, and, of course, there were different aspects that the audience needed to take into consideration, especially the physical difficulties that each of the students had to deal with. I was impressed by the commitment of the students and by the seriousness with which they presented their work. It was important to bear in mind that these students were under obvious pressure given the circumstances in which they were performing as they were the first performers of a ground breaking course and the audience, they must have been aware, were not just family and friends.

I was struck by the musicality of one of the students, Niall Cullen, who performed a solo using music by Gabriel Fauré that, though incredibly simple in its structure, showed an innate musicality in its performance. The student who opened the evening, Yulia Arakelyan, performed "Long Distance", a pensive solo in which the main emphasis was placed in the travelling patterns and dynamics in space. This was followed by "Escape", performed by Mickel Smithen, a well crafted solo in which he explored rhythm and sculptural references. "Juliet", by Joanne Denman, was a more dramatic solo in which some sort of narrative was being referenced though never stated. "Furious" by Yen Thou was an enigmatic and shocking solo that used the image of death in a most peculiar way. The performance finished with a group choreography called "Improvisational Structure" and that was again a choreographic exploration on the possibilities of improvisation only, this time, in group choreography.

I couldn’t help wondering at the added difficulties all the students had had to deal with in an already difficult art form. The physicality of dance is an aspect that cannot be underestimated and yet it seemed, while watching these students, that at times it can be at least underplayed in ways that we may have yet to get acquainted with.

That is why it was important for the students and the audience to see Candoco Dance Company performing one of their repertoire pieces. It was important for the audience because it reminded us of the artistic possibilities of integrated dance performance. It was important for the students because they can see an artistic future that they can aim at. And I guess it must have been important for the artists from the company themselves as they can see themselves providing a model for this young generation that is following their steps.

The company danced "The Human Suite" by choreographer Stephen Petronio and it was indeed human emotions that they presented in all sorts of guises. The dancers in the company are accomplished contemporary dancers who have got a strong sense of theatricality as well as strong stage presence. The choreography of the piece was expressionistic, though it had very clear compositional lines and patterns and dynamics that worked to great advantage for those dancers in wheelchairs in that they provided with physical aspects to the performance that a non disabled dancer cannot achieve on his or her own. Perhaps the piece was five minutes too long.  Perhaps it did not manage to catch one’s attention from beginning to end; still it managed to bring the evening to a very assertive end that was prolonged by the panel discussion that followed and in which we learnt more about the course and about the students.

The evening opened one’s mind to new possibilities and challenged every preconception in relation to the practice of dance. Congratulations to Candoco in making possible what, until recently, was but a dream to so many people who wanted to be involved in dance and yet found so many physical and mental obstacles on their way.

Edited by Staff.

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