What Dance Can Do

Being a Sussex bird, you must learn to adapt to London’s flight. London moves fast, no time to dawdle or stop and look. You are on the commuter’s conveyor belt, best not to destroy their rhythm. Pick up the pace, Emma!

Seeking sanctuary in a coffee shop, I finally have the chance to view Euston Road. People rarely raising their heads from the ground or phones. People determined to continue their imaginary beelines as their rivals battle for sudden invasion (or decide it’s not worth the fight and dodge them).

Sipping on hot chocolate, my eyes rolled onto London’s fast wheels – on suitcases, taxis, buses, prams, bicycles, wheelchairs and a glimpse of a hoverboard. Then there was the random crisscrossing of human bodies and machines. I could tell my mind was gearing up the excitement to visit the Wellcome Collection Display Spectacular with the Candoco Dance Company.

Candoco Dance company, the company of disabled and non-disabled dancers, invites you to experience intimate moments of performance and sound as the dancers consider the subtleties and complexities of what it means to be on display.

Whirling through the revolving door, I entered this clinical, whitewashed paradise. It was the ultimate hangout for the artsy hearted and open minded. The weird sound deck of conversation and silence echoed the programme’s pockets of installations, activities, workshops, discussions and performances. With three levels of things to see and do, I knew four hours would leave me wanting more time.

Candoco Hello Emma Kay

Being my first visit to the Wellcome Collection and witnessing Candoco’s work, I was curious, intrigued and puzzled on why I hadn’t discovered these guys earlier. I enjoy blogging about disability within the Arts (Bullseye, Acting Dyslexic and No Rules for Jules) and witnessing how we can transform our struggles into creativity. Vulnerability runs rife amongst public display, but I notice the personal victory of abusing these emotions and creating a performance. It is the strength of a performer to bond and trust their character to express. Wishing time could stand still, Candoco made me reflect upon disability through dance, rather than the theatre’s spoken word.

What is exposed when we are exhibited? What is seen when we are shown? What do we hear when we listen in? Display combines opposites: the private and public, intimate and shared, exposed and hidden. Shifting between displaying and being displayed, between what is audible and what is visible, how much we dare we reveal? Working with 12 dancers for one week, I was looking at how we can meet each other. How we can let go of set ideas and patterned replies and take the time to find out in the moment. How does your body relate to mine? What lies beneath what is already known? And how much are we ready to share in an exposed state? – Choreographer’s note From Mirjam Gurtner

Candoco’s dancers inspired me to recognise you can dance to whatever rhythm your body can create. Forget the music on your iPod and dancing to the latest tune, but experiment with your body and dance in the silence of the space. Dance like nobody’s watching.

Candoco Hello Emma Kay

Watching these non-disabled and disabled dancers merge as one and disperse as individuals, I loved their ability to believe in their disabilities. Creating a heap of bodies on the floor, they formed as an unbreakable collective, breathing and feeling each other’s limbs, and destroying personal space, boundaries and distance. They silently stood up and walked through the door or up the stairs, leaving the crowd behind.

Labelled ‘Unknowing’, a Candoco duo danced an emotionally intense twenty minute performance in the Reading Room. Entwining with speed, Leah Marojevic and Christopher Owen violently collided and softly caressed the female and male form. Heightening their intimacy, the audience were given headphones as Tom Slater and Matthew Lewis captured their breathing through an invading boom mic. The duet became a power play, struggling to retain obedience and dominating their partner. Biting and face planting, my interpretation was a sexual encounter and private exploration of the body and mind during intercourse. It was a passionate explosion, which left everyone breathless.

Attending two discussions in the auditorium, my emotions were doing the splits. Peter Lovatt’s Show and Tell: The psychology of dancing and watching movement brought Friday night’s entertainment, encouraging the audience to groove to S Club 7’s ‘Don’t Stop Movin’. Giggling and applauding, this man had some serious moves. No dad dancing allowed. “We are born to dance as we express ourselves through movement” as he body popped in front of us.

Tom Shakespeare’s Nothing to See Here: Disability on display explored the emotional side towards living with a disability. His words played Jenga, tumbling the bricks of reality and left me devastated with our society. Tom recalled the reactions from non-disabled people and being treated like a “specimen”. He also explained the stigma of being different and the people’s fascination with his body. Derived from Latin ‘fascinare’, fascination has connotations of “cause or make evil eye, hex, enchant and bewitch”. If you describe someone as fascinating … perhaps think again?

Combining Tom Shakespeare’s speech and Candoco’s performances, the words and movement were hitting me hard. I rarely gaze at a disabled person (and non-disabled person) in the street – afraid of being rude – but I am always happy to interact. Becoming invisible members of society, Tom’s words brought truth as I noticed nodding heads in the audience.

Candoco Hello Emma Kay

Personally, Candoco were granting me the permission to look upon the disabled body, but to also recognise the similarities and differences every body has. With this platform, Candoco were educating and disabling my fleeting glance. Shying away from disability in the shadows of political correctness, we must continue to engage and interact with each other – no matter the disability. It is all about knowing the unknowing.

Constantly thinking about the private self within the public space, I asked myself “would I be prepared to show off my ‘flaws’?” Loving and hating my body, I guess I am body conscious. Being dark haired, I have body hair. I have pinched scars and a tiny belly button from an appendix operation. I am dyslexic, suffered from depression and anxiety attacks, and have an underactive thyroid, which can’t be seen physically…but I’m sure with the help of Candoco they probably could.

By revealing the self, we are wanting to create presence. We are willing to become the object of gaze or the point of discussion. We are peeling away the layers which make us us and this can make us cry (or laugh). Sometimes it works in our favour or be prepared for ridicule.

Candoco showed you what they can do…so what can you do? They made you question your imagination and interaction. They invited you to observe, focus and analyse their bodies – and yours. They slowed down London’s racing heart and immersed you with awareness. They cemented your feet with creative grounding and watered tonnes of emotion, drowning your being with an incredibly raw perspective and experience. I think you can tell Candoco gave me a set of new wings.


Find out more about Candoco Dance Company here

Find out more about the Wellcome Collection here

Big thanks to Rosie Bauer from Mobius

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