The pioneering dance troupe Candoco has a two-fold strategy: they create performances that integrate disabled and non-disabled dancers; and they commission new works from classy choreographers. This double bill features pieces by the young Hofesh Shechter and the physical theatre veteran Nigel Charnock. Neither exactly glosses over the dancers’ different abilities, but nor do they turn them into thematic or choreographic issues. Perhaps because the current cast of seven does not include a wheelchair dancer, those differences are, in any case, less visible than they have sometimes been in the past.
Entitled The Perfect Human, Shechter’s work includes a voiceover – neutral but sinister, like a scientist in a B-movie – asking what the perfect human wants, how it moves. In fact, the piece is more concerned with atmosphere than investigation. The score mingles antique harmonies with ominous electric rumbles, and the choreography pulses with Shechter’s characteristic animism. Chris Owen wobbles bonelessly, Annie Hanauer ripples and coils like a multidimensional python. The cast clump together in packs; their encounters resemble grappling or grooming. When they don white masks, it feels as if their bodies are forced into generic facial templates. It is faintly creepy, always watchable, but too unfocused to discern Shechter’s aim.
Instead of a single focus, Charnock’s Still has a multitude. There is goose-stepping to God Save the Queen, as well as tussles of attraction and distrust between two men, invasions into the auditorium, women posing manically to cute music-box melodies, a gross-out moment of vomiting and a little light bondage. Some scenes – the bonkers ballet with a couple who peel off layer after layer of briefs and panties – really hit the spot. Others, particularly the early ones, are scattershot. The dancers, though, throw themselves into everything with gusto.