Candoco, an integrated dance company of disabled and non-disabled dancers, has consistently pushed the expectations of their choreographers, dancers and audiences. Their current programme is ambitious and stylistically mixed, but never quite fulfils its promise.
Hangman, by New York-based Sarah Michelson, is uncompromising for its audience and exposing for its dancers. Its look – plain tights and leotards – and its stark modern ballet steps invoke the neoclassical choreographer George Balanchine. His dancers were trained towards uniformity; Candoco’s are not – and in that difference is revealed, over and over again, the effort and brutality involved in striving to embody an unforgiving ideal. A loud orchestral score seems to hector the dancers, and the final relentless drumbeat feels like a march towards doom. Though overlong and often perplexing, Hangman is still a powerful work, if not a likable one.
Emanuel Gat’s In Translation is a hushed abstract composition, set to Bach and interludes of silence, that deftly weaves together fluid phrases for its six dancers. There are slippery trios for the women, like silken knots unbraiding; a duet for two men is tauter, more elastic. It’s a real pleasure to watch, though it doesn’t appear especially tailored to these particular dancers.
Wendy Houstoun’s Imperfect Storm does. It’s a witty, self-referential piece about a group of actors trying out ideas for a production of The Tempest. Earnestly and endearingly am-dram, they end up with wardrobe oddments, scraps of script and a string of lights, stranded on the strange island that is the theatre stage. As with Hangman, it alludes to but doesn’t directly address an intriguing and ambiguous theme: performers who don’t live up to certain standards, or who don’t fit in with them.