Candoco certainly don’t play safe in their programming. For the 20th-anniversary tour of this integrated company of disabled and non-disabled dancers, the centrepiece is a reworking of Trisha Brown’s seminal 1983 Set and Reset – a piece of such freshness and sophistication that people tend to remember the first time they saw it. How could this version measure up?
Called Set and Reset/Reset, it reprocesses but does not replicate Brown’s original. Laurie Anderson’s casually insistent score of loopy bassline, deadpan vocals and monotone clangs is still here, but the slide projections are gone and the set and costumes are different, though clearly modelled on Robert Rauschenberg’s originals. But it’s the choreography that makes this an inspired choice for the company. The composition – the placement, sequencing and configuration of phrasing – is masterly, yet also has enough leeway for individual variety and adaptation to the dancers. So Candoco’s six performers (Annie Hanauer in particular) look at home within a first-rate work, and we can simply watch the perpetual motion, the slipknot formations, the off-the-cuff accents and accidents – and marvel.
A solo, character-driven piece, Matthias Sperling’s This Is It, is a contrast in every way. Victoria Malin appears as a cross between Wonder Woman (big hair, knee boots, tinselly bra and hotpants), a cheesy disco singer and an uncertain circus performer. The piece vacillates between going over the top and undermining its own presentation, but does neither convincingly. Rachid Ouramdane’s Looking Back is much more intriguing. Characteristically, his stage is an audiovisual environment – a ring of electric guitars, amplifiers, and a live-relay camera – with the dancers as elements within it. It doesn’t always gel, but the best scenes get into a kind of zone where the dancers’ twisting backs, tapping feet and relayed images become analogues to the thrash, chords and reverb of surround-sound guitars.