The Candoco company of disabled and non-disabled dancers commissions a wide range of choreographers, and if the results can be hit and miss, the programmes are always stimulating, and as varied as the performers.
Opening the current programme, Lea Anderson’s Miniatures presents Annie Hanauer in glittery platform shoes, legs clamped inside a fishtail skirt; she can barely move. The moves she does manage – careful gestures and arch facial expressions, amplified by makeup and a wild wig – are relayed in close-up to an onstage screen, giving us a double vision of both person and portrait, while Steve Blake’s odd, organ-grinderish tunes accompany each cameo. It’s a curiously discombobulating experience, like a penny arcade tour in which each alcove shows a slightly different face of the same living doll.
A curiously discombobulating experience, like a penny arcade tour in which each alcove shows a different face of the same living doll.
Javier de Frutos’s Two for C features some similar elements – a restricted frame, a disconnect between face and body, an interplay between image and animation – to completely different effect. In lucha libre (free wrestling) masks, Rick Rodgers and Kostas Papamatthaiakis enter a combat ring delimited by a square carpet. To traditional ranchera songs, their duel/duet overlays the tussles, parries and brush-offs of domestic infighting with the more public, gladiatorial rituals of Mexican wrestling. The bouts are very watchable, and performed with a stuttering stop-motion as if certain moments were caught on camera or put on replay.
Thomas Hauert’s Notturnino is “improvised”; that is, rather than setting moves that the dancers perform, it sets rules that they follow. This approach suits the company well, its effects particularly clear in the follow-and-flee swirl of the groupwork. Perhaps inevitably, the piece sometimes loses direction, but its means are fascinating. Backed by disembodied dialogue from a documentary about retired opera singers, the performers first appear in ragtag clothes then gradually don costumes that look looted from a theatre wardrobe. Through scenes of boredom, puzzlement, affectation and tenderness, Notturnino intermittently but sympathetically invokes ideas of human vulnerability and vanitas.