Candoco dance turns 20 in Lincoln

— Hannah Gilbey contributed with this report

Renowned dance company Candoco, brought something truly unique to Lincoln’s Drill Hall as they celebrated 20 years of performing contemporary dance. They arrived in the city with a specially commissioned show on Wednesday, November 2nd.


The renowned dance group turned 20 this year. Photo: Hugo Glendinning

Founded in 1991, past performances have seen them at the Beijing Olympics as well as at theatres and shows across the world. Both able-bodied and disabled dancers are part of the group who travel across the UK to perform high energy, contemporary art pieces.

Co-artistic director, Pedro Machado, explained the ideas behind the group. “We are pleased to be one of the first professional dance companies of our kind. We want Candoco to be a catalyst for change, and we are starting to see changes in dance,”

To someone who hasn’t seen contemporary dance before, Candoco’s work is eye-opening and this performance was definitely no exception. During three specially commissioned pieces, the dancers twisted themselves in ways that you simply wouldn’t think humanly possible.

It was as if each one was being pulled and thrown by an invisible force, with movements that were shocking but beautiful. It was almost confusing as they tip-toed on the edge of precision. It was impossible to tell whether each jump or swing was improvised or choreographed.

“It is so exciting when there are lots of near misses!” explained Machado. “It brings out the strength of Candoco and the dynamics of the group, they move together all at the same time. Every individual contributes and brings something to the work,”

The first piece, a revisited take on the 1980’s classic Set and Reset, was an eerie look at movement itself. At one point a spotlight shone onto a male dancer as he dislocated his shoulder bones in time to a thrumming bass line.

The more he moved, the more he started to become a monster rather than a dancer. By the time the music hit its peak, he was something from a horror movie and was thrashing about on the floor.

Machado explained that the group keeps trying to push boundaries. “Now it’s become acceptable we want to keep pushing. We welcome disabled dancers but we’re not just about disabled dancers. We are trying to create an equal environment,”

“Society “disables” someone with that name, but the stage doesn’t disable. It welcomes them. The thing that really affects us is that some of our dancers don’t have access to train, it affects more than the different bodies of dancers,”

Humour is also a great element in their work. The second piece, titled “This Is It”, carried on the 20th celebrations as the first solo piece for Condoco.

There were bemused giggles at first from some of the audience as a single woman silently jumped and jiggled her way around the stage. However she burst into a full-blown pop song, complete with lasers and lights, before returning to the same strange, childlike movements. It was a great look into the pop music industry, poking fun at singers who are all show and no brains.

In the last piece, “Looking Back”, all the dancers performed a beautiful group piece full of fast twists, turns, running jumps and near misses. With flowing costumes and each dancer’s piece forming a continuous stream of movement; it was hard to keep up with each of them. The only question was; how do the dancers cope with such long and exhausting routines?

One of the dancers, Annie Hanauer explained how. “We rehearse all the time every day. Four to six weeks before a performance we rehearse constantly, so it gets stuck in there,”

It is clear how passionate the dancers are about their work. Hanauer continued; “I’m not the same person I was three years ago, it has changed me. It’s different every night and you get something different from every project.”

Machado added; “We like to think that Candoco can not only change the life of individuals, but change the medium of dance too.”

You can help support the group and its work by visiting their website.

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