>CandoCo Dance Company

>reviewed by malcolm tay

>date: 2 oct 2000
>time: 8pm
>venue: the jubilee hall, raffles hotel
>rating: ***1/2

>tired already? go home then
>review junkie? whitney, give them this click to sniff

>look, we know that you need to know that we, as responsible reviewers, have some quantifiable categories to rate productions, and are not just relying on some undefinable instinct or gut feeling. So to put your mind at ease, we will give you a logical rating system based on the practitioner's vision / and the reviewer's response of a particular production. Here it is then: ***** : Transcendent / Rapturous. ****: Crystal / Appreciative. ***: Transmitted / Thoughtful. **:Vague / Unsatisfied. * : Uncommunicated / Mystified. Yet in the end, you will feel that this is (1) a cheap attempt to justify the subjective arbitrariness of our rating system (2) buttressed by an interest in the logical (and inevitable) categorisation of such productions, which is (3) undermined by the cheapness of the attempt, and (4) confused by the creeping feeling you are getting that we are dead serious in our feeling that this rating system is an accurate description of the content, intent and quality of the production. Oh please -- does it even matter now? Look, at least we tried.


To truly appreciate the CandoCo Dance Company, it has been said that one should discard all conventional notions of the dancing body. Why talk about swift and articulate footwork with pointed toes, when legs are of no consequence? In this three-night run of two works by this British contemporary dance company, representations of the perfect and physically complete body are thrown out of the window, introducing less-than-whole figures with no less talent than their able-bodied counterparts. Founded by Celeste Dandeker and Adam Benjamin in 1991, some critics have lauded CandoCo for its inventive work, while others have dismissed their efforts as victim art unfit for consumption. Fortunately, the latter was not the case here.

With six members officially joining CandoCo in May this year, old reviews were perhaps not applicable to this largely new group. Former members of this company include the legless wonder David Toole, who has garnered much praise for peerless moves with only his arms and torso, and has since become a member of the innovative DV8 Physical Theatre. Handicapped members of this seven-member company, however, not only include two wheelchair-toting paraplegics, but also one amputee and one woman, whose only disability is a malformed left hand that resembled a stump (admittedly a disability that was initially unnoticeable). CandoCo is, in reality, more than just circus tricks with wheelchairs.

>>'A visual and psychological confrontation that was not so much a slap in the face, but a lingering thought that warms the heart and caresses the mind'

>'I Hastened through My Death Scene to Catch Your Last Act' by Javier de Frutos

The opening piece for the evening began with a single male dancer, who was naked from the waist up, seated in a square box on stage while pensively slicing the air with angular arm movements, bending his torso from time to time. Despite being permanently enclosed in the box, he was not stationary, but capable of gliding across the stage like an elegant swan. This dancer was in fact totally nude, his box taking on the functional and almost essential role of respecting the audience's modesty. His constant presence on stage made him a symbol of human frailty and later, a source of comfort and assurance for the other characters, with intimate physical contact reserved for their isolated encounters with him.

Dressed like ordinary people on the street, the other characters entered and exited the stage like strangers with disparate lives, repeating stilted moves in a manner that seemed to suggest a sense of repressed frustration. Occasionally they gathered in groups with arms raised in despair, as if implying that they belonged to one big dysfunctional family. In the conflicts that arose between them, both able-bodied and handicapped characters took turns to be the aggressors in their muted skirmishes. Some walked, others used wheelchairs or simply used whatever body parts they had for transportation. The sight of paraplegics dragging themselves by their upper bodies, their lower extremities sliding flaccidly around the floor, was in itself another way of saying "reality is not pretty, deal with it."

Using two tracks from the 1954 Broadway production of "Peter Pan", this dark and peculiar piece hence distorted the childish candour of the accompanying music. As a lone woman repeatedly swung her arms and bent her torso to the sound of naive proclamations of "I Won't Grow Up", it turned into a stubborn, almost suicidal refusal to accept the passing of time as her movements became increasingly violent, with her shoulder-length tresses flailing in desperation. In spite of its languorous pace, I HASTENED was a dense expression of human frustration, desire and longing, made more real by its honest presentation of the disabled.

>'Sunbyrne' by Doug Elkins

As suggested by the title, this work by Doug Elkins was a candid and light-hearted showcase for the company, which was performed to a mixture of leisurely and lively tunes from The Beach Boys and Talking Heads. With ten segments comprising solos, duets and group work, it displayed Elkins' offbeat humour and trademark style that combined contemporary movement with the high kicks and flowing rhythm of Brazilian capoeira, but obviously adapted to the unique personality of the company. While lacking the fluidity of full-bodied movement, the handicapped dancers admirably stood their own against their able-bodied counterparts, equally engaged in highlighting life's lighter moments.

The opening scene seated the entire cast of seven on chairs, putting all the dancers at equal height as they performed quirky arm and hand movements, limited to the space that the chairs provided. Other segments that followed this sprightly section included a trio - two women and an male amputee - performing to the bouncy strains of 'Help Me, Rhonda', as they confidently supported and counterbalanced each other, in and out of a ring of linking arms. To the romantic tune of 'Don't Worry Baby', a duet between one woman and her male wheelchair-bound partner was at times tender and romantic, yet tense and edgy in their sudden breaks of contact. Perhaps the only quibble was the use of blackouts to separate each section, which made every part feel like an individual work, instead of functioning as a whole.

Nevertheless, those who expected the CandoCo dancers to perform gravity-defying stunts with crutches and wheelchairs would have been sorely disappointed. Instead, their performance was a visual and psychological confrontation that was not so much a slap in the face, but a lingering thought that warms the heart and caresses the mind.