Candoco can always be relied upon to upend expectations; the latest double bill from this company of disabled and non-disabled dancers (one new piece and one revival) was playfully discombobulating and mischievously rambunctious.
Yasmeen Godder’s Face In was a bold, somewhat brash, occasionally downright strange “ode to intimacy and imagination”. The imposing Toke Broni Strandby started with a freewheeling solo in silence, dancing through the rainbow spectrum lights being beamed at the stage-right wall. Slowly the other company members joined him, as the soundtrack swelled into thumping indie blasts of Brandt Brauer Frick. Wheelchair user Joel Brown charted a daredevil course across the stage, skidding to the floor, performing headstands and dragging himself around. There was an undercurrent of violence: intimacy as it was explored here was often invasive. Dancers pushed each other over and walked into each other; kisses became too insistent and morphed into biting; hugs turned into headlocks and grappling. Laura Patay’s confident catwalk strut was upended, literally, by her being flipped 180 degrees – she carried on mussing her hair sexily, even while upside-down: sometimes unwanted physical interventions just have to be borne. There was an exhilarating fluidity to the ensemble movement, even when it was hard to interpret the general melee; the groupings could look just like a muddle of body parts. Best, I found, to think of it as a very messy party, where everyone had taken rather too many magic mushrooms – that way, when, for instance, two women started fighting over a piece of clothing with their teeth, or Mickaella Dantas wore her crutch on her face and neighed, it sort of made sense.
Hetain Patel’s Let’s Talk About Dis, created in 2014, was a much calmer affair. Its wry humour seemed if anything more piquant this time round, as the performers largely eschewed dance and spoke to us directly in a series of interlinking skits centring around how we’re shaped by political correctness, prejudices and perceptions. It felt more polished: maybe this time round the company members were more comfortable adopting what were largely acting roles. Patay and Strandby were stand-outs: she gave a passionate outburst (in French) about how she is gawped at because she is missing part of her left arm; he, with a stand-up’s comic timing, “translated” by hurriedly claiming she was talking about the difference in height between the dancers. Non-disabled dancer Megan Armishaw wanted us to know she wasn’t upset about not being on the poster; Brown pointed out he wasn’t either, even though he is paralysed from the chest down. The provocation was worn lightly, faults were pointed out and accepted on their side (Candoco’s diversity doesn’t stretch to racial diversity). It won’t change the world, but it provided a amusingly prickly pause for thought.