Sadler’s Wells, London
March 9, 2018
It is good to see that humour on stage is being embraced by contemporary dance choreographers and artists. This double bill by Candoco Dance Company highlights the subject of diversity of human beings. It touches on social issues and individual preferences in an amusing way, provoking playful experience, while reflecting on human equality. The show marks well the boundary between the use of comedy and balanced travesty, and never slips into banality.
Face In by Yasmeen Godder combines movement and strong facial expressions with sound and visual effects. The choreographer, who was born in Jerusalem and worked with many companies around the world, is particularly keen on exploring and researching movement through individual interpretation. That makes her dance very intimate, it coming from the sensations of each dancer.
Godder investigates various feelings and states of mind, from sadness and fear to extreme joy and euphoria as she tackles the subject of political correctness. Although the dancers open themselves to the audience and comically exaggerate their positive attitude to difference (Candoco including disabled and non-disabled dancers), the choreography is slightly short on substance and does not develop much. I wanted more content and substantive ideas behind the humour and distorted motion.
The wide range of costume materials and colours differentiates the dancers and reflects well the idea of uniqueness. The lighting and set design, whose rainbow hues are symbolic of the diverse LGBT community, correspond to Godder’s intentions. Deep indie sound by Nathan Johnson helps take the viewer into the dancers’ emotions and personal stories.
Visual artist Hetain Patel’s Let’s Talk About Dis’ was his first dance creation, made for Candoco in 2014. It starts with the dancers preparing the stage and microphones so their voices can be used as trace elements and stimuli. The choreography investigates the ‘humour curiosity’, entertaining the audience with spoken word and vocabulary games.
Dancers explain their individual background and disabilities through movement and text. Disagreements between the interpretations cause witty conclusions. Patel shows how attempting to avoid using a particular term can lead to unexpected results. The exceptionally tall Danish dancer Toke Broni Strandby tries to talk politically correctly about height ‘issue’ that differentiates him from his friend Lora by saying ‘non-tall’ rather than the obvious ‘short’. His natural and spontaneous expression provokes a lot of laughter and fun.
The notion that it is height that distinguishes a Candoco dancer rather than other, perhaps more obvious things, is something to think about and reflect on. A true story told frankly in French by Laura Patay about her missing arm becomes a comedy and amuses the audience, not least because of its off-beam translation into English by Toke.
Patel includes also humorous, provocative gestures and sign language in the dance. The viewer really has to pay attention what is a real story and what is imitating and parodying. Let’s Talk About Dis’ invites us to observe the inside of the people, beyond the skin; it praises identities and souls rather than appearances as the dancers talk about diversity until the blackout finishes the show.
It was good to see Candoco looking so strong. The dancers presented good comedy skills and strong characters throughout, confirming the artistic vision of the company to gather diverse personalities and highlight their exceptional values as they look into new possibilities for contemporary dance.