Insistent: Candoco in Beheld, and Set and Reset/Reset

Sadler’s Wells, London
October 21, 2016

Charlotte Kasner

Alexander Whitley’s Beheld has high ambitions to “consider how we look and how we see.” Strange then that Jackie Shemesh’s lighting design makes it almost impossible to discern anything through the gloom.

The opening is atmospheric enough, with dancers wielding large sheets of fabric, seamlessly changing hands and walking (or wheeling) in a large circle like a giant paddle. Then the fabric is twisted into strands like giant elastic bands that ‘capture’ dancers who strain against the bounds. Wheelchairs are trapped, flipped, then dancers glide away, only to be re-captured. Those who hold pull away as much as those who are held. Then the restraints become supports: a leg is lifted, a torso twists. Dancers lie on stage, wheels in the air and the arms of the chairs become a support. A pair of crutches counterpoises a leg a la second, spiking into the ground in punctuation.

It would have been interesting to have heard Nils Frahm’s score before it was re-worked, presumably without the grinding electronics. When the piano is allowed to come through, it has its moments, but mostly is grinds relentlessly.

Set and Reset/Reset, a restaging project by Trisha Brown Company and Candoco Dance CompanyPhoto Hugo Glendinning
Set and Reset/Reset, a restaging project by Trisha Brown Company
and Candoco Dance Company
Photo Hugo Glendinning

Trisha Brown’s Set and Reset/Reset plays with a distorted version of the phrase “Long time, no see.” It is bashed into the audiences’ brains alongside a hammering bell and jangling percussion Laurie Anderson’s score. Dancers are dressed in grey, ragged garb which at least means that they are mostly visible. Whereas Beheld was about lines, Set and Reset/Reset is about curves and small jumps. There is no opportunity for pause or reflection; the movement pushes on, dancers interweaving and just managing to miss each other. In contrast, a monochrome hanging of abstract triangles dangles over all.

Candoco is an exciting, energetic company but the evening is nevertheless somewhat boring. As much as one admires the danger and risk taking in aspects of the movement, neither piece seems to go anywhere. There is no wow factor and no stillness. Constant abstraction becomes alienating when hammered out relentlessly. Perhaps the two pieces are too similar to make an ideal double bill. Perhaps the emphasis is skewed towards seeing what the dancers can do rather than considering what the audience is experiencing.

Somehow, an hour’s worth of dance seems a lot longer and one leaves the theatre admiring, but not uplifted – and somewhat tired from all the jarring insistence.