Tuesday, October 16, 2007

CanDo Dance Company

I wasn't planning on updating my blog again (just setting myself up for more disappointment when I inevitably let it slide again), but I've just come back from seeing the CanDo Company at the Poole Lighthouse theatre and feel I should make a note of my thoughts.



This is definitely not the kind of thing I would go to see if my course leaders hadn't decided it was compulsory. CanDo is, according to its website, 'the leading contemporary dance company of disabled and non- disabled dancers.' Contemporary dance scares me. I like dance for the sake of dancing, purely for the joy of movement and music. I like interpretive dance up to a point, in the sense of telling a story, like classical ballet. Dancing to convey an abstract emotion or idea on the other hand, is another thing entirely. I find it a little pretentious to tell the truth. Then we get onto my main problem - disabled dancers. I've seen a couple of pieces before with disabled dancers or actors and they always seem to me to be a little bit patronising. I'm sure they don't mean to be but I can never shake the feeling that there's someone behind me whispering 'Oh isn't it nice that they can still express themselves this well after going through so much hardship, the poor dears'. There's always been an uncomfortable air of the carnival freak show for me. Having said that, they are award winning so I went with high hopes and perfectly prepared to leave admitting that I was wrong.

Unfortunately it was worse.

The Stepfather by Arthur Pita

The Stepfather was story based, a little confusing due to flashbacks, comedy rewinding (ugh, clich├ęd) and two identical costumes which I initially thought were twins but turned out to be the same person, but basically it's about the joys of hillbilly incest, murder and suicide. Fair enough potential, but really spoiled by uninteresting choreography, ill advised 'comedy moments' (sex scene with crutches springs to mind) and, horror of horrors, dancers out of time. What offended me most though was the divide between the able and disabled dancers. For a company that list disabled before non disabled dancers, I was quite surprised to see only two out of seven, one of whom could dance fine supported on one crutch. The one wheelchair user was not in fact in a wheelchair but was either crawling on the floor, dragging himself along by his arms, or hanging with useless dangling limbs like a puppet. On the scene on the floor, he and the non-disabled dancer - this was where the identical costumes came in - were doing a synchronised routine involving just arm and spine movements. That was working really well until the second dancer started pushing of the ground a little further, then adding a little kick, then spinning round and prancing about as if to show off what he could do on his perfect legs. Near the end when the disabled dancer was playing the hanged man, the wire was lowered just enough so that his feet touched the floor and it looked like he was standing upright while the drowned girl danced round him. I kid you not, I could hear the barker in my head yelling 'Roll up Ladies and Gentleman, look amazed as it stands on its hind legs, almost like a real human being!'

I was fuming so much I nearly left in the interval. I would have done if it hadn't involved pushing past my tutors to leave the theatre. I consoled myself with some nice soothing over-priced icecream instead.

And Who Shall Go To The Ball by Rafael Bonachela

I am glad I stayed for the second half, if only to get the bitter taste out of my mouth (I went into a bit of a rant in the first half, did you notice?). It was far, far better. Rafael Bonachela's choreography was beautiful and dynamic, the actors actually dancing with each other rather than just around each other, with some really stunning dance moves for both the able and disabled dancers, who finally had a proper part in the routine rather than a novelty byline. Unfortunately it was an abstract, conceptual piece and I did not like that one bit. I arrived too late to buy a program so I had no idea it was called And Who Shall Go To The Ball and consequently not a clue what it was about. All it was, to me, was your average monochromatic costumes, very minimal set design and atmospheric 'music' consisting entirely of random drum beats and violin screeches. It seems odd that I liked the dancing but not the piece as a whole. I suppose its like loving the lyrics of a song but hating the melody. So, Rafael's piece was good but I didn't like it, but this is purely a matter of personal preference.

If you do like modern conceptual dance, I would recommend that you see CanDoCo, but don't worry too much about arriving early. Go on, stay in the bar, have another drink. And if you do get there in time for the first act, just shut your eyes and listen to the fantastic Violent Femmes music. It'll make it all better, I promse.

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