Like all great art, dance requires no explanation – it simply demands that we open our hearts and minds to a transcendent experience. And if proof were needed, Candoco’s double bill at the Laban building provided it in spades.
Works by internationally acclaimed choreographers Yasmeen Godder and Theo Clinkard offered sensory – and sensual – overload as seven dancers, four of them disabled, explored the paradoxes and apparent ambiguities of relationships and the essential uncertainty of existence.
Let me say straight off that the performances by Joel Brown, Laura Patay, Olivia Edginton, Nicolas Vendange, Megan Armishaw, Toke Broni Strandby and Mickaella Dantas were exceptional, their physical dexterity combining with emotional honesty to bring to life two fine works of art.
Godder’s piece, Face In, confronted the notion of contradictions as the dancers, in intimate twos and threes, kissed, licked, touched, laughed, smiled and caressed one another only to shatter the idyll by suddenly pushing, slapping and biting while growling, weeping or howling. These contrasts were given added potency by Seth Rook Williams’ beautiful lighting designs and an electronica score that featured the amazing Brandt Brauer Frick track Away From My Body.
The closing image of a single dancer using her two crutches to strike a pose resembling some species of surreal centaur was unforgettable.
Clinkard has a deserved reputation as an artist fascinated by the creative power of unpredictability and his contribution to the evening, Hot Mess, more than justified the accolades he’s been given over the years for pushing the boundaries of contemporary dance.
Backed by a score from Joe Newman of cult indie rockers Alt-J, the dancers manhandled strange sheets of grey fabric, raised and lowered red and white ropes hung with carabiners and generally subverted traditional notions of disability. It was undoubtedly strange – but it was also, like Godder’s work, very beautiful.
Together these two pieces left me with a sense of having witnessed something mysterious but of great significance and, perhaps even more importantly, of having had a profound emotional and spiritual experience. I reckon I wasn’t alone in that thought either – the audience’s ovation at the end was rapturous.