I joined Candoco Dance Company in October this year, just three weeks before we performed two sell-out shows at Sadler’s Wells. Quite a start to my time as Executive Director! Featuring Alexander Whitley’s Beheld and a restaging of Trisha Brown’s seminal Set & Reset/Reset, we had great feedback from both audience and critics and I was very proud to have joined such a fantastic company and to feel even a small part of the team.
My joy was short-lived with recent events on the other side of the pond and closer to home in Syria. Sometimes it feels like the arts are insignificant in the face of such dramatic world events; and yet they are also a vital part of our humanity. From participation projects with people young and old to productions on prestigious stages, the arts stimulate and provoke us into looking at, thinking about and understanding the world differently. Although they can provide a brief escape from reality as we immersive ourselves in a performance or an exhibition, the arts also open our minds to change, to appreciate an alternative point of view and perhaps to think about what we can do to make a difference.
Candoco constantly challenges perceptions around dance and disability through its performances and learning programme, creating awareness of possibilities and breaking down preconceptions, which means we have an important role to play in today’s society. We can’t bring about world peace, but we can make a difference to how everyone, disabled and non-disabled, is treated and respected, and every little helps…
Since I joined the company, we have performed near and far, from Cambridge and Manchester to Germany and South Korea, having already been to Bristol, Glasgow, Ipswich, India, Greece and Poland. Perhaps the biggest event was appearing in the prestigious Dance Festival STEPS in Switzerland, although I hear we were a great hit at Bristol Old Vic and introduced many people in the city to contemporary dance for the first time. Another first was a Friday Night Spectacular at the Wellcome Collection, when dancers took over the building for the evening! Our new duet with Joel and Laura, created by Arlene Phillips, was a wonderful success, appearing over 20 times to around 7,000 people at festivals and outdoor events across the UK.
Also having a great time performing was Cando2, our Youth Dance Company. Led by our team of artists they appeared at U Dance at Trinity Laban and at the Southbank Centre. A new Youth Advisory Group planned and hosted a Cando2 cabaret event, ‘In The Mix’, at Greenwich Dance, which was hugely enjoyed by everyone involved and we certainly hope to do more of these projects in the future. What better way to create an event for young people than by supporting them to organise it themselves? They also had the opportunity to be part of intergenerational projects with war veterans through collaborations with Faber Productions: ‘Traces of War’, in partnership with King’s College London’s War Studies Department and performed in Somerset House East Wing; and ‘Muster’, which was supported by and performed at The Place.
We began leading a two-year Creative Europe programme this summer, ‘Moving Beyond Inclusion’. Working with partners in Sweden, Germany, Switzerland, Croatia and Italy, we are sharing our thoughts and ideas around inclusive dance best practice with artists and dance practitioners, and already there are interesting discussions taking place about how we can make a difference to perceptions in each of our countries and across Europe. We hope that this wonderful collaboration will continue beyond 2018, whatever sort of Brexit we’re enduring.
Next year we round off our 25th Anniversary celebrations with an Open Week from 10-19 February. With open classes, rehearsals, workshops and family activities as well as throwing open the office doors we hope that there is something for everyone in our offer. One of the highlights will be a conversation on 15 February between Celeste Dandeker-Arnold OBE, co-founder of Candoco, and Siobhan Davies, reflecting on their respective and shared histories in contemporary dance and choreography and how these fields have changed over time in the UK.
We are also very much looking forward to creating a new piece with Israeli choreographer Yasmeen Godder, who has made work for Batsheva Dance Company and Theater Freiburg and has presented in the Lincoln Center Festival, Sydney Opera House and Tokyo Festival, among others. Before that we are visiting Georgia, Armenia, Ukraine and Azerbaijan in the spring, and other European performances are planned for later in the year. Keep an eye on our website, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts for updates of when and where you can see Candoco and get involved.
This year has been a tumultuous one in many ways, but we are looking ahead to 2017 with excitement, and hope that you, our supporters, will continue to be a part of our story as we campaign for greater inclusion, acceptance and opportunity through our work. There is still much to do.