This evening, Liz and I dragged the children to see some contemporary dance. They like dance, but what would they make of Candoco , who comprise disabled and able-bodied dancers?
The last time I saw them was in Tokyo in 2000 when Celeste Dandeker, their founder, was still with them. She retired in 2007, handing over the baton to Pedro Machado. Mention of 'baton' is apt, as they performed at Beijing 2008 Olympic's handover ceremony and are also taking part in the Cultural Olympiad this summer. The latter has commissioned two new pieces, and we got a sneak preview of them both: a re-working of Set and Rest / Reset (originally choreographed by Trisha Brown in 1983) and a brand new piece, Parallel Lines (by Marc Brew). The thing about dance for me is that I have to like the music. And you couldn't go far wrong with Laurie Anderson for the first piece and Michael Galasso and Max Richter for the second.
So, what did the girls make of it. "I quite liked it". "It was a bit short". "It was interesting to see who was disabled". Actually, I'd agree with all three. We arrived late thanks to appalling traffic so I was grumpy from the start, and the theatre was only about half-full. Not sure why. Of all the dance companies we've got lined up for the Festival, we thought Candoco - with their Beijing Olympic connection - would do OK box-office wise. We'd even arranged for a large group of disabled Beijingers to come. Anyway, there was a lack of energy from the audience which probably affected the dancers.
They did a talk afterwards which was good, though Pedro was a bit touchy/defensive on the inevitable questions like, how many of the dancers on stage were disabled? I'm sure they get asked that all the time and they want to emphasize that they are a professional dance company first and foremost, do not want the sympathy vote and certainly don't want to be seen as a gimmick. But on the other hand, it's reasonable for audiences to ask such questions, especially in China where arts & disability issues are new and attracting interest.