Changing the conversation around disabled and non-disabled dancers


Spend an evening with the Candoco Dance Company at Worthing’s Connaught Theatre on October 5 at 7.30pm as they enjoy integrated dance in a very different world to the one they started out in.

The company was founded in 1991 by Celeste Dandeker-Arnold and Adam Benjamin, developing out of integrated workshops at London’s Aspire Centre for Spinal Injury.

It quickly grew into the first company of its kind in the UK – a professional dance company focused on bringing together disabled and non-disabled artists.

As artistic co-director Charlotte Darbyshire explains, Candoco really is about what you can do. “Celeste had had an accident which had left her paralysed. For the 20 years that followed, she felt that dance was over for her, and there was a huge sense of loss.”

With the creation of the company, however, as Charlotte says, Celeste tapped into a huge appetite and excitement: “It was absolutely what was needed. We were moving away from quite traditional and codified techniques.

“And we are now in a very different place culturally. It is so exciting the fact that we are not alone anymore. There are hundreds of fantastic dance companies all around the world that have now got wider representations. We are not isolated. We have become part of the community and part of the mainstream.

“I think the privilege of forming the company was that we were definitely pioneering. No one had seen anything like it. The joy was going from a huge stage to the next minute being in a special needs school for people that had never experienced dance before. It was that huge range of audience experience which enriched the work and made us accessible as a dance company.

“Now what was exciting when we were on Strictly last year was that there was no discussion around the disability narrative. The only thing that was remarked upon was the quality of the dance.

“I think everyone suffered in the early days because people just didn’t have the language to talk about what we were doing. People talked about tragic and heroic and extraordinary. It meant that individuals were being described. Of course, we bring our whole selves to it but we are presenting a piece of choreography and it is the work that we want to be critiqued. Now the focus is on the dance. Of course, you can’t ignore the person, and you can’t separate the person from the choreography, but now there is a more balanced view that we get. Now people talk about the work.”

Candoco Dance Company bring three very different UK-based artists to Worthing. The evening will consist of two live pieces and a short film.

Let’s Talk About Dis: visual artist Hetain Patel has created an intimate piece that builds on an exploration of the dancers’ personalities and bodies, interrogating questions of what identity is and how it is formed.

Unspoken Spoken: A short film directed and choreographed by Fin Walker that exposes the potential that exists when we dare to challenge the rules. A captivating story told through BSL, voice and movement.

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