Monday, 18 October 2021

REVIEW: Set and Reset/Reset and Last Shelter by the Candoco Dance Company at Sadler's Wells

Candoco Dance Company boast a proud 30 year legacy within the UK dance world. Alongside world-class choreographers, disabled and non-disabled performers and company members prepared to push the boundaries of convention, this collective has travelled the globe and if recent years are any indication, they are only going from strength to strength. On Friday 15th, in a buzzing Sadlers Wells, I was very pleased to attend Concdoco’s double bill of Set and Reset/Reset and Last Shelter. 

Accompanying your ticket is a cohesive digital program that includes links to downloads and films to give you insight into Set and Reset/Reset and Last Shelter and accessible content to support the experience of all audience members. In this review, I draw from intentions set out in this material.

The first dance to be presented for the evening is Set and Reset/Reset, a re-imagining of New York choreographer Trisha Brown’s 1983 work Set and Reset. The choreography of Set and Reset/Reset is made up of a combination of the original and Candoco dancers’ choreography under the direction of Abigail Yager and the co-direction of Jamie Scott. 

The original Set and Reset was made in collaboration with Brown’s company of dancers, composer Laurie Anderson and visual artist Robert Rauschenberg who designed the sets and costumes and used a simple set of key principles that become the movement language for the pice:

- Line up 
- Play with visibility and invisibility, 
- Travel the edges of the space, 
- Act of instinct, 
- Keep it simple

In Candoco’s version they utilise this same movement language, however, where it differs is that they allow the members of the company to respond to these ideas authentically, informed by their individual physiology and in a way that highlights what the company describe as somewhere between agency and collective will. In relation to the original, the company say that it “…has the same genes, the same building blocks that give the piece its sense of identity, yet it expresses itself differently.” (Candoco 21 Dance Company) As a result, they give a classic piece of choreography new energy and unearth new possibilities embedded into its physical code.

One of the most satisfying responses to this set of provocations in the work is the play between ‘visibility and invisibility' in conjunction with the motivation to ‘travel the edges of the space’. It produces exquisite moments for the dancers to express a sense of repose and readiness simultaneously. Sheer material used in the design of the costumes by Celeste Dandeker-Arnold OBE (based on the original) and set by David Lock, melds perfectly with this idea by obscuring what it is we can and can’t see of the dancer's body and the spaces they inhabit. The extreme use of extremities also offer space and breath for the dancers to cut through as they each bring a personal quality to the movements. Joel Brown in particular weaves across the stage with his wheelchair creating floor patterns that feed the momentum of the other dancers and Anna Seymour radiates a joy in her movements that is infectious.

The idea of ‘line up’ is another fruitful element of the work. It offers duplicity between unison and individuality to play. At times the performers explore formations of line which create a sense of a collective centre while other times moments of individual movement explode into satisfying displays of unison. 

Overall Set and Reset/Reset is a joyous work that has found a way to celebrate its movement heritage while striding into the future.

The second performance of the evening is the world premiere of Last Shelter choreographed by Jeanine Durning with Candoco’s dancers. It is a new piece based on an idea that Durning has been working on since 2009 with the main idea behind it being what she calls nonstopping. Much like the first piece of the night, the development of Last Shelter includes the use of a specific vocabulary as the foundation and provocation for the action. This is all listed and contextualised in the digital program, however, some examples include; notice more, be where you are, not where you want to be and start before you’re ready. The work also includes moments of text that works with this same urgency.

The choreography is balanced between set tasks/intentions that act as landmarks and improvisations that offer a disruption to what is known and understood. Within this chaos of knowing and not knowing, Last Shelter becomes a completely unique experience for each audience and there is no doubt that this collective of dancers are well equipped to attack what presents itself as simple but in reality, is a highly complex set of perimeters to put on stage.

The danger with improvisation, I can find, is when it starts to resemble a studio exercise. In last Shelter I found there were moments that teetered on the edge of this, for example, when too much activity happening at once became overwhelming or there was a frustrated searching for what was to come next only to be abandoned. The relaxed costumes that resembled normal training wear, also, slightly distanced the work from feeling like a pice ready for the stage. However, the through-line ‘nonstopping' generally found a way to transport these tentative aspects of the work to find something to land on for the audience to engage with. The payoff from enduring these more chaotic moments is often exciting and at times, moving, but always short-lived before a new sequence emerges in the same vein. This dissatisfaction is not so much a negative though. On reflection of the work, I am revisited by key moments that stirred something in me, from both the visuals and vocals. Out of a grossly loaded choreography emerges a distilled version, unique to every viewer. 

In consideration of the text used in Last Shelter and the nature of it being improvised each performance, the company have decided to offer transcripts of each performance available shortly after each show.

Set and Reset/Reset and Last shelter was performed at Sadlers Wells on Oct 15-16. Their next scheduled performance of the work will be on Nov 6 at the Riley Theatre in Leeds. You can find out more information here: 

Review by Stephanie Osztreicher

Rating: ★★★★

Seat: D5
Blog Design by pipdig