Alphabet of disability: C for Candoco, D for Dance

New Delhi, March 31 (IANS) : This might not be your regular contemporary show where dancers swirl in the air with fluid movements. Here, performers may be wheel-chair bound with well co-ordinated movements in sync with their partners.

Welcome to Candoco, UK’s professional dance company that integrates physically challenged and other dancers.

Disability is not an impediment for Dan Dawn, a dancer with Candoco, who performed in the capital with Mirjam Gurtner, his stage partner for years, to a full house at British Council on Wednesday late evening.

“Dance is everything for me. It’s a challenge, its art, politics, and it’s a special place for me,” says Dawn, who joined the company five years ago.

The duo, who performed the act ‘Studies for C’ composed by award-winning choreographer Javier de Frutos, say that their focus is on creating a bold work rather than pitching on the disability quotient.

“Our philosophy is to create bold and excellent art. That’s our focus and it’s not about abled or disabled. Our dance is about celebration of bodies. Our bodies work in different ways to create a level playing field,” says Gurtner, who dons the roles of a performer, choreographer and rehearsal director.

The act, inspired by Tennessee Williams’ play ‘Camino Real’ and Samuel Beckett’s ‘Waiting for Godot’, depicts a couple trapped in a stagnating relationship. Narrating the theme, Dawn says, “the couple is unable to escape the domestic world because their reliance on each other has become strong. It’s about how they deal with the situation.”

Dawn finds the Indian audience both encouraging and sensitive. The company has made pit stops in Kolkata and Chennai earlier this month as part of its Indian tour, marking its 25th year celebrations.

Set to traditional Mexican ranchera music by Lila Downs, the performances take place in an intimate domestic world in which the use of Mexican wrestling masks suggests the deeper, darker forces at work.

“The connotation is that when two people stay together in a place for a long time, there is bound to be conflict and the mask is the metaphor in the show,” said Dawn.

The costumes, designed by de Frutos, feature the writings of Mexican revolutionary Emiliano Zapata, who famously said, “I would rather die on my feet than live on my knees.”

Ask the duo how they find a level playing ground, and Gurtner says, “We made peace four years ago. It’s a privilege to work together for long years. We have developed a relationship on stage and we have learned a lot from each other. It’s about deeply connecting with your partner in movements in the stage.”

The core philosophy of the company founded by contemporary dancer Celeste Dandekar 25 years ago, is in inclusiveness, says Gurtner.

“Dandekar had a fall while performing in a stage, resulting in a spinal injury. It prevented her from dancing until choreographer Darshan Singh Buller persuaded her to dance again, albeit from her wheelchair. In 1991, she founded Candoco to integrate both physically challenged and others”.

Collaboration is the watch word for the company, says Gurtner.

“We have internationally famous choreographers. and they bring specific movements to company. It’s about each dancer finding their way of working with their body in that manner. Here, artists also have the freedom to improvise. It’s a collaborative process,” she says, adding that dance opens the door to understand the world.

(Preetha Nair can be contacted at preetha.n@ians.in)

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