DANCE Green Candle Riverside Studios, Hammersmith

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The Independent Culture
Old dancers never die; they merely form community dance initiatives. Green Candle Dance Company, founded in 1987 by ex-Royal Ballet dancer Fergus Early, harnesses the enduring powers of various over-40s to enlighten the community as a whole about the value of experience. It does it very successfully and the company was on the shortlist of three for this year's Prudential award. Their latest show, Tales from the Citadel, uses five highly trained oldies to explore the notion that every human body is a repository of sensory memories that can be rummaged through to find material for new works of theatre. This thesis is presented by Jacky Lansley in the character of Pro, a Prospero-cum-puppet master who introduces the other performers and stage-manages the evening in a rather fetching bonnet bizarrely trimmed by two satin shoes on pointe.

A lot of dance is about dance. There is something of the choreographer in Coppelius and Von Rothbart, Giselle's plot turns on her ability to dance with Albrecht till dawn but, in many ways, Tales from the Citadel is a show not merely about dance but actually for dancers. The packed house responded with wild enthusiasm but a lot of them were sitting up suspiciously straight for members of the general public. There were quite a few "faces" about from the dance world. To tell such an audience that experience is more valuable than a big jump is like telling a roomful of gamekeepers to vote Conservative.

Many of them were there to see Jane Dudley, 84-year-old dancer and choreographer, and the oldest performer on stage. Most of her contribution was conducted from a typist's chair that permits her to be pushed and dragged around the stage while she acts out her solo of maternal grief. Her arms cradle her dead children, claw at her clothes and form fists of impotent rage. Even in her sadly frail condition, there remain dancerly touches in the placing of the head, the raising of an arm, the imperious tilt of the jaw. Even something as obviously painful and difficult as a lunging step forward reveals ghostly muscle memories that set her apart from the mere untrained arthritic. Dudley's voice is heard in the taped sequences that accompany the performance. Hearing her speak reminds us of her remarkable liveliness and intelligence - qualities not always made plain by the dance she has devised for herself. She is dressed in an unaccountably hideous sack-like blouse in a shade of greeny-mustard that once enjoyed quite a vogue with manufacturers of Dralon upholstery. The production was designed and dressed by the habitually excellent Craig Givens, so why poor Jane Dudley should be lumbered with this bit of day-centre chic is a mystery.

Green Candle do excellent work with groups of people of all ages up and down the country. Their very existence raises the profile of dance and expands its frontiers by breaking down the prejudices that perceive dance as the exclusive province of the young and the fit. That this is worth doing is axiomatic. Whether it is worth going to see is slightly less certain.

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