Dance: Wheelchair tango knows no bounds

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Indy Lifestyle Online
CandoCo Dance Company: Across Your Heart, Queen Elizabeth Hall, today and tomorrow

Thugs accost wheelchair-bound Jon French, spinning him like a roundabout, hand-springing in his path and finally tipping him right out. "I'm all right," he responds. But are the audience?

The emotional charge isn't because you don't expect wheelchairs - it is not stated in the adverts. Contemporary dance relies upon experimentation, and the CandoCo dancers benefit from this as a given when movements are adjusted or new ones developed - like a wheelchair tango.

The group comprises able-bodied and disabled people, who with no precedents to draw on have developed their own movements. Across Your Heart explores themes which are rarely discussed, never mind visualised. Power, eroticism, religion and beauty, and what happens when they collide, are expressed in dance, text and song. As much as there is inspiration there are also disturbing scenes like being mugged, petted by toyboys, regressing and wearing a nappy, and being haunted by weird old cronies or blood-drinking vampires.

"Ultimately, I'd like not to have to mention disability at all," says Celeste Dandeker. "You shouldn't have to justify yourself being on stage because you have a disability. It's your ability that counts." Dandeker, co-founder of the company, can rest assured that critical attention has shown amazement at how difference can mean a man looks like he is flying across the floor.

Since their inception, the CandoCo have won awards for stage, education, film and TV productions and have earned popular and international acclaim. Fellow co-founder Adam Benjamin says: "The very nature of dance is to hold contradictions, and I suddenly felt that it could be a medium in which the able and disabled could blend."

Dance is no longer the image of pristine and perfect bodies. Instead there is an opportunity for dancers of all shapes and sizes to express themselves in their own way.

Queen Elizabeth Hall, South Bank, London SE1. Box Office 0171-960 4242.

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