Highlights of 2019

Jo Royce
It’s been an incredibly busy year.  The company has been on the road from Hull to Poole, in the studio, our learning and youth programme has gone from strength to strength and we’ve worked with some wonderful artists, teachers and practitioners. We have been reflecting on our favourite moments here at Candoco HQ and we wanted to share some of the highlights.

We kicked off 2019 in the USA.  Our first performance was in New York in January at the International Society of Performing Arts (ISPA) Congress.  Welly O’Brien and Victoria Fox performed the beautiful Dedicated to… by Caroline Bowditch to the delight of over 150 delegates from all over the world.

The full company then crossed the pond to Burlington, Vermont in February to perform Face In and Let’s Talk About Dis at the Flynn Center. In spite of the freezing temperatures, the performances were warmly received and our company touring for the year was off to an excellent start.

March saw the first professional development sessions of the year specifically for artists, with a Teacher Training Day and a Dancer Development Day, led by Artistic Co-Director Ben Wright.

We were excited to be part of Akram Khan’s Sky Arts series, Why Do We Dance? in April.  As part of the episode entitled “To Provoke”, viewers were given an insight into the rehearsal process for Yasmeen Godder’s Face In and heard from our former Artistic Co-Director, Pedro Machado, about the political power of putting diverse bodies on stage.  In the studio, we began the creative process for Theo Clinkard’s new work, Hot Mess, and we were thrilled to be joined by international guest artists Marketa Stranska, Felicia Sparrström, Baraka de Soleil, Florent Devlesaver who joined the first week of rehearsals.

Our Cando2 participants collaborated with other young disabled and non-disabled dancers from Magpie Dance in a special performance at the Co-Motion festival at Trinity Laban in May.  The piece created a safe space of exploration for partner work through contact and touch.  You can read more about the project in a journal post by choreographer Luke Brown here.

We were back in the studio in June with a week of choreographic research with New York-based artist Jeanine Durning.  Durning’s work is inspired by the concept of non-stopping, which she describes as “a process of undoing through, paradoxically, nonstop doing”.  We are excited to work with Jeanine on a new piece in 2020.

July saw our playful and poignant new duet, A Graceful Act of Stupidity by Tom Roden and performed by Jemima Hoadley and Annie Edwards, tour to Germany and play a number of performances at Greenwich & Docklands International Festival, against the beautiful backdrop of the Old Royal Naval College.

We were thrilled the launch the ASOS + Candoco Dance Training Intensive in August.  This ground-breaking pilot was designed to address the barriers to training faced by many disabled dancers and saw 16 young dancers from across the UK attend a two-week residential training course.  Taking Candoco’s unique approach to inclusive practice and led by experienced teaching artists, participants enjoyed sessions on technique, improvisation and audition skills.

We spent September in the Caucasus, working on a hugely ambitious project with Lost Dog’s Ben Duke, Welly O’Brien, Jemima Hoadley and the British Council.  The Argonauts was the culmination of a four-year programme that brought together dance artists from Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Ukraine and explored how we build our sense of individual and collective identity through the telling and re-telling of stories.  The Argonauts toured to Tbilisi, Yerevan and Baku, alongside our company dancers who performed Face In as part of a double-bill.  With over 25 people on the road, it certainly kept our producers, Ellie and Georgia, busy!

We toured to Manchester, Leeds, Nottingham and Worthing across the autumn, and in October, were thrilled to premiere Hot Mess at Warwick Arts Centre.  This new piece by Theo Clinkard will have a London premiere at the Bonnie Bird Theatre at Trinity Laban on 27 and 28 February 2020.

November was a busy month.  We were honoured to be awarded the Achates Prize for Corporate Philanthropy, which recognised the importance of our partnership with ASOS in making the Training Intensive a reality.  We also went into the studio for our co-production with the Royal Opera, The Lost Thing.  The first day of rehearsals saw over 50 people come together in the Linbury Theatre, Royal Opera House, which was by far the biggest first day we’ve ever had!

Which brings us to December and the launch of our annual fundraising campaign, The Big Give Christmas Challenge.  We raised over £5,000 in 7 days to support a new strand of our youth dance programme; Candoco Youth Dance Company, which will launch in 2020.  We only achieved this with your help, so a huge thank you to everyone who donated.   And finally, The Lost Thing, which opened on 9 December.  We were filled with pride to see this huge cast and ambitious production come to the stage.

Looking ahead to 2020, we will start the new year with performances in London, Bristol and … Taiwan!  We will be going back into the studio with Jeanine Durning to create a new work which will premiere in late 2020 and we will be launching our new youth company in the autumn.  There is so much to look forward to – watch this space.