My name is Gabriela, I’m a third year dance student at Middlesex University and have recently completed a work placement with Candoco Dance Company. I chose Candoco because I was intrigued to learn more about the company and feel that their ethos is essential in the dance sector. Candoco has revolutionised some of the views held within the dance world and pushed boundaries to challenge the idea of the ‘ideal dancer aesthetic’; contributing to the acceptance of difference in dance and quashing the stigma around disability in dance.
Being able to observe Candoco in rehearsal for Set & Reset/Reset gave me an insight into the workings of a professional company during tour. The dancers’ focus was immense, 100% at all times, they were all very switched on and picked up material quickly. Even though rehearsals were relatively fast paced, it was still a safe space where dancers could work through the phrases they found trickier to learn, ask questions and recap movement. The repertoire was taught to everyone in the same way and it was left to individuals to adapt the material to their own bodies as and when needed. No emphasis or attention was drawn on disability in this space, as a result, there was an unspoken understanding that differences are normal. They are all dancers and extra space is given to those who need it.
As for company class, being able to participate was an inspiring and exciting opportunity for me. I have experienced inclusive dance classes in the past, but not in a professional setting. It was refreshing to be in a space that is truly inclusive, in the sense that everyone is treated the same way and any differences in the group aren’t addressed overtly. I have experienced this in other inclusive classes, where attention had been drawn to differences or disabilities within the group. For example, by creating phrases for specific body types or the teacher adapting an exercise specifically for someone. Even though this is done with the intention of including everyone, from personal experience I can say that it can sometimes make one feel excluded or different from everyone else. Those in a professional company are likely to be more experienced with adapting material to their own bodies, whereas during training, it is often very helpful to have phrases adapted in order for the individual to learn different methods of moving. Before taking company class with Candoco, I was not as aware of this and feel that my knowledge and experience of inclusive dance has been broadened. This has unearthed new questions that I have regarding dance practice and I am looking forward to researching further.