Thursday June 29, 2006

CandoCo at Florida Dance Festival

The Journey

Oh, so the Florida Dance Festival has been on since last week. Last night there was a performance at the recently reopened Colony theater by CandoCo Dance Company. The performance consisted of two extended pieces. The first, “The Journey,”[1] a kinetic piece built with tight clusters of activity, dancers interacting mostly in groups of two or three, even when all seven are on stage. CandoCo includes two disabled dancers,[2] one of whom has no legs. You would think this would be a challenge to creating a coherent performance of people dancing. In fact, though, the physicality of being disabled energizes the interactions of these men with the rest of the members of the company. It sort of makes sense when you see it. The choreography explores various ways in which a person in a wheelchair and a person standing can interact, but those movements are so well integrated into the piece that, suddenly, nothing could seem more natural then a dance company with wheelchairs.

In Praise of Folly

After that (and an intermission so long that the idea of ditching got bounced around) relatively straightforward piece, the second opened with a stage darkened except for a couple of spotlights, some arcane recitations, and a solo performance on a contraption which was sort of a cross between some pilates equipment and monkey bars (and which was later turned on its side to form a padded table). From there it proceeded to get really weird. Dance theater has a tendency to get theatrical and dark, but I’ve never seen it taken to this extreme before. The whole thing played like a scene from a David Lynch movie, with some dark meaning just out of grasp (out of my grasp, anyway). Lisa Hunt says of one section of the piece:

Most memorably the spotlight singles out a dancer, blindfolded, struggling and falling, in a metal tunnel – one of the most poetic representations of human suffering I have ever seen on the stage.

It was wonderfully strange. Not having a literal meaning allows dance to incorporate fantasy, horror, and science fiction elements in a way that’s, well, poetic. Were straightforward theater to do so it might come off as silly, but here it’s redeemed by the focus on movement. More stuff like this would have me going out to a whole lot more dance performances then I currently do.

The Florida Dance Festival continues through the weekend; here’s the schedule.

[1] Why do dance pieces always have silly names? Maybe because choreographers are inherently visual- and movement- oriented people, and dealing with words is so removed from their creative experience.

[2] This performance was co-sponsored by Tigertail, part of a collaboration with Florida Dance Association called danceAble.

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  1. Tiffany Hill    Thu Jun 29, 11:03 AM #  

    I have to say that this was one of the best performances by a mixed-ability company that I’ve ever seen. To see those that we typically think of as having limited physical ability move with such intensity and fluidity was amazing. The choreography was in no way watered down to make accommodations but rather pushed the limits of movement of all the dancers.

    At one point in the second piece the choreography was so tight that if you’d walked in at that point you wouldn’t have been able to guess that one of the dancers had no or perhaps limited use of his legs. It was beautiful.

    Congratulations to Tigertail, the Florida Dance Festival and Candoco for an outstanding performance.



  2. Manola BBB    Thu Jun 29, 12:51 PM #  

    Hi Alesh—we have our own home-grown mixed ability company since 1989:

    http://www.karenpetersondancers.org/

    I used to dance with them many mango seasons ago and I can tell you it is one of the most humbling experiences I’ve ever had. One of the wheelchair-bound dancers had no feeling in her hand, and when I had to perform with her, she would ask: “please squeeze my hand hard, I can’t feel it.”

    Talk about strange. If you couldn’t feel it, what was the point? And so it taught me a valuable lesson on the ability of the imagination to overcome physical limits.

    There was also one young lady, in her early twenties, who had MS and was deformed, wheel-chair bound, completely dependent (had to wear diapers) ... but she was beautiful … you could see it in spite of her twisted up bones. And she danced with light in her eyes! One evening after a performance, I was going to go out with friends for a bite and drinks, and she looked at me and asked: “What does going out mean? I’ve never gone out.”

    It broke my heart.

    Anyway, Karen Peterson has been around forever—back in the day when the Miami dance community was in its infancy and sort-of thriving in Coconut Grove (Freddick Bratcher, Delma Iles … all also formed their own dance companies.)

    The state of arts funding in Miami is such that these little companies were never able to really flourish. Only one or two significant performances a year and then lots of community outreach to ‘pay for’ the grant.

    Karen Peterson has somehow managed to survive and I really admire her work.

    Tigertail Productions rock! The lady who runs it is super cool and she always brings neat stuff to town.