CandoCo: Dancing with talent and generosity
«We believe that everyone who wants to do so can dance. That is what the company’s name stands for (can do)…» When you meet Celeste Dandeker you immediately understand that she was once a dancer, not only because of the way she moves, but also because of her generosity in continuing to work for dance. Her wheelchair is only her personal creative space. During the ’70s, when she worked with the well-known London Contemporary Dance Theater, Dandeker had a serious accident that left her paralyzed. In 1991, feeling still very passionate about dance, she founded pioneering British dance company CandoCo, which features dancers with disabilities, along with dancer and choreographer Adam Benjamin. In its first visit to Greece, the company will perform at the Arts Center of Halandri on November 26 and 27. Since its foundation, CandoCo has worked with major international choreographers and performed around the world, earning awards and distinctions. The program for the upcoming performances in Athens will consist of two new productions: British choreographer Fin Walker’s «The Journey» («a fast and fiery pilgrimage to human feelings with music by Benjamin Parks») and Greek choreographer Athina Vachla’s «In Praise of Folly» («a rich dance/theater work, inspired by the machinations of Renaissance art»). Celeste Dandeker spoke to Kathimerini. How was the company founded? CandoCo started out as a small group of people who attended weekly workshops in 1991. Initially, we created our own works, we danced and taught in the UK and abroad. As the company evolved, we invited professional choreographers, which enabled us to present works of a high standard. The performances thrilled the public and the dancers gained a lot from their collaboration with different creators. What is your vision today? I would like for us to remain in the field as a top professional dance company, making both art and educational contributions internationally. It is important for the dancers to be able to evolve as artists and experiment with their own choreographic ideas. Everyone in the company has a voice. What are the limits of the human body and how can we overcome them? Everyone is responsible for their body and must have a heightened perception of themselves and others when working in a «dance» environment. Communication is very important when trying out new moves. During the rehearsals, the dancers always try to surpass themselves and go a little bit further. In both the works that you will see in Athens there are moments where the dancers seem to defy gravity and move with incredible speed. Often, during the performance, I sit very tensely on the edge of my seat. Of course accidents happen, as they do in every dance group, but with constant rehearsals and the right preparation there are fewer possibilities of an accident taking place. How do dancers with and without disabilities describe the experience of working together? When you focus on dance, disability is not a problem. The dancers focus on the reactions of their bodies and on the guidance of the choreographers. The creative process starts with the dancers improvising on specific ideas. We work like any other dance group, the only difference being that we have a wider and richer vocabulary that we can play with. Tell us about the company’s educational work. CandoCo organizes daily workshops and weekly seminars that lead to performances, international summer seminars every two years and more. We have a youth group – CandoCo II – with dancers aged 14-20. We also offer a year of dance studies to students with disabilities. What makes a dancer stand out? Being a dancer in a company like CandoCo is very hard work. The dancers are dedicated, full of energy and love for dance. What is most important is talent and the generosity to share it with others. Halandri Arts Center, 53 Garyttou, 210.639.3341.