Dance is perhaps the most exact medium through which to interrogate the idea of the perfect human, and such an investigation is maybe especially interesting when the dance company is Candoco, an ensemble which is composed of able-bodied and disabled dancers. Here they put on a two part performance comprising works by two extraordinary choreographers: Hofesh Shechter and Nigel Charnock.
The first piece choreographed by Hofesh Shechter bears all his hallmarks of being highly conceptual, strikingly beautiful and choreographically dense. Most impressive of all was the combination of mask and dance, in which the featureless mask brought an unnerving stillness to the dance, a stillness which was both contradicted and highlighted by the supremely fluid movements of the dancers’ bodies. There were passages of great wit and tenderness here, not least when a male dancer, wearing the mask inverted, appears to kiss the face off his female partner.
Schecter’s score mixes antique harmonies with unnerving electric sound-strobes, as though a helicopter is flying through the auditorium, and nostalgic pop songs from Joni Mitchell and the Mamas and the Papas. It also contains a loop of soundtrack from the Danish film, The Perfect Human: “This is the perfect human. How does he move? Why does he move like that?” Severe and unsettling, Shechter’s contradictory and interlocking choreography seeks to question our interpretations of both perfection and humanity.
A beautifully executed solo by Annie Hanauer, performing with a prosthetic arm, signals the intense engagement with the investigation by the company. Shechter moves the dancers through some powerfully opposing relationships: staccato jerkiness segueing into lyrical fluidity and then into stillness. Chaos and harmony pulsing and threading their own commentary through the pieces; sometimes the dancers’ bodies simply tremble, sometimes they are held in perfect balance. Chris Owen is capable of sustaining an heroic stillness and then a mesmerising, almost feline fluidity. Darren Anderson has great grace and power and fully commands the stage.
In Nigel Charnock's piece, Still, Anderson and Owen perform a stupendous duet which juxtaposes aggression with tenderness, distrust with attraction, balance with risk. This is contemporary dance at its most breathtaking. Charnock, a founder member of the dance company DV8, brings a fiercely comic inventiveness to his choreography and his piece is the more emotionally diverse of the two, affording the dancers greater opportunity for expression. It pitches its keynotes much higher than The Perfect Human, allowing for passages of great humour and candour, such as the riotous duet between Anderson and Bettina Carpi. It also offers space for some very profound observations, such as the orgasmic microphone sequence in which dancers dance to the music of their own breathing, and a poetic bird-like sequence in which dancers lift each other aloft and appear to float or fly through each other’s spaces.
Together the two pieces present a truly outstanding evening: emotionally uplifting and visually and intellectually gratifying.
- Claire Steele (review of performance at The Swan Theatre, High Wycombe)