In Side Out: celebrating Candoco Dance Company | Interview

Words by Inês Carvalho.

If we talk about inclusive dance in the UK, ‘Candoco’ is an inescapable name. Three decades after its establishment in 1991, Candoco Dance Company brings together past and present associates to celebrate its legacy by looking into a more accessible future ahead – both for artists and audiences. This is the motto behind In Side Outa three-evening event showcasing works across Lilian Baylis Studio at Sadler’s Wells next week from Wednesday 16th until Friday 18th of November. 

We spoke with Charlotte Darbyshire, Artistic Director of Candoco Dance Company, to hear more about In Side Out and what we can expect from this joint celebration that intertwines digital, live, film, images and moving bodies.

DAJ: What is the concept behind In Side Out?

CD: This is an exciting event for us as we’ve approached it differently from our other performance programmes. Firstly, it has been co-curated. I have worked closely with Nicky Napier, Candoco’s Executive Producer; Kimberley Harvey, who focuses on Artist Development; and with Robyn Cabaret, the passionate programmer at the Lilian Baylis to co-curate this in close conversation with all the contributing artists. It has truly been a collaborative effort.

Together we wanted to give some insights into creative processes, so we are offering work that is newly finished, alongside work that is still in progress or evolving. We also wanted to introduce work that is directly connected with some of the political questions that make us who we are today. We wanted to recognise the community we work alongside and how we would like to work more fully side by side with this community going forward. 

We acknowledge that it is only through collaboration, care and connection that we can make anything happen in the arts. This extends to how we wish to engage audiences and to centre access. So, this is the curational aim of the title In Side Out.

We want to be part of conversations around inclusive work and practices, and we want to support change in the dance sector. 

Charlotte from Candoco

DAJ: Why did you decide to work on an event like In Side Out?

CD: Candoco celebrated its 30th anniversary in 2021, a difficult year for us all due to the pandemic. We wanted to have the opportunity to celebrate our thirty years and many of the people who contributed to the success of Candoco, including our wider community of artists and friends, collaborators and teaching artists – not just the performers you usually see on stage. We wanted to bring more voices to these evenings and to this moment at the Lilian Baylis Studio. 

DAJ: Is this event a celebration of the past or a look into the future?

CD: This is not a retrospective event at all. The evening is an insight into the very particular place Candoco finds itself now. It is a window into ways of working that we want to explore going forward.  We want to be part of conversations around inclusive work and practices, and we want to support change in the dance sector.  I would say the only part that speaks to the past is acknowledging all the people that have brought us this far. 

We decided to share some iconic images, live photos and posters from the past along the café wall. There will also be a digital part, where we’re going to relaunch a couple of pieces from the past: Cuckoo, on Sadler’s Wells’ digital stage. We will also relaunch Feeling Thing by Jo Bannon, a work we made during lockdown. We will also share the very first dance film we ever made back in 1994, Outside In, directed by Margaret Williams. But apart from the digital offer, everything else will be new and future-facing. 

DAJ: How is the programme displayed across the three evenings?

CD: Each night, there will be three pieces in the theatre space. The first two works are a national premiere: the poetic and mysterious In Worlds Unknown by Seke Chimutengwende, and Annie Hanauer’s soft shell which highlights her strong voice as an emerging choreographer. 

The third piece of the first night will be a solo Object Permanence, by dance artist and independent researcher, Kat Hawkins. It is a raw and sensual piece that builds a landscape of cripness and an intimate relationship between the disabled body and assistive devices. 

On Thursday and Friday, the third piece SCÁLING is an evolving work by Candoco dancer Markéta Stránská in collaboration with independent dance artist Charlie Morrissey. They have been building this together on and off over the last year. The work is an exploration of structures in motion and veers between delicate precision and visceral physicality. 

Closing the programme each night is a new work by Candoco dancer Joel Brown, inspired by his US Mormon upbringing and the tradition of ‘Family Home Evening’ where families come together, sing, share talents, and family business. 

Additionally, Kimberley Harvey, independent dance artist and Candoco’s Director of Youth Programmes has curated the digital offer with me and has invited some associate artists to share their dance film work. Some of these will be on plasma screens in the café area and others will be shared digitally with ticket holders. 

The common ground of In Side Out is that this event is a celebration of multiple voices, stages of work, and ways of thinking about how to present work.

DAJ: Is In Side Out accessible to the audience?

CD: Absolutely. Access and the audience experience has been at the heart of the curation. 

We are learning all the time about what it really means to centre access and so the whole staff team and all the contributing artists have fed in their experience to make this as accessible and supportive an experience for audiences as possible. 

For example, we’ve carefully considered the breaks and overall timings of the event. We hope it will be a rich but relaxed experience. Audiences can choose to leave the theatre or not in the breaks and there are some quiet spaces where you can take time out but still watch the performance via a live feed.

Accessing the work itself is vital to us. The first piece includes text written and delivered by the performers, so there are integrated captions and some BSL in the work. But for every piece we have an ‘Insight and Access’ page on our website with a range of resources, including BSL introductions, video and audio interviews with the performers and collaborators, visual stories and more, to give audiences more insight into the works and how they were made.

DAJ: How do you imagine the future of Candoco Dance Company?

CD: It’s a big question, isn’t it? Candoco is in an interesting place because we have both a huge amount of experience and knowledge – 30 years of it – and yet still so much work to do. We need to keep listening and learning and striving to create equitable spaces whenever we can and in everything we do.

We have always worked hard to provide training and artist development opportunities alongside our performance programme but want to do more to work alongside others: artists, disabled leaders, partner organisations, here and abroad, to strongly advocate for and create change.

I also think we need to make the work we’re doing, behind the scenes, much more visible and transparent in order to share our learning and help educate the sector. This includes working with venues, programmers, Higher Education institutions etc. Finally, the sector is embracing disabled artists and inclusion more widely, but still so many barriers exist.

In Side Out comes to Lilian Baylis Studio, part of Sadler’s Wells 16-18 November.