An Interview with Candoco Dance Company

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Laura Patay and Mickaella Dantas talk about their Sadler's wells show

Candoco Dance Company, founded in 1991, is a company of disabled and non-disabled dancers. Producing ambitious work of excellent quality, the company seeks to challenge and broaden perceptions of art and ability, celebrate diversity and push our ideas of what disabled dancers can do.

Working inclusively, there is room for different bodies, perspectives and experiences within dance. Candoco has made a significant difference to the dance landscape bringing disabled artists into the mainstream and encouraging us to think outside accepted norms.

London Calling caught up with two of the company’s dancers, Laura Patay from France and Brazilian dancer Mickaella Dantas, during rehearsals for the double bill they are bringing to Sadler’s Wells this March.

London Calling: Tell us a little bit about where you are from, how you started dancing and how you came to be in Candoco?

Laura Patay: I started dancing when I was four years old. I finished grammar school at the conservatoire in Lyon and when I got my diploma at 18, I went to a professional dance school similar to Laban or The Place in London, where I studied contemporary and modern jazz, ballet and hip hop. When I was around 21, I moved to Montpellier where I finished my studies at Epsedanse and then started working professionally in Paris and Barcelona. In 2014, I auditioned for Candoco and joined the company in London.

Mickaella Dantas: I started quite late, around 16, but that same year I went directly to dancing professionally on stage with an inclusive dance company in Brazil. But even then I continued my normal life and went to university only dancing semi-professionally and in 2010, I received an invitation from Candoco to work with them for the Olympic Games Ceremony in London. At the same time, I was invited to work with a choreographer in Brazil and a company in Portugal so I moved to Europe and jumped between those projects and after two years, I decided to stay in Portugal. It suited me because of the language and the culture, and I developed most of my career in Portugal with Grupo Dançando com a Diferença. Then, last year, I was again invited by Candoco but this time as a fulltime member of the company.

Olivia Edginton and Laura Patay in Face In by Yasmeen Godder. Photo: Hugo Glendinning

LC: Tell us about the two pieces for the Sadler’s Wells double bill: what are they about, how are they different?

MD: Face In is a creation by Yasmeen Godder. Every choreographer works in their own way, some just sit behind the table and give instructions, some work with us on the movement, but the great thing with Yasmeen is she has a particularity in her body that I think clearly translates when you are watching the piece. You can see the quality of movement from her body in our steps. It’s very interesting. She is very close to us in rehearsals and she has a good eye, in terms of the dramaturgy of the piece but also for the body.

LP: I am one of the most senior members of the company at this stage, so I was already involved in the creation of Let’s talk about Dis, which is the second piece we present at Sadler’s Wells. It was created by Hetain Patel who is actually a visual artist not a choreographer. This was the first time he created a dance piece. His work always involves a lot of humour and what he wanted to explore with Candoco was mixing identities; who’s identities we are speaking about. He wanted to cross different stories, so we took a true story from me and another true story from Toke [Broni Strandby, another company member] and we created a fiction so in the end you are questioning: is it true or not? Is it Toke’s story or Laura’s story? Is it completely fictional? Everything has a lot of humour in it, it’s a very funny and light piece to perform. There is a lot of spoken text in the piece too, so to make it accessible for all audiences, there is also sign language on stage. We found the commonality between sign language and movement very interesting, so me and another dancer created a solo from the sign language. Sign language is so specific and so precise; there is a dance quality to it.

Nicolas Vendange, Megan Armishaw and Mickaella Dantas in Face In by Yasmeen Godder. Photo: Hugo Glendinning

LC: You have to speak into a microphone on stage, is that difficult for a dancer?

LP: For me it was a first and it is quite funny to hear your own voice. We are used to expressing ourselves with our body and now with the text and the voice we noticed the directness is very different. And we found it very interesting as well to explore the way we speak, all those mini movements that happen, the gestures, our natural vocabulary. We also play with that.

You are part of the core company of Candoco, which is made up of only seven dancers. You work together, you go on tour together - it must be like a little family?

LP: Yes, we are very close

Mickaella, you joined the company much later, what was it like coming into this family?

MD: Well, I already knew some of the cast from 2012. But in Candoco the team of dancers and also the team behind us is a big family. It’s wonderful. The people from the office are so present with us in the studio, always following what is happening. But my first week was crazy, the director invited me one month before rehearsals started and I didn’t have a visa so I arrived late, I didn’t speak any English… But then I noticed the movement vocabulary of Yasmeen is very familiar to me, working with facial expressions and extreme emotions. And the cast is very warm, the whole Candoco family is a good team.

Do you enjoy being in London?

MD: That it a hard question for me. I don’t really like it, to be honest. It is really hard for me because I loved Portugal. I had opportunities before but I said no because of London. This time, I made the decision because it is good for my career. I don’t like the city too much but I respect it. Big cities offer opportunities to many people but I prefer smaller places. I am here only because of Candoco. I love this job so much at this time of my life.

Candoco Dance Company is at Sadler’s Wells 9 -10 March