Feature: Recommended by... Celeste Dandeker

Tuesday 23 February 2010

Celeste DandekerPhoto: John Cole *Recently retired from her role as Artistic Director of Candoco Dance Company,
Celeste Dandeker OBE received the 2007 Dance UK Industry Award, which honours
an individual who has made an outstanding contribution to dance, as well as the
De Valois Award for Outstanding Achievement in Dance at The Critics Circle National
Dance Awards this year.*

*Celeste’s career as a dancer with London Contemporary Dance Company had been
cut short by an accident in 1973. Her fascination for dance continued and in
1991 she co-founded Candoco, with Adam Benjamin and the company quickly became
established as the first of its kind in the UK, an integrated company in which
professional disabled and non-disabled dancers performed work commissioned by
internationally renowned choreographers.*

*Dandeker will continue her links with the company as patron, but intends to take
a well earned break from the spotlight and one of the things on her list is to
catch up on shows and productions she has missed over the year… So what’s on her
list for early spring?*

Bonachela Dance Company 'Square Map of Q4' QEH, 7-8 Feb, Photo: Ione Saizar I always make a point of going to see Rafael Bonachela and his company (Bonachela Dance Company, Queen Elizabeth Hall, 7 & 8 Feb 08). I absolutely love his work (particularly And who shall go to the ball? which will be part of a Candoco Double Bill at Arts Depot – seen below) It’s so physical, expressive, strong and visual all in one sweep. Whenever I
watch his works, I always think to myself, God, If I was still dancing, this
is exactly what I would want to be performing. The dancers he finds are varied
and wonderful, as well as his choice of collaborators. He has, of course, choreographed
for CandoCo.

In fact, one of the two highlights of my career is the fact that we have worked
with so many wonderful choreographers at CandoCo (Siobhan Davies, Javier de Frutos, Arthur Pita).

When I was in a wheelchair I had to re-learn the repertoire in my mind, but in
body, all of my previous training was there – it never really leaves you. When
I am watching a movement, I can still get a sense of how that would feel if I
was doing it. I can still appreciate what’s physically going on onstage – even
though I haven’t danced with CandoCo since 1999.

Royal Ballet, 'Chroma' 2006 , Chor: Wayne McGregor. Dancers: Edward Watson, Alina Cojocaru. Set: John Pawson. Photo: Johan Persson Wayne McGregor is another of those inspiring choreographers. He’s an extremely talented artist
and watching his movements is like breaking open a jar of sweets and eating them
all. I have already bought tickets for Chroma, which is being performed again by the Royal Ballet at the Opera House, as part of a triple bill. (15, 18, 20, & 23 Feb) His
style is bold and loud and wonderful and I love the irreverence of his previous

I am one of the lucky ticket holders for Pina Bausch Tanztheater Wuppertal (Sadler’s Wells 13 – 23 Feb), which will of course be an event to remember as
it’s allegedly going to be the last time that Pina herself performs in the UK.
(Although I’m not really allowed to talk about this one much as all the tickets
for Cafe Muller and The Rite of Spring have already sold out).

London Flamenco Festival 08 Something not to miss will be the Flamenco Festival London 08 at Sadler’s Wells (March 3- 16). I don’t know too much about it, but last year I saw one performance
and thought it was wonderful. This year, I am taking the in-laws and have booked
the last night. This is the gala night where they have dancers from lots of different
companies perform. The movements are so sexy, emotional and technical. I was very
seduced by their craft last year, so highly recommend it.

Of course, I can’t talk about what to go and see without mentioning CandoCo, who will be performing at the Arts Depot (12 – 13 Mar). As well as Rafael Bonachela’s And Who Shall Go to the Ball? the bill includes The Stepfather by the great Arthur Pita, who is absolutely an incredible talent with his sense of theatre, comedy and
his ability to change from being funny one minute and sad the next.

Phoenix Dance TheatreJose Limon's 'Chaconne' Finally, I will be going to see Phoenix Dance Theatre at Sadler’s Wells (April 28 & 29), with particular interest to see the works by José Limón, mainly because I am excited to see Chaconne (1942) which has only ever been performed outside of the Limón Company, by Mikhail Baryshnikov. They are also going to perform two new works by their Artistic Director Javier De Frutos, which I am keen to see.

It’s going to be quite refreshing this season watching performances with no hidden
agenda. I just have to sit back, relax and enjoy, rather than feel like I am working
the whole time. While I miss the dancers each and every day, it was time to move

When I’m planning my nights out at the theatre, I will consider where the productions
are being held. In terms of theatres being disabled friendly, many of them are,
but many are not. The Queen Elizabeth Hall, Sadler’s Wells, The Place, are all great places, but when I went to see a show years ago at the Peacock Theatre,* I couldn’t see anything – so I don’t go there anymore. I was also really disappointed
with the Arts Depot, given that it’s a brand new arts complex. All of the wheelchair spaces have
been designated right on the side of the auditorium, so you don’t have a good

In terms of opportunities for disabled people in the arts, things have improved.
It does, of course, seem pointless to use an able bodied actor/dancer to play
a disabled part, but it really does depend on how it is being done. Personally,
I’m not very precious about it. For example, there was a huge to do over Daniel Day Lewis in *My Left Foot*. But he did a great job, so it’s impossible to generalise and each instance
needs some thought. Certainly, having companies like CandoCo in the public eye,
helps to change the public perception of what disabled people can achieve.

It wasn’t until I was asked to be in a short film called The Fall for a series on BBC2 where the director (Darshan Singh Bhuller) asked me to experiment with movement from the wheelchair, did I ever dream
it would be possible to create a company for disabled and non-disabled dancers,
but something about that experience gave me the confidence to pursue my dream.
He asked me to dance and I found a way. If you flick your wrist, or bow your head,
it’s as much about movement as pirouetting across the stage.


Wayne McGregor’s Chroma is peformed as part of a Mixed Bill by the Royal Ballet at the Royal Opera House (15, 18, 20, & 23 Feb) www.royaloperahouse.org
CandoCo, Arts Depot (March 12-13), www.artsdepot.co.uk
London Flamenco Festival 08, Sadler’s Wells ( March 3- 16 ) www.sadlerswells.com
Phoenix Dance Theatre, Sadler’s Wells, (April 28 & 29) www.sadlerswells.com

  • The facilities for wheelchair users at the Peacock Theatre have been upgraded recently.

Interview by Rachel Nouchi

February 2008

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