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CandoCo Foundation Course

Yulia from CandoCo

Yulia from CandoCo. Photograph by Anthony Crickmay

The CandoCo Foundation Course in Dance is the first of its kind offering an opportunity for disabled students to realise their potential. It is also a long awaited and challenging opportunity for CandoCo to expand their education programme of integrated dance practice.

This pioneering one year programme, is especially for those preparing for more advanced dance training and ultimately, careers in dance. Students are being encouraged to understand and develop their individual strengths, while gaining a good understanding of technique. The content will include choreographic residencies with CandoCo dancers; improvisation and exploration; and fitness, health and safe working. All aimed towards providing students with the skills for further dance training.

The professional running and nature of this course is set at a very high standard, as students are inspired and trained by professional choreographers, dancers and teachers. It is essential that students possess a high level of personal motivation and commitment to successfully complete the required criteria.

Course Content


  • Technique & improvisation

  • Choreography & performances

  • Fitness, health & safety including individual fitness & training programmes

  • Movement analysis

  • Contextual studies

  • Choreographic residencies with CandoCo Dance Company members and other professional choreographers and guest artists

The course is based in London at CandoCo's purpose built dance studio and performance space, and students have free access to pool, fitness and IT equipment

Course Fees

Due to the unique nature and funding of this programme, the course is FREE to those students living in the UK. Students are also eligible for maintenance support and Disabled Students Allowance

Auditions: 21 April and 30 May 2006

We will notify all successful applicants with more information and details about the audition day.


The deadline for completed applications for the 2006/07 academic year is 16 May 2006.

To apply please call 020 7704 6845 or email for an application pack.

To find out more about the company visit:

Foundation student performance

James, Shannon and Petra from CandoCo

Joe McConnell went to Sadler's Wells to see students from CandoCo Dance Company's Foundation course performing to an invited audience.

Light years removed from those ghastly events where precocious prodigies show off their pliés and pirouettes, CandoCo's celebration of the first year of its Foundation Course in Dance kicked off with a showcase of work by five of the students from the current course. This turned out to be a marvellous opportunity to see a group of emerging contemporary dancers, create original choreography from improvisational experimentation. Integrated Dance has been given a bad name by a number of companies who clearly use disabled dancers as moving props for the showcasing of the non-disabled practitioners. By presenting these students' work, CandoCo clearly distanced itself from this execrable trend by placing the spotlight firmly on choreography clearly devised and created by disabled artists themselves.

First up was Long Distance, in which Yulia Arakelyan created elegantly expressive movements to interpret a piece of abstract percussive music composed and recorded by Robbie Francis. In Escape, blind dancer, Mickel Smithen, brings a statue to life in a highly rhythmical piece set against a haunting soundscape of silence punctuated by the sound of his movements and breath. Juliet gave us Joanne Denman dancing with a chair and boldly using mime to convey a story of tragic loss. The most theatrically dramatic piece was probably Furious by Yen Thou, another blind dancer, in which she emerges as a spooky skeleton from beneath a spectral white duvet to create a macabre mood of horror and suspense. Niall Cullen's Cyclone, expressively set to Fauré's Pavane, has this statuesque dancer exploring his generous gyrating movements as an individual confronting and surviving a tempest.

These five short solo pieces were followed by a slightly longer ensemble work entitled Improvisational Structure partly set to the captivating Unlimited Ambient by Brian Eno. This piece had a ritual 'voodooesque' feeling to it and the harmonised dynamics of the group culminated in a near trance-like performance.

Main company

The second part of the evening gave the stage to a performance, by the main CandoCo company, of Stephen Petronio's The Human Suite. This is currently about to finish its national tour as one part of a double bill. The final performance will take place on 12th April, 7.30pm, at Wycombe Swan, High Wycombe. Tel: 01494 512 000

The first time I saw this work, the opening pas de deux was performed by Pedro Machado and Stine Nielsen. This intensely emotional duet was, on this occasion, performed by Jamieson Dryburgh and the wonderful Marc Brew. Is this symbolic of CandoCo giving a raised focus to its disabled dancers? This beautiful opening sequence set to a spine-tingling interpretation of The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face by Johnny Cash, makes the following group piece (set to The Devil's Sonata by Tartini) seem just a little bit anti-climactic and over-long. However, this is more a testament to the power of the opening and the piece is still hugely enjoyable as an eloquent exploration across the spectrum of human emotions and is a good showcase for the group's virtuosity.

Question and answer

The evening was rounded off by a question and answer session with the students and some of the members of CandoCo who also teach on the course. It was a great opportunity to see how the course was structured and how the improvisational work is encouraged and supported by a solid curriculum.

It was encouraging to learn that CandoCo's Foundation Course is open to dancers with learning disabilities. We can only hope that this will one day soon be reflected in the composition of the main company and that other groups like Graeae will take a leaf out of their book.

CandoCo has for many years distanced itself from Disability Arts, primarily focussing on work which is not necessarily informed by the personal or collective experience of disability. It must be stressed that this has always been clearly stated by the company and the association with Disability Arts seems to be more to do with the sector continuing to embrace CandoCo. That said, CandoCo have in their own way done much to destabilise the ever-gruesome mainstream dance-world orthodoxy in continuing to push back the boundaries determining who can be a dancer. A few years ago, Ruth Bailey (Disability Arts in London Magazine, Issue 161) quoted Celeste Dandeker, co-founder of CandoCo, as saying

I want to wipe that word "integrated" off the map. We're a dance company, pure and simple.

Bailey concludes the same article (a review of Javier de Frutos' I hastened through my death scene to catch your last act) by paradoxically speculating:

Perhaps now [CandoCo] will find a way to establish a more extensive and subtle vocabulary for integrated dance, one that emerges from performers' impairments, rather than existing in spite of them.

The work from the Foundation Course students shows that perhaps this is now beginning to happen.

For further information, please contact CandoCo Dance Company on:

Telephone: 020 7704 6845

Fax: 020 7704 1645


Image description


A young white man in a wheelchair is seen in the foreground. He is gazing downwards with both hands raised to shoulder level and elbows bent inwards. He does not appear to have legs. He is wearing a classic black Rolling Stones t-shirt with the large red lips and protruding tongue logo. In the left background a young white dark-haired woman is facing the left of frame. Both her hands are outstretched and each is held in the hands of a young blonde-haired woman who is standing in front of her with her body bent towards her and her right foot on the foot-rest of the chair.


CanDoco foundation course

CandoCo foundation students

foundation student interviews

Now in their second term Candoco Foundation students Yulia, Mickel, Niall, Jo, Yen and Rosie kept a log of their progress. The interview was edited by Mark Kebble and reproduced courtesy of Angel Magazine.

October 2004

The auditions were quite hectic for all of us - having to create a short solo piece in only a week. It was a challenge looking at how best to present yourself in just a few minutes, hoping that you would do well. Even Yulia didn't get off lightly on the stress levels - she'd sent a video as she lived in America, but it broke in the post. She had to wait with bated breath to see if it would work in the CandoCo machine!

We were really happy when we got the offer. We'd all had training before, but some of us had been wondering where we were going to go next, what we were going to do? This course was the only one of its kind, and more practical than theoretical, Mickel and Niall wanted that in particular. It was a big relief to get on. Though even that threw up challenges - moving house, country or continent!

The first few weeks had ups and downs, though we are all really enjoying it. Maybe the scariest bit was getting to trust our own bodies, and those of the others on the course. Our awareness of each other has grown so much, but at first, we all thought we were going to get run over or squashed as we moved round the space! Now we can just throw ourselves around without a thought. And Jo specially, won't sit still.

We're doing various modules and working with different tutors. The variety is great, and some of the tutors push us really hard. We go home with that tingling feeling, where you've worked every bit of yourself. The modules all fit together though, so we can see our knowledge building, feel like we're moving forward.

The best bit so far has been working with the dancers of CandoCo. Yen summed it up by saying they got us all working together really well. It was a bit of a turning point for us as we all came out of our shell and really went for it. We can't wait to work with them again.

Our solo pieces are the next big thing, we're thinking about them all the time! We do a first showing to an invited audience in December, then a bigger event at Sadlers Wells in March. We're looking forward to them, despite the fact that time seems to be ticking. It will be great to show people what we can do as dancers.

December 2004

Well, we're all solo obsessed now. Probably about the time you're reading this, we'll have just completed the first showings of our own work. It's an invited audience this time, but then we've got a bigger event at Sadlers Wells in March to start thinking about. At the moment, we're practising every day after classes and we're also showing each other what we've done, getting feedback. Here's a little taster of what we're planning…


My piece is based on a sculpture which comes to life and escapes. It's about flight and speed, daring and movement. It's got a contemporary, Indian feel. There's no music, but lots of rhythm in the performance as different patterns clash and melt together.


Mine began with one simple movement, a hat slowly falling from my head. From that, it has grown to become intense and haunting. There are delicate, sliding movements, as music fades in and out.


Furious! That's how I'd describe my piece. It's a fight between two enemies, an epic, aggressive battle. So it's very physical, you can hear my exertion during the performance. It's a show for horror film buffs - it's got that freaky feel, with a few surprises.


During mine, I feel like a little man standing alone on a huge mountain, facing the eye of the storm. It can be violent and surging as well as peaceful. Just like the elements, it repeats and circles, time and again.


My solo is about tragedy, disappointed love and a beautiful girl miming. It's like entering a nightmare based on Romeo and Juliet, a surreal, violent soap opera of their story. I use a chair and there's dance music too. It's violent and sad - a soul story.

Guess you can see that they're all pretty different. Please do cross your fingers for us! After we've performed though, it does mean the end of our first term. So we can relax a bit over Christmas. We've already got a weeks hard training in place for January to get us back into shape though!

Have great festive season and we'll be back in touch in the New Year.

Yulia, Mickel, Niall, Jo and Yen.

January 2005

We're now back working hard, after lots of relaxing, eating, drinking and meeting friends over Christmas. Well, apart from Yulia, who moved house and Jo who just couldn't help herself and got involved in a drama project. We can't believe we're back in a new term so quickly!

Our solo pieces went well, although we were all quite nervous. It was kind of a landmark day too, as it was the end of our first term.


With my solo, I just had to remember to take my time and remember to breathe! I feel like I want to move on to something different now - I like group work!


I enjoyed the performing and thought it went well. I liked what I did although it eventually turned out quite differently to my original idea. I want to work on the flow of it a little bit more, the connections.


The rehearsals leading up to it were hard, but in the performance something just clicked. It almost made more sense to me afterwards. I'd like a choreographer to work on it next or even make a new one for next time!


I was nervous… sweating away in both my costume ( a skeleton suit) and under a duvet! My piece was always going to go one of two ways: either freaky or funny. On the day, it went the comedy way. I could still work on it - I'd like to work with another moving person rather than with objects as I did.


I really noticed the difference in having a live audience and felt that my piece worked better then, than in rehearsals. I could still work on it - make it longer and more composed. Though it would be fun to work more in a duet or trio.

We're all quite ready to go for it this term, to challenge and push ourselves. It will be good to work with different tutors and to learn and develop our techniques. And of course, we have our appearances at Sadlers' Wells to work towards.

Jo, Mickel, Yulia, Yen and Niall.