Candoco Dance Company: A Graceful Act of Stupidity


As part of A Bit Of A Do, a 3-day mini-festival of work by disabled artists organised by Drunken Chorus at London’s Stanley Halls, Candoco Dance Company performed its new duet A Graceful Act of Stupidity. Using movement, spoken word and British Sign Language it follows the journey of two flight attendants. Review by Alexandrina Hemsley.

Two dancers dressed as flight attendants

Annie Edwards and Jemima Hoadley in A Graceful Act of Stupidity. Photograph: Camilla Greenwell

Behind a glimmering facade of well-trained smiles, graceful authority and sharp-witted companionship, two flight attendants (Annie Edwards and Jemima Hoadley) welcome us aboard the journey of lifetimes. Their unfolding duet is both teasing and moving as the voiceover text speaks of personal sensations, geographies and emotional life. The work is at once pedestrian and poetic.

Christopher Precce’s score flickers between being the buoyant nostalgia for the dancer’s movements to roam between and a fragmented landscape to be pulled apart by. The elements brought by each member of the creative team are woven together beautifully. A centrepoint emerges in the way movements link up and the way the text lists ‘This is….’… ‘This is the feeling of running’ ‘This is the top rung of a ladder’ ‘This is not fitting in’ ‘This is the absence of pain’.

This dance is cascading
This dance is full of suspension
This dance is drifting
This dance is grappling
This dance is bodies free-falling

This dance is friendship whirling
This dance is interlocking
This dance is shuddering
This dance is taking itself for a walk
This dance is working behind itself

This dance is in miniature
This dance is all smiles and sorrow
This dance is morphing
This dance is claustrophobic
This dance is flying apart

This dance is letting us live within it
This dance is losing its edges
This dance is holding us up
This dance doesn’t know if it is coming or going
This dance is hopeful as we inevitably reach the end

Two flight attendants embrace

Annie Edwards and Jemima Hoadley in A Graceful Act of Stupidity. Photograph: Camilla Greenwell

As I witness its whirl of imagery and shape-shifting, A Graceful Act of Stupidity’s exploration of life’s moments played out sky-high in an aeroplane cabin, reminds me of this epic vision by playwright Tony Kushner:

HARPER: Souls were rising, from the earth far below, souls of the dead, of people who had perished, from famine, from war, from the plague, and they floated up, like skydivers in reverse, limbs all akimbo, wheeling and spinning. And the souls of these departed joined hands, clasped ankles, and formed a web, a great net of souls, and the souls were three-atom oxygen molecules, of the stuff of ozone, and the outer rim absorbed them, and was repaired.

Perestroika, Act 5, Scene 10, Angels in America

In tracing a lifetime and looking cautiously into what may happen afterwards, Tom Roden and Candoco condense life into a portrait played out between two friends with all the joy, conflict, loss and connectivity which tumbles through us.

A Graceful Act of Stupidity plays International Straßentheaterfestival, Ludwigshafen 25-28 July and Brit School (as part of Dance Festival Croydon) 7 September.

Directed by: Tom Roden
Created with and performed by: Annie Edwards and Jemima Hoadley
Designed by: Will Holt
Music by: Christopher Preece