Get to know Candoco dancer Dan Daw

Dan DawHow did you get into dancing initially?
Joining Restless Dance Company nearly 10 years ago was my first serious interaction with the dance world. I had been exposed to it earlier in my youth theatre days, at which time, opted to turn my attention to acting. From the first Restless workshop, I was in love. I knew it was a place I needed to be at that moment in time, but what I did not know is that it would still the perfect place nearly a decade later.

Why did you join Candoco?
As a disabled dancer, being with Candoco was something I aspired to early in my career. Although I was with Restless, I did not think that being a professional disabled dancer was viable until I discovered Candoco.

I had spent some years working as a project-based freelancer, but craved the rigor that comes through working for a professional repertory company. Spawned by my sneak peek into the repertory world during the six months with Scottish Dance Theatre, I felt I was fast approaching the right place artistically where Candoco seemed like, was, and is, the best fit.

How do people react to the idea of a disabled person dancing professionally?
I think it a shame that this is a question that still needs to be asked in light of Candoco’s twenty-year presence. This debate aside, I think audiences are intrigued, and this is why the company has such an extensive education program, and often hold post-show forums in the hope our audiences come away knowing that little bit more about what we do.

How does Candoco approach the idea of ‘normal’?
The beauty of dancing for Candoco is that it is a company, which functions on the idea of the individual, and what is inherent in every one of us as people, and as performers. From my seat within the company, it could be said Candoco are not looking to approach the bogus concept of ‘normality’; it exists only as a concept, and I’m sure as a company we can go to far more interesting places.

How does Candoco approach a work that has been created for non-disabled bodies? What are rehearsals like?
In the creation of Trisha Brown’s Set and Reset/Reset, we have had the privilege of building the work in the same way Trisha Brown Company did in 1983. Staying true to its title, we learned a series of set material. With the splicing of this material, adapted or not, we built and reset it into a new kaleidoscopic form. As the building of the work relied on improvising and making choices in relation to the whole, it very much became ours, and less an arm-by-arm, leg-by-leg regurgitation of the work.

Within its’ making, there has been the chance to create new solos based on the ideas of the originals. Still within the realm of Trisha Brown’s aesthetic and idiosyncrasies, these gave rise to explore our movement vocabulary and its’ idiosyncratic logic.

What are the advantages and challenges of disabled and non-disabled people dancing together?
There are no advantages or challenges specific to disabled and non-disabled dancers working together, but there are infinite advantages and challenges when people dance together, irrespective of ability.

Broadly, the fact that integrated dance is becoming as professionally recognised as our preconceived notion of dance is an advantage unto itself.

Do you have a career highlight so far?
I have two career highlights. During my Candoco career, working with Wendy Houstoun was something quite incredible. I came to appreciate Wendy’s way of deconstructing dance by placing it in relationship to what it was that interested her. The other highlight was performing with Kate Champion’s Force Majeure at the Sydney Opera House. I remember it being a very proud moment.

What inspires you?
The one thing that continues to inspire me throughout my career are those little moments when the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end. We all live for these moments, and it is when they happen whilst working that I know I am on the right track.

If you could dance with anyone, past or present, who would it be?
If I could dance with anyone throughout the modern history of dance, it would be with, or even for, Pina Bausch. She was, and her work is, simply stunning.


See Candoco Dance Company in Turning 20: Anniversary Bill as part of Dance Umbrella at Southbank Centre on 14 & 15 October. Get tickets here.