Dance Manchester talks to….

Pedro Machado, Artistic Co-Director of Candoco Dance Company

Photo by Hannah Dye

Candoco Dance Company’s Artistic Co-Director sat down with Chris Connolly to talk about his inspirations, diversity & his journey…


Chris Connolly: Candoco’s 25 years have included: 500 performances, 60 countries, 7,500 workshops and 400,000 people. What does it mean to you to be Artistic Co-Director?

Pedro Machado: It means more than the numbers. The numbers are great but… they’re just numbers. Candoco is a contemporary dance company that hires disabled and non disabled dancers in its cast. We have a mixed repertoire, we invite different choreographers to make work and we give lots of workshops with a lot of people. And yes, we have travelled 60 countries which is very nice. I mean, for me, being Artistic Director means to be able to direct the realisation of ideas. I invite choreographers to come into the studio not knowing what is going to happen and then after 7 or 8 weeks process they leave with a piece created. The dancers; they come, they are part of the creation, they make it come alive. I also see them grow as artists throughout the years, throughout the spaces. So it’s how those ideas change people, how ideas happen when people come together. And personally it has just been a place where I found a home. Where I found a sense of belonging and I could give something back.

CC: What inspires you as a dance fan, a dance artist and an artistic director?

PM: It’s funny because my first premiere as Artistic Director started here at Contact.

CC: So this is where it all began?

PM: Yeah, as I came in today I remembered. I have been here as a dancer a few times, too.

CC: And your inspiration?

PM: It comes down to ideas. I’m interested in artists who make me think or feel differently about things. I think artists who transform the world we live in and people who allow me to see another aspect of life, of work, of dance inspires me.

CC: Tell me about the double-bill…

PM: It’s one piece that we’ve been doing since our 20th anniversary, Set and Reset / Reset. It’s a very special piece in our repertoire. It’s a restaging of a piece that already existed from when we were an exclusive dance company, so to speak. When we were a company of only disabled dancers and a piece from 30 years ago. But not only this, it’s a beautiful piece. Beautiful movements, beautiful patterns, beautiful co-ordination. Very intricate, very subtle. So it’s great to be performing it with almost the 3rd or 4th cast to celebrate our 25th anniversary.

CC: And Let’s Talk About Dis

PM: This piece by Hetain Patel, in one way, is already becoming a fan favourite. As a light-hearted piece, it is, in a funny way, one of the few pieces we have that actually talks about disability directly. Actually he doesn’t talk about ‘disability’, he talks about identity and our identity containing disability, so that is what’s interesting I think. Set and Reset / Reset is an abstract piece of dance, all the dancers move in their own way, but they are essentially as one in that piece, where as Hetain’s piece allows the audience to meet the dancers personally & the Candoco audience likes that.

CC: With such different works on the same night, this double-bill is almost as diverse as the company itself.

PM: We like diversity.

CC: Quite an old piece & a brand-new piece, too.

PM: I always find it fascinating that dance dates so quickly. It’s such a young art-form compared to other art forms. It is usually done by younger people and a piece that is 30 years old is considered as ’old’. You wouldn’t think this in any other art form. In music, in visual art, even in cinema.

CC: The Observer described Candoco as, “The Company for which choreographers reserve their wildest and often most inventive work.” Why do you think that is?

PM: In a way that encompasses the vision for the company. The idea that diversity makes the art form richer. That is the reason we do it. I think choreographers are used to working with a particular set of dancers, with a particular set of training, with a particular set of style attached to their training and then they come and meet someone who dances using a wheelchair or dances using crutches, this gives different possibilities. I think it gives permission to try different things, too. Plus sometimes choreographers will choose to use the issue of disability, as Hetain did for this production, so I think in one way a commission for any other company when it gives an opportunity for choreographers to think outside the box, to take risks, we look after our choreographers so I think it’s a good set up for them and for us.

CC: And finally, Candoco’s motto is ‘what dance can be’. What does that mean to you?

PM: You know I said I like transformation at the beginning & I think that we’re trying to do a little bit of this, from how we perceive dance to be & maybe change peoples notions of disability. I love dance, but I think dance can be very selective with the kind of people it invites in. Part of this has got to do with aesthetic choices which themselves are guided & ruled by training. There is something about the way training is made & the style that we have in training. We all oblige sometimes, without thinking about it. It doesn’t have to be like this. For example in Europe we consider classical to be anything that reminds us of ballet, where as Indian dance is much, much, much older than ballet. It has like a thousand years more, so I mean that’s classical in a sense. So I think, in one way, the problem is we are perpetuating an aesthetic choice without questioning – and for a disabled person that is very serious because, you know, I have many non-disabled dancers – usually women who started dancing at age 4 or 5 because they started moving along to some music so someone said ‘I’ve got a great idea, let’s take them to ballet’, but maybe parents with a disabled child wouldn’t say this even though they can enjoy dancing the same way, and I think dancing has been with us as a species for all mankind. Perhaps it was around before agriculture. I think we’ve always danced & no one cared if someone moved differently or whatever. You just dance because you dance. Society created a set of rules and parameters that excludes people and I think that’s what we want to change. We want to see what can be.


These are Candoco’s last UK performances this year, however, they’ll be touring in Germany & South Korea before the end of 2016.

Interview by Chris Connolly – DM’s Marketing & Social Media Co-ordinator

Comments to: @ManchesterDance + @candocodance