Funding level: £5,001 to £10,000


“It’s not exaggerating to say that dance has saved a lost and damaged boy – it’s given him a voice, a community, a purpose and a future.” (Cando2 parent)

Founded in 1991, Candoco is the globally renowned dance company of disabled and non-disabled dancers. Awarded the 2015 UK Theatre Award Achievement in Dance, we have an excellent reputation for our outstanding productions and cutting-edge participation activity. Candoco provides new ways into dance for those too often excluded and broadens perceptions around disability, redefining what ‘ability’ means for everyone involved – participants, artists, dancers and audiences – and making an impact on wider society.

Learning has always underpinned our activity, and one of our signature programmes is our Youth Dance classes (Cando2) for disabled and non-disabled people aged 13-25. We provide twice-weekly two-hour contemporary dance sessions for 35-40 young people for 32 weeks of the year. Sessions are led by experienced disabled and non-disabled artists, creating performances to present to audiences of around 3,000 people a year. This is supplemented by workshops in schools that provide a pathway for young people to engage with dance, working with approximately 100 disabled and non-disabled young people annually.

It is important that our sessions are inclusively run, giving disabled and non-disabled young people the (unfortunately rare) opportunity to work together and express themselves, promoting understanding and cohesion between participants. We often hear and observe non-disabled participants being vocal on the importance of inclusion, particularly with their teachers, friends and parents.

Testimonies from young people, their parents and youth workers confirm that Candoco's specialist skills and approach offer a unique opportunity. “My son was diagnosed with autism aged three and found the school system confusing and traumatic. For someone who has felt an outsider his whole life because of disability, the opportunity to belong, to have a community to be part of, to share common goals and speak the same language is powerful and transformative.” (Cando2 parent)

Cando2 gives participants an opportunity to mix with people of different abilities and acquire new skills, raising self-esteem and aspirations. Confidence and self-belief are raised through our individual-centred approach, where everyone is listened to. There is little conflict in what begins as a group of disparate, often socially isolated and under-confident teenagers, which is a testament to a process of learning that allows each young person to be accepted on their own terms.

One young wheelchair user joined our Youth Dance classes aged just 12, and enjoyed them so much that she trained further and joined the main company as a professional dancer to perform at the 2012 Paralympic Closing Ceremony. Now she is part of the team who lead and inspire young people at Cando2. She says, “Cando2 was my first experience of participating in dance and I couldn’t have asked for a better one! It was a place of joy, discovery and ultimately, belonging. To become part of the ‘Candoco family’ in this way was instrumental in my decision of dance as a career choice.”

There is a distinct lack of affordable, regular, high quality inclusive dance activities for disabled young people. We are the only company that provides regular inclusive dance classes to encourage long-term relationships between disabled and non-disabled young people, and scope for real development of creative and social skills.

When the arts are being cut in schools, and our funding to support such projects is declining, supporting this vital programme is more important than ever. A donation of £10,000 from the Aviva Community Fund will ensure we can provide two high-quality artists and an accessible space in which to work for a year, enabling us to continue to make a meaningful impact on the lives of young people.

Project Video

Candoco Dance Company

Moment of Pride

Seeing young people discover their creative voice through movement is a source of inspiration for everyone involved with Cando2: “My daughter, a wheelchair user, returns from each class with new confidence and sense of self. She is not only learning dance, she is learning lessons for life.”

Location: London