Jane Attenborough Award Winner: Celeste Dandeker OBE

Celeste-DandekerCeleste Dandeker started her career as a dancer. Whilst she was dancing with London Contemporary Dance Company in 1973 she suffered a fall which resulted in a spinal injury that left her unable to walk. In 1990, following a long period away from performing, she was invited by the choreographer Darshan Singh Bhuller to dance in a short film which opened up a world of possibility and lead to her and Adam Benjamin co-founding CandoCo Dance Company in 1991. It was a pioneering organisation – a professional dance company specialising in the integration of disabled and non-disabled dancers. At the time it was a daring, challenging prospect and it is to Celeste’s credit that the company is now regarded as one of Britain’s most renowned dance companies, working in the mainstream, but still producing artistically ambitious work.

As part of Celeste’s retirement celebrations in 2007, CandoCo asked people to send in messages, thoughts and memories of her work. The company was overwhelmed with hundreds of messages from people expressing their admiration for Celeste, for her humble but inspirational and generous spirit that had affected them and their own work over the past 20 years.

One of these sums up the messages people sent:

‘Celeste. One of the great dancers and artistic directors of our time. A vibrant, dedicated and wonderful ambassador for dance, a charismatic champion of integration through dance and dance education. You are an inspiration to many. Celeste you have made an important difference to this world of ours and are loved by all who know you.’

Lauren Scholey, Executive Director of CandoCo says:

‘It seems fitting to me that in the year of her retirement, Celeste be awarded with the great honour of the Jane Attenborough Dance UK Industry Award as a sign of recognition from her peers of her contribution to the dance world. She has fundamentally changed it forever, without losing sight of the most important thing of all, creating great art.’