Founder of Candoco Dance Company

Celeste Dandeker Arnold OBE, is the Co-Founder of Candoco Dance Company, the first professional inclusive dance company of disabled and non-disabled dancers in the UK. Celeste born in 1951, is a British dancer and trained at the London Contemporary Dance School from 1968 to 1971, after which she joined the London Contemporary Dance Theatre until an accident on stage in1973, left her with quadriplegia. Celeste studied costume design at Croydon College of Art and subsequently designed costumes for Union Dance Company, London Contemporary Dance Theatre, National Youth Dance Company, Graeae and Candoco Dance Company.

Her dance career was revived in 1990, when dancer, choreographer and film maker Darshan Singh Bhuller, invited her to feature in a short film called ’The Fall’, for the BBC2 10X10 series. The story was similar to her story and she danced both in and out of the wheelchair. This led to her joining forces with Adam Benjamin to explore more possibilities for disabled and non-disabled dancers in workshop settings. These workshops quickly developed into establishing Candoco Dance Company, co-founded by Adam and Celeste, with some of the workshop participants and other invited professional dancers. They were determined to make quality artistic and exciting work and to be seen in the mainstream. They invited professional choreographers such as Siobhan Davies, Emilyn Claid, Finn Walker, Javier de Frutos, Rafael Bonachela and Arthur Pita to name a few. The idea that they would excel as dancers outlived their first few years when they won many awards. In 1994, Candoco Dance Company, in collaboration with choreographer Victoria Marks and director and film maker Margaret Williams (MJW Productions) made a dance film called 'Outside In’. It was shown at various film festivals around the world and led to many invitations for the company to tour nationally and internationally.

Candoco Founder Members stayed on for 8 years embedding the Company’s ethos to expand the perceptions of what dance can be in Performance and Education work. In 1999 Celeste gave up dancing to concentrate on the artistic direction of the company. She was appointed a Member of the British Empire (MBE) in 1997 in the New Year’s Honours List for Services to Dance and Disability.

In 2007 Celeste retired as Artistic Director and was promoted to an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) for Services to Dance in the New Year's Honours List. She also received the 2007 Jane Attenborough Dance Award for her singular contribution to dance in Britain and the Critic’s Circle De Valois Award for Outstanding Achievement in Dance. In 2013, she was given the Liberty Human Rights Arts Award. Celeste is proud to be both a Patron of Candoco Dance Company and the Lucy Ullman Travelling Scholarship Fund (LUTSF).