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The talented team behind last year’s Smother, 201 Dance Company, return to the Fringe with another ambitious piece this year: Skin. 

Tackling female to male gender transition through contemporary hip hop, the production opens on a beanie-clad boy, Michael, facing the audience and looking at his mirror reflection – a younger version of himself, identically dressed, with his back to us. Soon, as our protagonist sheds his jeans and hat, exposing a mane of hair, it becomes apparent that Michael was not born male and was, in fact, female. The following dance shows Michael’s struggle to keep up with his mother’s mannequin-esque movements, proves his discomfort in this female body, and we see him pluck at his dress and hair with agony.

The sharp, jagged choreography of Andrea Walker suits the subject well and as performed by Michaela Cisarikova, the jarring movements visualise Michael’s struggle in a way that is physically tangible. The original score works well in tandem too, with a thudding beat that reverberates in the audience’s bodies as they watch and adds to the sense of distress. Some ensemble moments are strong, as the rest of the dancers – both male and female – taunt Michael, emphasising his lack of belonging with either gender.

Unfortunately, most of the group choreography struggles to match up to the solo pieces Cisarikova performs, taking away some of the power of the piece and often the pace verges on the slow side, with movements repeated and spaces between the routines dragged out.

Skin is an extremely relevant piece this Fringe, and adds to the impressive array of productions tackling gender roles this season. However, some of the pacing issues take away from the rawness the production seeks to portray, resulting in a few moments that stop just short of the mark this talented company are certainly capable of achieving.

Words: Chiara Margiotta

Picture: Christopher Nash

Skin, Pleasance Courtyard, Aug 16-28, 8pm

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