Review: 2Faced Dance Company - Out Of His Skin - The Place

Performance: 22 & 23 February 2013
Reviewed by Lise Smith - Monday 25 February 2013

2Faced Dance Company

Reviewed: 22 February

Many years ago, I saw a performance by Jasmin Vardimon’s Zbang Dance Company (since renamed), in which the opening five minutes consisted of two dancers lying onstage, unable to see one another, performing perfectly-timed minimal arm gestures accompanied by an electronic soundtrack with no discernible pulse. The effect, which must have taken many studio hours to perfect, was something near to magic.

I mention this performance to illustrate what was, for me, lacking from 2Faced Dance Company’s otherwise engaging performance on Friday night. Pioneers of minimalist modern dance like Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker and DV8’s Lloyd Newson – to whom Out Of His Skin owes a visible debt – know that unison effects, precisely executed, can be incredibly powerful. When we watch dancers perform in tight unison, we admire the skills involved but we also perceive a heightened relationship – an invisible bond, an almost-physical connection. The slightest misstep or a gesture out of time breaks that bond, and changes the way we view the characters on stage.

Out Of His Skin follows the story of a young man, a hedonistic thrill-seeker driven to push himself to extremes as an escape from the stress of challenging times. For Tamsin Fitzgerald’s company, this escape seems to involve breaking into building sites, BASE jumping, and topless snowboarding (although I may have misread the significance of the ski goggles that appear on the cast towards the end). The character is played by an ensemble of six male dancers identically dressed in boiler suits; Fitzgerald’s opening sequence has the six performing a floor-based sequence of minimal arms and torso gestures, establishing the company as one person. Or it would, if the unison worked. Unfortunately, sloppy timing and variations in the material dissolved the illusion rapidly.

It’s a shame that the lack of unison had such a distracting effect, because there’s a lot to enjoy about the movement material itself. Dancers cut and slide across the stage, swinging from and leaping off a piece of set built to look like the skeleton of a tower block. They jump onto and dive over each other with dazzling energy and speed. The “extreme sports” theme is used more as an inspiration than in mimetic motifs; Fitzgerald’s choreography summons up the sense of risk and thrill without directly drawing on sports-based movements.

The company boasts six able performers, who leap, roll and slide from one demanding phrase to the next with enviable stamina. Small group sections, in which the men use each other as mobile scaffolding on which to climb and scramble ever higher are impressive, the connections between bodies constantly shifting in search of ever greater thrills. But these pleasures are peppered with more moments of shoddy unison, which continues to interfere with the readability – and our enjoyment – of the piece.

Out Of His Skin deals with an interesting, dark-tinged topic; the ways in which we try to break free from the humdrum realities of existence – even if the choreography never really delves into what might cause somebody to do so. The material is excitingly physical, and the performance boasts several strong individual performances. But a piece in which six dancers embody one character clearly needs the performers to move as one body, and until that happens this will be a less gripping piece than it could be.

Lise Smith is a dance manager and teacher, as well as a regular contributor to & Arts Professional

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