Wed 2nd – Mon 28th August 2017


Charlotte Lock

at 00:47 on 8th Aug 2017



SKIN is a ground-breaking collaboration between dance and theatre, using the medium of hip-hop to illustrate the experience of a boy’s gender transition. This magnetic show has a remarkable ability to captivate its audience whilst tackling this sensitive issue.

It must first be recognised that the entire journey of a gender transition cannot possibly be contained in an hour- long show, particularly given its personal and unique nature. That being said, 201 Dance Company succeed in spectacularly capturing the subject in a way that is dynamic and gentle in equal measure. Each performer seemed to possess an infinite amount of energy, and the show somehow felt both frenetic and perfectly controlled - a sure sign of adept dancers.

The choreography, by Andrea Walker, beautifully explored different elements of this incredibly personal journey, from almost violent and abrupt movements on a dark stage, to much more tender and flowing motions. The transition was further portrayed through entirely original compositions, incorporating musical components of electronic, string, guitar and even mechanical noises. The lighting and tech enhanced the production again, greatly improving production value and influencing the overall tone of the piece. In particular, the final element of the show employed a bright light shone diagonally across the stage, cutting through the boy and his mother, playing a key role in the emotion developed which led to a number of tears amongst the audience.

Perhaps the true beauty of the show, however, is directly related to its non-verbal nature. This enabled individuals to interpret the performance, the characters and the progression in the way that they want. This allows the production to be personal to each member of the audience and arguably for some, more relatable.

The performance is largely centred around physical movement and dance, however, costumes and occasionally props play a significant role. A lipstick is repeatedly used early in the show, before make-up is removed towards the end of the performance. A notable and moving progression as, in a touching moment, a younger version of the boy helps to change him and reveal who he truly is. Moreover, costume serves as a physical symbol to the audience of the progression, as the show manages to flawlessly maintain the non-verbal format of the production.

It is the familial relationship between the boy and his mother which is most poignant, with the medium of dance used to perfectly depict the love of a mother regardless of gender. The strength with which the two performers grasp at each other, moving apart but always returning, shows the incredible power of touch, arguably conveying what mere speech could not. This incredible physicality is critical to the beauty of the production and is an utter visual delight.


Ela Portnoy

at 13:51 on 8th Aug 2017



‘SKIN’ is a tender piece exploring a young man’s experience of gender transition. The performance flows through various stages of his life, exploring his relationships with his family and his relationship with himself. Different dance sequences tease apart the changing struggles that arise with being transgender.

One of the most beautiful aspects of the piece is the variation between sequences. The choreography was done in a clear, dynamic way that told the story in different shades of emotion. For instance, one motif was people stretching their arms out to either side, which made me think of Da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man. It was used by the boy’s mum in an expression of femininity, then by the ensemble and the main character in a confused, twisting way. Later it got more and more distorted and aggressive until it was a frenzy of self-hate. This dynamic fluidity was one of the most powerful things about the performance – it took the audience along on the journey of the characters.

This was also brought out in changes in the ensemble itself. Some of the most interesting parts of the piece were the expressions of the main character’s feelings. His solos (performed by Michaela Cisarikova) had some beautifully evocative imagery. In general Cisarikova’s performance was incredibly subtle and versatile. One of my favourite moments was when she stood still and made the muscles of her arms ripple, looking at them longingly. But I especially liked the use of the 4-person ensemble who circulated her, who I took to represent the character’s ‘inner demons’. Such ensembles can sometimes be overused in theatre, but the interaction between the ensemble and Cisarikova was both horrible and beautifully expressive. The duets between the young boy (Candy Dickinson) and his mum and dad (Luca Catoggio and Lara Mccabe) were incredibly powerful too.

In fact, by far the triumph of the piece is the scene in which the young man comes out as transgender to his mother. There was a moment of stillness, then he walked to her and after hesitating, she hugs him. It was a pure and understated moment. This company has a knack for presenting the emotional connection that binds humans without frills, without bows and without pretensions (I am actually crying in front of my laptop thinking about it). As the sequence developed, they took you from tears to a kind of quiet sigh and then a light smile. In some ways, dance can relate stories with a sensitivity and gentleness that just doesn’t come across in other forms of theatre.

There are no weak links in the cast, but the strength of this performance lies in the ensemble. Each performer has an ability to bring out the focus of each move, and together they bring out the focus of each section of choreography. It is this awareness of the overall shape of the piece that makes them astonishing to watch. 201 have created a masterpiece of human sensitivity.


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