Skin (3 stars)

This article is from 2017


credit: Chris Nash

Sincerely performed hip-hop exploration of gender transition

Ballet may have a reputation for telling old-fashioned fairytales, but hip hop is fast emerging as a narrative dance language that can speak to younger generations. With its textured offshoots, and emotionally-loaded gestures it's the perfect medium with which to explore issue-based stories, as is the case in Skin.

We begin by seeing Michael, a slender boy in beanie and jeans (Michaela Cisarikova), dancing to rumbling electro sounds with the familiar sharp, criss-crossing movements of hip hop. Soon he takes off this hat and his clothes, to reveal long hair and a feminine body. He dons a dress and we flashback to see his transition from the body in which he was born to his true self.

Candy Dickinson as the child Michael and Lara Rose McCabe as his mother complete the lead cast. An ensemble also clusters around Michael, sometimes spreading out behind him, sometimes ambushing him, like an amalgamation of his own demons and society's judgements. In the piece's best moments Cisarikova's movements show the clawing torture of being in the wrong body. Some of the gender symbols however are a little reductive, such as the donning of lipstick to represent femininity or McCabe's waacking arms, daintily framing her face and slicking down her bosom.

But despite its flaws, this is a piece that will speak in sincere terms to a generation of trans people who are not given space in mainstream culture. It's a story that deserves to be told, and hopefully will spur others to tell theirs in perhaps more nuanced ways.

Pleasance Courtyard, until 28 Aug (not 14), 8pm, £9–£12 (£8–£11).


  • 3 stars

Fusing urban and contemporary styles with an original score, award winning choreographer Andrea Walker directs a cast of seven dancers in a fast paced, emotionally driven story of identity and belonging.