Next to Skin: The World From Inside and Outside
Next to skin is intimate, but under the skin is as close as you can get, and this is the metaphoric territory that John Scott creates onstage in another marauding collection of vocalisations and movement-bites.
On opening night, some of these were coming from the audience, with sighs and shifting limbs suggesting that the choreographer got under the skin of a few punters. It is true that Scott’s aesthetic hoists up question marks rather than exclamation marks, but perseverance really does pay off.
Faranak Mehdi Golhini sets out the stall alone on stage, reading dog-eared sheets of paper behind a microphone. She describes the intimacy of waking together and of the electricity that passes between two loving beings, and this sense of togetherness becomes the nub of the work, not in any wet-eyed way but through the simple strength of community. A procession of dancers walks slowly backwards in single file, guiding hands on the backs of the dancers in front, and elsewhere loose-limbed duets – either playful or solemn – all articulate this collective support.
Later, Lucius Romeo-Fromm leads the cast through a succession of movement exercises, spicing the instructions with dance-class phrases such as “do the seal” (to describe lifting the head with nose pointing in the air) and “sumo” (for a low crouch). Perhaps more crucially, Scott has fattened up his material, with several clumps of dancers counterpointing each other, unlike previous works which forefronted single events.
Regular collaborator Eric Wurtz provides a lighting design that is every way as unpredictable as the choreography, with glaring washes of oranges and reds, pulsing spotlights on the black walls, and even lights focused on the gantry.
These warm tones soften the austerity of the dancers’ high-pitched screams and twitches, just as Michael Scott’s sparse music suggests interior emotions behind the abstract movements.
Although its vision is occasionally a bit muddy, Next to Skin is Scott’s funniest and most human work to date.