2Faced Dance Company’s new work Out of His Skin is a pure adrenaline rush. This all-male company, lead by director Tamsin Fitzgerald, proves what the young, skilled body can accomplish. Drawing from urban roots, the company has all the explosions and stunts of break dance, but the real excitement is watching these dance artists refine the breaking vocabulary to find new depths physically and emotionally.

2Faced Dance Company © Brian Slater
2Faced Dance Company
© Brian Slater

This was the first time I had seen 2Faced Dance perform, and I had very little knowledge of the company’s style or history. They began as a youth dance company, and over the years have evolved into a publicly-funded, touring professional company and dance education programme. Fitzgerald described their dance style in the evening’s post-show talk as “urban contemporary” and explained that some of the dancers in the current company were original members of the youth company when the programme first began.

This idea of “urban contemporary” came across well in Out of His Skin. The work is based on a hypothetical story of one man trying to break free from his monotonous and linear lifestyle. It begins with a brooding solo by Ed Warner atop a muti-storey tower on one side of the stage. This solo ends with Warner falling backwards, arms outstretched off the back of the highest tier... onto a stunt mattress. The show quickly vamps up into a pounding array of solo, duet and group work, with more level changes and high arcing tricks than I can count. Snippets of break dance vocabulary were connected by smooth transitions and blended with contemporary floorwork and standing movement.

Watching how the dancers handled this intricate mesh of ups and downs was my favourite part of this piece. While the amazing tricks were a huge focus, the landings and softness into the floor, characteristic of contemporary work, showed the technical control and acute awareness the dancers had when navigating the challenging choreography. Artistically, the emotive aspects of the piece were apparent, but I often lost them in the constant drive of intense physicality. I felt like the pace set by the movement and the repetitive drone of the music made it hard for me to switch when the dancers did draw focus to a more vulnerable energy. This seemed to strike a discord – almost like the elements clashed, instead of weaving within the piece.

However, I did enjoy the different energies each dancer brought to the piece, and I felt increasingly connected to each individual throughout the work. This was shattered in the ending, when each dancer donned ski masks. At the time I wanted to keep connected to the individuality, and hated the uniformity the masks created. During the post-show discussion, the artists described how each dancer was meant to be a different facet of the one man in the narrative, which made me reflect on how the ski masks did remove the individuality and mesh the dancers into this one man. Additionally, they described the tower and its relevance to the piece as the man’s home or safe haven. I missed this sentiment during the work, and I wish that more had been done to cement these ideas into the choreography.

I think when this company figures out how to infuse more background and imagery into the work, while maintaining the already strong physicality and choreographic elements, they will be unstoppable. The drive and passion these dance artists have is clear, and I look forward to following their growth and development. Out of His Skin was a relentless display of energy and skill, which was exciting and fresh. Director Tamsin Fitzgerald and her dance artists are a force to watch, and are poised to make a huge impact on dance here in the UK.