The strongest aspect of Molina Dance Theatre’s Skinless is neither dance (weak) nor theatre (erratic): it’s song. Chiara de Palo’s voice, sliding between brassy belting, fulsome soprano and paper-thin whines, is superbly controlled and utterly unsettling. Her wordless song is the high point in an otherwise patchy piece that begins with two women (Laura Brera and Krista Vuori) hesitantly marking some ballet steps, and ends with a tentative tango. In between, joined by Paris Wade, there’s a brain-dance (lights flash on limbs, like firing neurones), something to do with dresses, a mechanical-doll dance, a children’s rhyme. It lacks coherence, which is fine for a piece apparently about schizophrenia; but also lacks interest, which isn’t.
Choreographer Elena Molinaro could learn from Renaud Wiser’s atmospheric The Skin Walkers. Dancers Lisa Welham and Fiona Jopp are technically top-notch, but the real lesson’s in the composition. Skin Walkers is essentially three linked duets, the first two accompanied by gradual accumulations in the volume and density of sound, the third by a kind of glade of electronic birdsong. In the first, the dancers hook and tangle in slippery knots; the second has more weight and heft, while the last is more poised, the dancers finding a measure of equilibrium. The framework is simple, the detail fascinating, the result gripping.
In Saffron Dodds-Smith’s Wind Mass, the four dancers wriggle pleasurably to some off-the-cuff jazz, then scatter into set pieces linked by sections where they ebb and flow about the stage like pebbles in a tide. Connections are fluid, broken as easily as they are made. Moments of tenderness – a little hug, a brief caress – seem happenstance. Sometimes the dancers scratch their heads, as if trying to remember why they’re there; a few motifs – flickering hands, a ballroom hold – keep returning like fleeting memories. The company is called No Matter, which is apt: this is a nonchalant, carefree work, occasionally pierced with whimsy or wonder.