A man crawls on all fours across the stage. His eyes remain fixed on the ground directly beneath him. Two women sit astride him looking out, faces neutral as they progress through the space. One moment it's a show of wanton subjugation-pageant queens swanning on a laboring human float. Another moment the three are a single body, an insect, or maybe a chimera, something fascinatingly wrong.
"Shame is an emotion we all experience. It is also an emotion we work hard to avoid," writes choreographer Joanna Read in the program notes to Lie Through My Skin, which, she reveals, "began as an honest confrontation of my white privilege and the shame it induced." However, using an all-white team of collaborators seems a disingenuous way to address the issue. Unfortunately, because white privilege is not a metaphor for the rest of society, Lie Through My Skin indeed works hard to avoid addressing the subject it purports to examine.
As performed by four strong dancers, a vivid succession of scenes emerge that indicate emotional possibility but then do not develop or cohere. The dancers stand in a circle, touching each other, sometimes confrontationally, sometimes intimately. As they clasp their hands behind their backs, their movement becomes inhibited without the tension of a genuine obstacle, so consciously is it done and so easily undone. Jess Duffy's belt unravels to become dual whips that smack an insistent rhythm against the floor as she balances on exquisitely arched feet. Michelle Giordanelli's sleeves accordion out to wrap her in a straitjacket before she slips out, sheathing it over her partner's head. Late in the work, they begin to vocalize in stentorian giggles. Tennis balls scatter over the floor, and three dancers stuff them under the shirt of a prone fourth like children secreting a mess under a rug.
Costumes by Vin Reed, which might be Thneeds woven from the storied Truffula Tree, seem the most consciously designed element of the hour-long work. The male dancers (Jacob Buerger, Michael O'Neill) wear a costume piece that looks in various lights and angles like a deflated tool belt, a fanny pack, an apron, a loincloth, or a diaper. Yet while each of those articles has a function, like a chastity belt that doesn't lock, this flat bit of fabric doesn't do more than flap. Perhaps the insistence on form following function is a modernist principle that has outlived its value. Perhaps the earnest proposition of meaningful investigation is the only mistake or lie of Lie Through My Skin. v