City:Skinned, King's Cross, London

Try to keep up with this streetwise time-travel
Click to follow
The Independent Culture

Here are two pieces of advice to bear in mind about city:skinned, a 60-minute outdoor performance – or ramble – by the all-women group Sirens Crossing, which takes you through the industrial landscape of the King's Cross area. One, you need to wear walking shoes; but, two, you don't need to run if you don't feel like it. The dancers in front of you may shift into a sudden spurt of speed and rapidly shrink, in spiky darts and bounds, down the street. But if you just follow steadily, they'll eventually wait for you.

Here are two pieces of advice to bear in mind about city:skinned, a 60-minute outdoor performance – or ramble – by the all-women group Sirens Crossing, which takes you through the industrial landscape of the King's Cross area. One, you need to wear walking shoes; but, two, you don't need to run if you don't feel like it. The dancers in front of you may shift into a sudden spurt of speed and rapidly shrink, in spiky darts and bounds, down the street. But if you just follow steadily, they'll eventually wait for you.

We made the mistake of charging after them, and then getting breathless and slowing to a walk. This was the cue for yells of "Get yer legs movin'!" from children in tower-block windows, who have sussed out the performance's timings and are likely to be there every night, ready for a good laugh. They could even, I suppose, try to tag along for free, except they would soon be spotted, since numbers are restricted to just 30 spectators who get clip-on labels at the start.

The start is in the Founders Studio at The Place, Duke's Road. There, Carolyn Deby, the director and choreographer, waits, clothed in a tubular white dress. She intones passages from Aidan Andrew Dun's urban epic poem Vale Royal, while projections cast abstract and urban images.

"And now I invite you to come with me. You must stay together and listen carefully," she then announces, and we're off. We go down streets alongside King's Cross and St Pancras, up towards the derelict buildings by the scruffy King's Cross Depot (former, makeshift clubbing and theatre venue) and gasometer, its circular skeleton stark against the evening sky.

Deby recites some more of Dun's poetry and doubles as a lollipop lady for a road-crossing. Five dancers, wearing yellow tops and trousers with black mittens, do their stuff along the way, often pressing themselves against walls or grappling in pairs like decorous wrestlers. The crumbling buildings by the King's Cross Depot provide the setting for a longer dance, in which the performers are arranged along a succession of connecting rooms.

From there, it's down along the canal – where I fail to persuade a colleague to throw himself in, to perk up our copy – and finally into the old St Pancras Cemetery. The dancers trace slow silhouettes among the dark trees and the graves that used to be more numerous, before they were removed in the 19th century, to make way for the railway, by the novelist Thomas Hardy, who was then working as a city architect.

It is coming up against snippets of history like this that make city:skinned interesting, although much of the spoken text is, frustratingly, inaudible. The piece seems to have been scaled down from its original concept, and the dance is largely rudimentary. It succeeds best as time-travel, a strange and interesting archaeological walk down secret paths and into hidden places. It lays bare a London that's been forgotten for more than 100 years, one that's about to disappear in the ongoing regeneration of King's Cross.

To 29 June (020-7387 0031)

Comments