Anna Buonomo/Bricolage Dance Movement: Story of a Night Pianist
Exzeb Dance Company: Artism
Company Quirk: Echo
David Waker: Rising Pheasant
London, The Space
28 August 2013
I’ve not been to The Space on the Isle of Dogs (in London’s Docklands) for many a long year but a visit earlier this week mightily reminded me of a trend in dance – to be much closer to performances than we are generally used to. The Space, an ex-Presbyterian Church, is only 60 seats arranged in 4 rows and the dancers are within touching distance of row 1 – very intimate and exciting to see muscles, flesh and bone do their amazing thing… or hopefully amazing thing. Up in Edinburgh (feature coming), for the Scottish Ballet Dance Odysseys programme, the Festival Theatre was partly reconfigured to give a smaller studio experience with an emphasis on chamber works, and there were very close-up performances in the foyer, too. It was taken further by Scottish Dance Theatre having the audience on stage, in SisGO, with dance movement thrillingly all around you. And last year’s theatrical find for me was The Print Room in Notting Hill Gate – seating about 100 in the round, it’s a magical space in which to see dance. And as I write, details have just come in of the new GOlive Dance and Performance Festival at the 60-seat Lion & Unicorn Theatre in Kentish Town – I’ve never been there but must catch at least one performance, such is the attraction of being close to the action.
Choreographer Anna Buonomo and her Bricolage Dance Movement were the second part of this intimate bill – before the interval they invited 3 loosely-connected companies/dancers to showcase short works. There was a good start by David Gellura (Exzeb Dance Company) in Artism, if it didn’t seem to be good at first. There were some film projections before things really got going, starting with a Nietzsche quote that flashed by too quickly to read and what seemed like some surreal Terry Gilliam-inspired animations updated for the 21st century – neat but how all this related to the programme notes about dancers and sensitivity, or indeed the subsequent dance, I know not. But Gellura is a dancer who commands you watch him: shaved-headed and stripped – apart from pants and knee protection – he is a powerful, athletic and accomplished dance presence on stage. His movement was in 5-minute staccato bursts of continuous breathless spinning movement. He spins on his feet, he spins on his knees, he spins on the floor – one second he is flat out and the next he has bounced and weaved to upright, all apparently effortlessly. I was less impressed by the electronic score and voice over but his is a dance name I note and no surprise to see he had a significant part later on in the night as well.
Quirk (company) in Echo, created by Mikkel Svak and danced by Nefeli Tsiouti, fared less well over its 12 minutes. None of the parts seemed to usefully add up, with movement based on ballet, contemporary noodling and not so exciting Hip-hop, coupled to a rummage through a box of personal mementos and a voice-over (presumably the dancer’s) of dreamlike thoughts about organising travel, wanting to be a bus driver and rabbits. Momentum picked up again with David Waker’s Rising Pheasant. A recent urban dance graduate, Waker has based this on martial arts and there was a lot of powerful and deliberate movement accompanied by explosive yells. It was interesting because it was seen close to, executed with utter conviction and, at 6 minutes, the right length. Where Waker goes from here I don’t know – it felt more like an interesting diversion than a dance work, perhaps.
The Story of a Night Pianist started with us all being told to follow the violinist – Barbara Zdziarska in a black Victorian dress, who takes us on a magical journey out of the theatre and around local streets as dusk closes in. As your eyes adjust to the darkness you become aware of ghostly 19th century figures – hanging off railings, sitting on telephone boxes and skulking in odd corners. Few are demonstrative and you almost trip over them. While absorbed in what one apparition was up to I was unaware of another perched on a high wall above me – benignly gazing down, but still giving me a bit of a fright when I eventually clocked them.
We each got a slightly different experience, depending where we were in the 60-strong group, but the best of it for me was the husband and wife having a violent argument and careering down the road – she dragged or being chased. There were some other set pieces – one like Thriller – but for the most part the cast of nearly 30 were each lost in their own past world.
Eventually we got back to the theatre and part 2 begins as we stand and sit haphazardly around the stage area and the piano playing (Lorenzo Turchi-Floris and originator of the idea) begins – nominally illuminated by the soft light of a paraffin lamp. Amongst others the Husband and Wife really propel things again with their unhappiness. Danced excellently by David Gellura and Sacha Flanagan, these are luminous characters drawn from a MacMillan dancescape. Things culminate with a final routine for all the ghosts – perhaps looking for release. But the best of Night Pianist really happens outside and sans the pianist, it has to be said.
Overall what I liked were the leads and those with a definite back story – too many tortured souls seemed a little generic. I wanted to be propositioned (if perhaps I did see a prostitute skulking in the dark at one point), be sold to by a ghostly costermonger or see ragged children play hopscotch and argue etc. But I very much liked the random factor including locals leaning out of windows or going about their business and walking down the path amongst the performers: the old lady with her Westie was terrific – she should claim equity rates. I also liked the teenagers pretending to be contemporary dancers and then, as a dare, doing purposeful walks through the dancers and audience. Not part of the story but very much part of the experience and linking East End past with East End today.
Story of a Night Pianist trailer – from May 2012, performed at Trinity Buoy Wharf as part of Big Dance 2012.
As a producer of a different dance experience I thought Anna Buonomo did a fine job and had some good dramatic dancers too. Not sure about her as a choreographer but then it wasn’t really that type of show. It’s certainly a show worth building on and repeating, that’s for sure.