Review: Story of a Night Pianist

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Story of a Night Pianist, a promenade, interdisciplinary performance, is based on a true story of a strange encounter that composer Maestro Lorenzo Turchi-Floris had whilst playing piano at nighttime. However, this evening at The Space, an atmospheric converted church, also features two additional dance solo pieces both pleasingly rich in talent and innovation.

Opening the first act is a contemporary solo performed by David Gellura from Exzeb Dance Company, performing a piece that essentially breaks dance apart, making the audience fully appreciate and analyse the dancer and watch the dance purely for dance’s sake. Entitled Artism, this multimedia performance begins with a short animated video (by digital artist Sophie Langhor) before a sparsely dressed Gellura begins manipulating his strong, lean body to meticulously demonstrate the power and ability of a dancer’s muscles. Without question, his execution of Eric K Nyirabahunde’s and his own choreography is highly skilled and highly impressive; his movement is always controlled and well-defined, forming incredibly beautiful and seamless patterns.

The underlying beat competes with a series of profound statements and rhetorical questions about dance written by Nyirabahunde, questioning the audience’s commitment to their task, and forcing them to focus on this tribute to the human physique. Whilst Gellura excelled in delivering a technically accurate and demanding performance, it was difficult not to feel distant from him as a performer, as lack of eye contact made it feel somewhat introverted. Admittedly this does reflect the desire to dance for one’s own fulfilment, but it contradicts one of the spoken lines a great deal- that dancers only “exist for the eyes of other people”. Nevertheless, defining a dancer as a normal person was a powerful touch, and left the audience thinking long afterwards about the need to be human that is within everyone.

Next is David Wake’s Rising Pheasant, a combination of martial arts and dance inspired by Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui’s Sutra. Although this piece is performed in silence, Wake cries, shouts and grunts in a manner reminiscent of a warrior, and immediately makes his performance distinct through his clear understanding of style, allowing the audience to become transfixed by this contrasting dance culture. His admirable intensity and immersion in the performance is clear. Similarly to Artism, this piece is in some senses an appreciation of life and of the dancer, and in particular here a celebration of undoubted potential to be unlocked.

After a relaxed interval, the promenade performance of Story of a Night Pianist begins. Choreographed by Anna Buonomo, the group of dancers are scattered across pavements, inside or on top of phone boxes and are hanging from playground apparatus, creating a wonderful eerie and unsettling mood as the audience follow superb violinist Barbara Zdziarska through the streets of the Isle of Dogs, picking up additional audience members in Pied Piper fashion before returning to The Space to continue the performance while Turchi-Floris’s breathtaking piano solo is played. The dancers each depict nineteenth century workers at Trinity Buoy Wharf in East London, some with more specific stories to tell than others, but all contributing successfully to the ghostly feel. Particularly strong is the lovers’s pas de deux performed by David Gellura and Sacha Flanagan; the pair clearly have great trust and connection to create such a fiery and mesmerising narrative. The Dealer, Soledad De la Hoz, also deserves a mention, with a chilling omniscience to her interpretation that is hard to define.

Dedicated to experimentation and creative ideas, this diverse range of performances has really stayed true to the ethos behind it. With such great ideas, originality and flair, Story of a Night Pianist could not really fail to impress the audience, introducing many to how successful site-specific performance can be.

Story of a Night Pianist will be playing at the Bloomsbury Festival this Oct. The narrative is also currently being developed into a new dance film, Faraday’s Cage. For more information  please visit Faraday’s Cage website.