Ready? Play!

Saturday 23rd June 2018

On Tuesday, I performed a 10 minute piece with my friend and collaborator, pianist Mikaela Livadiotis. Things didn’t quite go as planned, but the audience enjoyed it!

Mikaela Livadiotis & Yanaëlle Thiran performing ‘Musical Toys’ at New Lights Piano festival, 19/06/2018. Photo by Madeleine Rose Elliott

The event – We had been invited to play together at New Lights Piano Festival, a festival of contemporary piano music curated by Trinity Laban student Mahsa Salali. Mikaela decided to play some of Sofia Gubaidulina’s ‘Musical Toys’ (composed in the late 1960s). Together, we selected 7 out of the 14 short pieces in the score. I started improvising and setting movements to them at the end of May.

The performance space, a beautiful concert hall called the Peacock Room, was where we had we won the Gladys Puttick Improvisation Competition in 2017. In other words, I was familiar with it and had fantastic memories linked to it. However, on Tuesday morning, I found out that the grand piano would be placed in the middle of the room, with audiences sitting all around it. Having choreographed my micro-pieces on the assumption that the piano would be behind a small rectangular dance space, which all audiences would watch from the same side, I had to quickly remap my pathways in space.

Yanaëlle Thiran performing ‘Musical Toys’ at New Lights Piano festival, 19/06/2018. Photo by Madeleine Rose Elliott

Lesson learnt: performing is like teaching: even when you plan and rehearse for hours, you never know how it is going to go until the class or show is over. You have to be ready to make small adjustments (and sometimes even big changes) on the day, on the spot, in the space. And that’s what we did.

How it went: I managed to spin, hop and slide around the piano, turn a page in Mikaela’s score in the middle of my dances, and play the first four notes of ‘The Echo’ – this last action being the only one that was part of the initial plan. The performance felt pretty blurry from the inside, but I played with it. If musicians “play”, why should we, as  dancers, be so serious about our work? What if I “played” my choreographies instead of merely “performing” them?

Mikaela Livadiotis & Yanaëlle Thiran performing ‘Musical Toys’ at New Lights Piano festival, 19/06/2018. Photo by Madeleine Rose Elliott

I enjoyed looking at spectators around me, surprising them and seeing them smile at me at various points in the piece. Judging from the generous applause they gave us at the end, our proximity with them and playful use of the space really hooked them. A young composer who was in the audience came to me and said that she really enjoyed my interpretation of the music, and the connections between my movements and Mikaela’s performance. The curator’s mum herself told me that she found our piece very touching.

What next? This collaboration with Mikaela is an ongoing process which we’re hoping to take further, so watch this space for future performances and concert dates! I will carry on working on three of these ‘Musical Toys’ next week and perform them again on Saturday 30th June at Hoxton Hall (more info: https://www.hoxtonhall.co.uk/event/ms-paolinis-phantasmagoria-cabaret/). Come along!

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