The Malta Independent 24 September 2023, Sunday
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The Unknown beyond – ‘Horizons’

Malta Independent Sunday, 21 February 2010, 00:00 Last update: about 11 years ago


I arrived at The Dance Workshop Studio somewhat tired, thinking 9.30pm rehearsals are rather late. As Francesca Abela Tranter (pictured), the choreographer and artistic director of Contact Dance Company, shook my hands she led me quickly to where she was still giving a class. I sat down facing the dancers on the only chair in the studio and watched. The students were corrected, demonstrated the right way and asked to try again. When class was over most dancers left, a couple stayed on and new faces showed up. These were the members of Contact Dance Company – Gillian Zammit, Olivia Vella, Yasmine Nuvoli, Rachel Grech, Florinda Camilleri, Christina Camilleri and Francesca Vassallo.

Five minutes later they started their two-hour rehearsal. The dancers immediately came to life as every step reflected the powerful, throbbing music in the hall. Their moves were fast, sometimes short and quirky and occasionally longer with graceful strokes. Each body part synchronised with the rest to form fluid movements expressed from deep within. They jumped into the air and fell horizontally on the floor in rhythm. Each sequence of movements was divided into phrases and each phrase was sometimes repeated until it was perfected. When they made a mistake they laughed and sometimes had a quick discussion about a particular move, giving advice, nodding, smiling and then continuing. I could see that there was easy co-operation and their choreographer had already spent hours perfecting each move. They were strong, not just physically but also mentally and they could truly dance.

Francesca comes from a wide dance background specialising in choreography, movement studies, release and contact work. She is influenced by all these disciplines and says that the beauty of contemporary dance is that it is always evolving and with each generation new influences delve into the art. The discipline allows the possibilities to push any physical boundaries outside traditional mainstream dance. There is no law but only possibilities.

She says that Contact Dance Company has reached this good level of performance through 10 years of hard work and many exchanges with international artists who Francesca invites to Malta annually. Learning other culture forms is essential to develop the maturity of movement. She states that: “There is no present without the past. It is thanks to past founding dancers, sheer hard work, perseverance, dedication and love for the art that we have reached the levels and places we arrived to date.”

When choreographing she does not go to the studio with a preconceived idea and set sequence of steps which she teaches, but she gives the dancers the space and freedom to create the dance through the tools she has trained them to use. She does this through task giving, where she presents the dancers with an idea or concept. The more awkward situations the dancers find themselves in, the more she encourages them to challenge it. This is when a new choreography is born. It is through these tasks that she then directs and manipulates the dance to take shape and develop. “It is the job of the choreographer to bring the best out of each of her dancers. These dancers develop their tools through many training sessions. They not only develop the technical side of dance but tap into other elements. Their own individuality eventually culminates to their persona in performance. They are athletically strong and besides being technically versed and disciplined, they own the embodiment of freedom when they move.”

Since its inception Contact Dance Company has created a new project in contemporary dance every year, developing it over a period of months, practising four times a week. Francesca credits much of her teaching background to the Cunningham technique, focusing on the architecture of the body in space, rhythm and articulation. She is influenced by Limon using release energy in relation to gravity and Graham which is characterised by grounded floor work and use of strengthening floor exercises. She emphasises an understanding of how the body moves from the centre into space. “Young dancers grow up looking in the mirror while dancing but I try to develop their ability to work from within out, both mentally and physically. If not, they lose part of their senses because they depend on what they see rather than what they feel.” Her choreographic influences vary and are reflections of life experiences, moments or curious possibilities.

Horizons by Contact Dance Company will be a celebration of 10 years of contemporary dance and will include dances that have been created during this decade while also premiering two new works. The show starts at 7.30pm at MITP on 5, 6 and 7 March. There will be a montage of footage showing how the final product is reached - through hard work, tears and laughter – which makes this art so humanistic. This footage captures the essence of the company members and students, their experience in local workshops organised by Contact Dance Company, their interaction with international guests and the approach of diverse methodology.

Musician Renzo Spiteri (pictured below), who also plays a demanding technical role in design, will accompany some of the dances. The diversity and capability of the dancers will appeal to a wide range of audiences. Moreover, an exhibition of paintings and photography by artists, who throughout the years have participated in workshops by capturing the beauty of movement through lens or brush, will be held in the foyer. These artists also form a vital part of the history of this company.

Horizons’ aim is to promote dance and stimulate the creative pursuit of dance performance, choreography and collaborative projects. It encompasses dynamics, rhythm, technique and skill. Watching this show is a true live-art experience which touches somewhere deep within and uplifts the mood. After the rehearsal I realised that my tiredness had dissipated and my mood was high as I had somehow picked up the dancers’ energy. I think that ultimately we watch quality dance to enjoy ourselves and get a good feeling and that is exactly what the audience will receive by watching this performance.

For more information phone on 7940 3588; email: [email protected] or call at the Dance Studio Shop, Sliema Road, Kappara.

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