The Malta Independent 9 May 2021, Sunday

‘Horizons’ – 10 Years of dance-making by Contact Dance Company

Malta Independent Saturday, 20 March 2010, 00:00 Last update: about 8 years ago

Horizons was a good title to give to the three-day display of various dances presented by Francesca Abela Tranter’s Contact Dance Company at the Old University Theatre, Valletta. The company looks forward and beyond in striving to break barriers and explore new ground. One could generally say that in this case, Francesca Abela Tranter, well-nigh surpassed herself with her irrepressible creativity and the harnessing of some of the country’s greatest dance talent.

This was truly a fine team effort with the principal’s creations going hand in hand with those of other choreographers, the superb light and sound effects entrusted to Anton Borg Olivier and the live music which featured in some of the dances. The latter included Scottish guitarist Robert Bluesman, and to an even greater extent, that irrepressible percussionist Renzo Spiteri. In fact, the first number, Alternative Moves and Spaces. was actually an excerpt from Syncope, specially commissioned from Renzo Spiteri and illustrated very well the aim of the work which as a core element has the investigation of the possibilities which could be created by the body. Spiteri again featured in, among other works, a vibrant African number, Chewa, by Zimbabwe’s Bawren Tavaziva with a strong message calling for women’s rights.

The first of two premieres this evening was Douglas Comley’s Letters of Love, Loss and Lunacy, the first two sections of which were very amusing and with the third being sharply touching. It touched upon various emotions, with music ranging from Lisa Gerrard to Bach. Later, Comley’s TV OD was a great take on the nefarious influence and dominance of television on modern life with well-chosen music ranging from Omni Trio to Byzantine chant. Rachel Grech’s Women on Common Ground, music by Uakti, also held a very strong message. While detracting nothing from the excellence of the dancers, (the ladies dominated the evening) it was a pity that male dancers were conspicuous by their absence. Their dearth in this country is acutely felt. In my opinion Ms Grech’s work could have had more impact had men (the “obstructionist”) featured as well because of the interaction this could create.

Breaking away from this situation there was an addition to the programme, a creation by Britons Michael Joseph and David Comley who had never met before yet came up with a very compact and strong work which stresses friendship in its various phases. The message came across very clearly. Made one think that once the message in other numbers was abundantly stressed and the point driven home they could still have done with some trimming.

The evening continued building up to a great climax first with the premiere of Francesca Abela Tranter’s Structured Unknown, her tribute to Merce Cunningham, who died last year. This was pretty stunning in effect, a fusion of personal experience and with more than a nod to the influence exerted by past masters of choreography. It is very inventive, free with structure and form, of relationship between dance and form, time and space. It featured Florinda Camilleri in all three sections. In Movement 1 she danced solo to Renzo Spiteri’s performing of often exotic percussion work. In N.2 she danced with Gillian Zammit, to Takemura’s eerie laser design. In N.3 she danced with Rachel Grech to Spiteri’s to Christopher Benstead’s music. The concluding work was a perfect fusion of visual effects, music and dance. Michael Joseph’s Are you Right, am I Wrong? showed how Mozart’s timeless music could be set to modern choreography. Excerpts from Le Nozze di Figaro, Don Giovanni and Die Zauberflöte sung by Cecilia Bartoli and Bryn Terfel fitted perfectly well with the movement…and could have been better had there been interaction with male dancers as all the pieces had more than clear messages of courtship, seduction, coquetry and the like.

Other dancers who contributed to the evening’s success were Francesca Vassallo, Yasmine Nuvoli, Christina Camilleri and Olivia Vella. One wished that there could have been more lighting in the seating area as it was simply impossible to take down any notes!

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