Can contemporary dance serve as a vehicle for social change? ŻfinMalta’s upcoming full-length performance, 21 Dances for the 21st Century, certainly believes so, inviting us to reflect on the most pressing issues of our time, and what it means to be alive in our contemporary world.

With the unprecedented challenges currently faced by society, this thought-provoking performance captures our frame of mind perfectly, and moves us to think harder on the world we currently live in.

Inspired by the book 21 Lessons for the 21st Century by acclaimed author Yuval Noah Harari, the National Dance Company’s latest proposal to its audiences investigates 21 of the most pertinent issues currently faced by society ‒ from migration to climate change; artificial intelligence to the extinction crisis, 21 Dances is a multi-layered and introspective masterpiece.

The translation of such complex issues from text to dance was accomplished by Paolo Mangiola, ŻfinMalta’s artistic director, together with visual artist Kane Cali. Mangiola translated Harari’s episodic approach to sensitive – and highly relevant – issues into a similarly structured performance, and pushes it further by introducing new frescos and stories. The choreography investigates the properties of movement in the issues under the lens, and translates them into dance, which is complemented by visual stimulation. 

This latter element is where visual artist Kane Cali shines. Building on Mangiola’s choreographic vision, the set designer’s challenge was to translate the questions investigated by Harari – and Mangiola – into a truly unique and thought-provoking stage.

As audiences will note, Cali clearly accomplished his task, creating a stirring stage for 21 Dances. 

Photo: Ritty TacsumPhoto: Ritty Tacsum

The performance is undoubtedly bold, using the power and grace of dance as a medium to interpret and question pressing social issues to full effect.

The performance is an apt opening of ŻfinMalta’s 2020-21 season, given that the National Dance Company’s mission is that of creating work that invites audiences to question our contemporary world.

Since its inception, Żfin­Malta’s performances have pushed boundaries, and blurred the line between the artist and the audience. 21 Dances certainly promises to further this mission.

The current global challenges make the arts even more relevant and necessary to society’s wellbeing. To see dancers express and reflect upon those global challenges is an even more visceral experience for audiences, and that is precisely what 21 Dances offers.

Given that 21 Dances brings together some of Malta’s best known artists, it is no wonder that the piece is sure to be a success. With an original score by Veronique Vella, light design by Moritz Zavan Stoeckle, and costumes by Luke Azzopardi, audiences are guaranteed a feast for the senses.

21 Dances for the 21st Century opens on Friday and runs until October 11 at the Valletta Campus Theatre, St Christopher Street, Valletta. Tickets can be purchased on kultura.mt. In strict accordance with current public health regulations, seating will be limited to 35 people per performance.

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