A studio tucked away in Valletta has been a hive of activity as 11 dancers each day stepped into the world of Bizet’s femme fatale ahead of ŻfinMalta Dance Ensemble’s premiere ofCarmen yesterday.

“As a firm believer that dance not only entertains but informs and makes people reflect, we felt that Carmen’s story of freedom and love would resonate with our audiences,” artistic director Paolo Mangiola said.

The contemporary adaptation of Georges Bizet’s 1875 lyric opera has been left in the hands of José Agudo, the London-based award-winning choreographer, who chose this popular opera because he was captivated by the untamed spirit of Carmen.

“Carmen, played by Yasmin Priyatmoko Bohn, is a complex story about individuality and sexual freedom, love and pleasure, and, ultimately, about death and a destiny of a gypsy woman,” Agudo said.

“My new dance work re-examines this rich tapestry of human motives and emotions and aims to address higher-order issues, such as the conflict between conformity and freedom, the tension and aggression unleashed by narcissistic and obsessive human behaviour and the belief that this journey of twists and turns we call life is valuable.”

Agudo, who is also an associate artist of ŻfinMalta, has set the production to an original music score by multi-percussionist Bernhard Schimpelsberger.

My new dance work re-examines this rich tapestry of human motives and emotions

This production marks a particularly exciting moment for the dance ensemble, because Carmen will kick-start their first national tour in April to give audiences who would not normally frequent traditional theatres a taste of the beauty of dance.

Once ŻfinMalta wraps up its premiere at the Catholic Institute Theatre in Floriana, the dancers will focus on taking the performance across Malta and Gozo throughout April and May.

“As the island’s first national dance company, ŻfinMalta is funded by the government and it is our responsibility to give back through dance. We hope to achieve this through Carmen, which we chose for our first national tour because of José’s contemporary approach,” Mangiola said.

Under Mangiola’s direction, ŻfinMalta is also committed to start presenting full-length works.

“I believe that providing audiences the chance to engage in the vision of one work and one aesthetic is a valuable experience; it will give our art form the time to develop further, and in turn allow audiences to get more familiar with dance.”

Is Malta ready to let dance capture its spirit?

“We are all ready. Dance isn’t different from other art forms. Perhaps what is lacking is a real commitment from both audiences and artists to bridge the gap between processes and spectacle, expectations and experience, which is why we wanted to have our first national tour,” Mangiola said.

As a national company, Mangiola believes ŻfinMalta has the responsibility to foster accessibility to dance, by making it exciting, challenging and unexpected.

“I can’t force everyone to love dance the way I do, but I can use all my passion and skills to find strategies to bring dance to fruition and prepare our audience to receive it,” he added.

Carmen is on at the Catholic Institute Theatre, Floriana, today. It will then tour nationally in different localities in Malta and Gozo throughout April and May. For tickets visit: http://zfinmalta.org or call 2099 4532.

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