Maltese dance talent made the island proud at the recent Commonwealth Dance Festival, where seven top local students performed. Francesca Abela Tranter tells Jo Caruana why this unique opportunity has made its mark on the Maltese dance scene.

The Maltese group performed an original work by Francesca Abela Tranter.The Maltese group performed an original work by Francesca Abela Tranter.

It was an exciting moment for the local dance scene when, last month, a group of young Maltese dancers joined the first-ever Commonwealth Youth Dance Festival.

This was a dynamic event that attracted over 400 talented dancers from across the Commonwealth to come to-gether to celebrate the magic of youth dance.

“Out of 115 original applications from youth dance groups around the world, only 36 made it the final cut, so it was a real honour to be there,” says choreographer and dancer lecturer Francesca Abela Tranter, who led the Maltese delegation alongside Theresa Lungaro Mifsud.

“We could really sense the atmosphere the moment we entered the city’s popular Tramway venue.

“The sound of hundreds of young people who had come to Glasgow to share, learn, create and most of all, dance, was outstanding.”

The festival proved to be a once-in-a-generation event with three key strands. The first was Come See, with three nights of performances held at the Tramway. The second was Come Dance – a programme of workshops led by internationally renowned dance artists and companies like the Scottish Ballet and the Scottish Dance Theatre. And the third was Come Learn, which provided development opportunities for the attending dance artists and leaders.

The Maltese group was made up of seven dancers, namely Gaby Davies and Shanon Deguara, who are in their second year of full-time dance training at the University of Malta’s School of Performing Arts, and Emma Tranter, Nina Fauser, Corinna Abela, Yasmin Schembri and Christina Cefai, who are all students at the Dance Workshop.

“This festival provided the chance for these dancers to apply their skills and knowledge in a new and exciting professional dance environment while representing their country,” continues Abela Tranter.

“It enabled them to showcase their talents in front of a large audience, in a very large theatre, and the bar was set extremely high. The festival also proved to be an incredible opportunity for them to participate, learn and create international links with other dancers, as well as to discuss further opportunities, education, collaboration and possible study options.

“I very much believe in this sort of dialogue for the development of the arts and this certainly proved that a lot can be achieved when students, choreographers and teachers are given the chance to network on an international level.”

Speaking about the experience of preparing for the festival, one of the dancers, Vella, said that it was an honour to have represented Malta in this way.

The sound of hundreds of young people who had come to Glasgow to share, learn, create and most of all, dance, was outstanding

“We may be small but we still possess lots of talent and determination,” she says. “I believe we did our best to showcase what we are capable of.

“It was also an unmatched learning experience. The workshops gave us the chance to improve our dance skills in all sorts of ways, and we were also exposed to dance styles that are different to the sorts we are used to and comfortable with.

“ It was absolutely amazing to be able to interact with other dancers from all over the world, as well as to learn from them.”

While at the festival, the dancers performed a new, original work by Abela Tranter, which was created especially for the festival.

The piece drew reflections and characteristics from Malta in a contemporary dance work using Joe Friggieri’s poem Antikwarja, which was originally created for a previous Arts-funded project with Renzo Spiteri.

“Friggieri and Spiteri were delighted to extend their work to this visual art form,” continues Abela Tranter.

“We created a piece that represented Malta beautifully and which really held its own among all the other pieces. The feedback the dancers received was absolutely overwhelming and the audience loved the rendition of their particular style, quality and technique performed.

“It was wonderful to see them represent Malta in this way and they did our county proud.”

This initiative was supported by the Malta Arts Fund.

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