The contemporary connection

Mon, Jul 7th 2014, 14:37 Last updated on 7/7/14

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Guest artist Idan Porges. Right: Performer Samuel Guist.

With this year’s Dance Hybrid Malta forming part of the Malta Arts Festival, contemporary dance is certainly finding its feet within the island’s dynamic cultural scene. Jo Caruana chats to founder Francesca Tranter to discover what’s in store for participants and audiences later this month.

Dance brings the allure of continuous development. From a young age, dancers are encouraged to progress a step at a time, from basic techniques to complex routines, and, ultimately, into professional or semi-professional careers.

Naturally, Malta’s size poses a challenge for those dancers who cannot afford to work on their art full-time but that doesn’t mean they should halt their developmental training. And, with that mind, dynamic initiatives such as the now annual Dance Hybrid Malta help dancers to explore the latest in international training techniques while enhancing their skills set and, of course, performing.

Dance Hybrid Malta, a non-profit based organisation, was founded by dancer and teacher Francesca Tranter in 1998 and it is now launching its 13th edition. It is an initiative that is open to all intermediate and advanced dance and physical theatre artists, whether they work in the industry full- or part-time. It specifically targets semi-professionals, professionals and teachers to encourage them to keep learning, perming and enhancing the dance community.

Tranter explains that Dance Hybrid Malta is a dance platform that creates opportunities for aspiring dancers, teachers, and professional and semi-professional dance artists, as well as a physical platform where artists can get together and communicate through the language of the body.

“One of our main focuses is to invite internationally established and emerging artists to conduct master classes and workshops here, and create, exchange and explore the diversity of contemporary dance,” Tranter explains. “It also reflects and contributes to the dance community in Malta through learning and challenges the perpetually-evolving world of dance.”

Tranter, an established artist herself, explains that she was inspired to launch this plat-form to support the modern dance community in Malta through annual opportu-nities to explore new techniques and work closely with international guests.

“We have enjoyed fantastic results over the years and the Dance Hybrid has strengthened and contributed greatly to the evolution of Maltese contemporary dance, which is now clearly developing an identity of its own.”

Past editions have welcomed an impressive array of global dance professionals, including New Zealander Jack Gray, British performers Michael Joseph and Garry Benjamin, and Greek artist Athanasia Kanellopolou. They each brought unique culture and techniques to the workshops.

This year, Romanian-born Volkhard Samuel Guist will be one of the performers leading the workshop. Having completed his dance education at the Hoogeschool Vood de Kunsten Te Arnhem in Holland, he performed with various companies in Europe and is recognised as an established practitioner in the field of contemporary dance. This won’t be Guist’s first visit to the island, and he has previously taught as part of Tranter’s Dance On The Move platform, which is one of her regularly-organised master classes.

“I truly enjoyed my last experience in Malta and am eager to be back for more,” smiles Guist. “It is exciting to be in a position to get to know the Maltese dance scene better and I have been inspired by what I have seen so far. While it may still be a step or two behind the larger dance industries, I know it is developing very well and expanding towards the European dance scene. Any external input, such as through this, will prove very valuable.”

Israeli dancer Idan Porges, who will also be a guest artist, agrees. Porges studied physical theatre in Tel Aviv and has since developed his career as a dancer and a therapist of the Ilan Lev method, a practice that is known to resolve body circulation issues, relieves pain, skeletal and joint problems. Once again, he will be teaching the Gaga method to students during the Hybrid.

“Gaga emphasises sensation and the availability for movement, which promotes the discovery of new ways of moving, as well as helps to push the body to its limits and break down habits,” Porges explains. “There is a focus on multi-layered tasks that invite a richer connection between the mind and the body.

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The Maltese contemporary dance scene is now clearly developing an identity of its own
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“I believe that this will help Maltese dancers to be challenged and to develop multiple sensations at once; it’s important they are able to snap into full physicality at any moment. This kind of workshop will definitely continue to encourage the development of the local dance scene, and I am thrilled to be part of it.”

With that in mind, the Hybrid has now become an integral part of the annual dance calendar and partici-pants eagerly await this platform year after year.

“Most of our practitioners use the information they get from the Hybrid to develop their own craft further, fusing it with their new-found knowledge and integrating it with their own system,” Tranter continues. “Each platform created has sprung roots and connections of networking and exchange, and that has been on of the most pleasing aspects; so many connections have been made.

“After all, as we aspire for excellence it is important to sustain quality through the needs of each generation and to enhance further development towards the Maltese cultural identity and style. It is, of course, equally vital to recognise that skills attribute to many things – confidence, tenacity and creativity, to name just a few. There is no doubt that, since its inception, the Hybrid has aided dancers to build their confidence and uncover the truths and needs of being versatile dancers, as well as to understand the benefits of artistic exchange.”

Underlining its place in our growing cultural industry, this will also be the first year that the Hybrid is linked to the upcoming Malta Arts Festival.

“I felt this would be a good way to encourage new audiences to understand what contemporary dance is about,” adds Tranter. “People still continuously ask me, so it is great to be able to show them rather than to explain.

“Through this collaboration with the Malta Arts Festival I hope to create a stronger bond and perhaps a longer dance intensive next year. It would certainly serve as a great opportunity for participants to spend their summer break researching their craft even further.”

The 13th International Summer Dance Hybrid Malta will take place between July 15 and 19. There will be a public performance on July 19 at 5pm, followed by a Q&A session with the participants.

www.dancehybridmalta.com