With preparations in full swing for the next edition of the Malta Dance Hybrid, founder Francesca Tranter talks Jo Caruana through the 17-year legacy of this celebrated contemporary dance platform.

There are very few ongoing cultural projects in Malta that can look back at a legacy of over 15 years, but Francesca Tranter’s Dance Hybrid is one of them. In fact, having been founded in 2001, it is now approaching its 17th successful edition.

Looking back on the reasons why she decided to conceive this event back then, Francesca – a well known choreographer and the artistic director of the Contact Dance Company – explains that, as a practitioner and choreographer in the late 1990s, there were numerous physical limitations when it came to the exposure to various styles and techniques that one could explore back then.

“Although I have been teaching for over 30 years, the dance scene was very different until around 20 years ago,” Francesca explains. “Especially to the contemporary genre. Dance was popular, yes, but most people were focused on the ballet technique – even though there was a growing exploration of the contemporary styles and fusions that reflected the evolution of society and the changes it brings with each generation.”

Francesca is talking about an era that is before YouTube and other online streaming platforms, which made watching contemporary dance less accessible. “So, I knew that Malta desperately needed to step up the way that we looked at the contemporary dance world – and the only way to do that was to bring dance artists to the island from across the globe, so they could share their developed dance language. It was then that I decided to create the idea of an intensive one-week dance platform that would culminate in an informal public sharing – and that is how the Dance Hybrid was born.”

Since then, it is an idea that has gone from strength to strength, largely thanks to the quality of artists that Tranter has brought to Malta and how this has contributed to the dance profession on the island. Now, dancers from around the world have heard of Dance Hybrid and travel here to participate. “Beyond that, we also promote and support all other dance-related activities taking place on the island over the summer,” the founder explains.

Of course, there are numerous highlights in Dance Hybrid’s 17-year career and Tranter believes it has greatly contributed to the development of contemporary dance in Malta, while giving a voice to a Maltese culture that is trying to emerge.

Often, too, as a result of the Hybrid, dancers are offered scholarships, apprentice positions and possible projects when they are spotted by the international artists

“When I look back on everything we have accomplished, I would probably highlight the many phenomenal international artists that we have been able to work with – artists that we always hand-pick to represents the needs of the industry in that particular year. It gives me such pleasure to hear artists of this calibre talk about Malta, its culture and what it can offer and to believe more and more in the local artists that are creating valid work that offers fresh, new ideas to non-locals.   

“However, the biggest highlight of all comes from observing our vibrant dancers grow – eager, thirsty and enriched with not only the physical knowledge they have gained but the new friends they have met and networked with. Often, too, as a result of the Hybrid, dancers are offered scholarships, apprentice positions and projects when they are spotted by international artists and the level is fierce.”

This year promises to be no different. Aside from the very tough competition to get in, the Hybrid will host the renowned, international dance artist Kerry Nicholls and give a week of professional dance development training, who will also be accompanied by international composer, Christopher Benstead.

“As always, though, the recipe is largely the same,” Francesca continues. “Because we know it is successful, it will take place over one solid week of intense hours, and will culminate in a sharing and showcasing of work with an interactive post-show discussion with our audience on July 14.

“As always, we’re looking forward to creating another event that will reach new heights once again. I am proud of the fact that it has become a place where dancers can come together – dropping all borders, cultures and languages to offer them-selves not only physically, but also  emotionally to learn, share, explore, develop and network,” she adds.

Dance Hybrid Malta is part of the Malta Arts Festival. The public performance takes place on July 14 at 5.30pm at the Valletta Campus Theatre. Tickets at the door. 

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