Malta needs a funded contemporary dance company to prevent the local dance scene from "stagnating", according to dance education specialist Douglas Comley.

Otherwise, it would remain stuck in the commercial aspect, which is "more about spectacle... and looking good, while contemporary dance can carry a stronger message and work on other creative levels".

A freelance choreographer, teacher and dancer from Wales, Mr Comley said "every other country seems to have a flagship company for the arts, which can cross boundaries, speaking the universal language of dance".

Artistes would receive a wage to create a piece of work, rather than having to juggle a full-time job, he said, adding that the ripple effects would include the creation of splinter-off companies, raising the profile of the art, which can be attempted at any age.

Dancers would go off to work for foreign dance companies, exporting the Maltese product, and would have to be replaced by other dancers. They could also start up educational dance companies, as was the case abroad, he said.

Mr Comley was brought over to Malta by Francesca Abela Tranter, artistic director of Contact Dance Company, to choreograph for CDC and carry out an intensive, five-day course at The Dance Workshop.

Ms Abela Tranter was pleased with the course turnout, which attracted a mixture of dancers and actors and meant that Mr Comley worked with different abilities, using improvisational tasks and simple choreographic "frameworks", which can be used for educational purposes.

Mr Comley also works for educational dance companies, teaching teachers how to educate through dance.

He stressed the importance of dance education, which is lacking in Malta, while, in the UK, modern, creative dance is part of the PE curriculum.

"I think it is important to educate through dance. There are many youths out there, who are not competitive, and I sympathise with young people today, who are pushed too hard to compete and win. Dance education would offer them another outlet, apart from a means to stay healthy and fit.

"Through dance education, students learn to work as a team, together. Many sports are about competition, but dance is only about competing against yourself; there are no winners at the end of the day.

"Dance education is a platform, creating inroads into other forms of art; an introduction to a variety of music forms and instruments."

Mr Comley has accumulated experience working with youths. His next project is to recruit male dancers, of whom there is a lack, for the Youth Dance Company Denmark.

It is unlikely that the general male dancer situation would change, he argued, but he would still like to see men appreciate dance, walk past a theatre and go in to watch a show.

As director/choreographer of Dynion Male Dance Company, Mr Comley has created five productions and toured them worldwide to raise the profile of male dance.

He has worked internationally, with many dance companies and theatres, and has been involved in several community projects, including Education for Adulthood, introducing dance to disadvantaged youths, and The Young Offender - Northlands Art Centre, working with young offenders and their probation officers.

A qualified sound beam music technician, he has introduced music to special needs groups of any age and disability and has also been involved in several large-scale events.

Mr Comley felt contemporary dance needed more exposure in Malta and said it was important for dancers to have a knowledge of drama, vocal and musical skills to "make it out there. For many companies in Europe, technique is a strong element, but so are the other performing skills".

Mr Comley has choreographed a 30-minute piece for Contact Dance Company, entitled TV OD - a dark and humorous work, based on the impact of TV on human beings.

It uses a variety of props, from aerials to inflatable chairs and remote controls, as well as a varied soundtrack from hip hop to techno and classical music to the sound of the TV, recorded adverts and text.

"The message is don't sit in front of TV for too long because you'll get fat," he laughs.

The "linear" piece is divided into sections, highlighting the feeling of zapping through the channels and the idea that there is "no time to get into anything".

CDC is soon participating in the Brouhaha International Festival in Liverpool, which is being held throughout the month of July, together with 17 countries and 140 performers.

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