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Dance Festival Malta – from pipedream to reality

Artistic Director, Francesca Tranter shares her story

Dance Festival Malta has always been a pipedream for the Artistic Director, Francesca Abela Tranter – a contemporary dance professional herself, who for several years made it her mission to establish contemporary dance as a popular genre within the local dance scene.

“I discovered my love for dance at an early age, where I trained in modern dance at the Tanya Bayona Princess Poutiatine Dance Academy for many years. I found my calling in the contemporary genre and was fascinated by the freedom of the movement, incorporating aspects of movement from several other genres such as jazz, modern and ballet. This curiosity took me to UK to further my dance education at the London Contemporary Dance School specialising in choreography.”, recalled Tranter.

Artistic Director, Francesca Abela Tranter (Credit - Emma Tranter)

“When I returned to Malta, I joined the Tanya Bayona Dance Theatre company, performing for many years, teaching, choreographing, and collaborating with Maltese contemporary composers. During the 90’s Contemporary dance was still unappreciated as a genre in Malta, perhaps considered too avant garde for audiences at the time, and I found it a struggle pushing this challenging work I loved so much, that offered so much individual growth and expression. But through teaching and perseverance new generations were emerging who were showing a growing interest, and this kept me going.”, said Tranter.

Francesca Tranter founded Contact Dance Company in 1998 as a springboard for her own choreographic work, where she toured to high profile theatres and festivals across the globe. “These experiences performing amongst so many diverse artists exposed us to a wide variety of ideas and approaches. It’s been an interesting journey of many creations, collaborations, and networking within the Global Dance Community. This inspired me to create Dance Hybrid Malta, an annual intensive professional dance training programme now in its 19th year hosting international guest artists of repute who could share their revolutionary practices which contributed greatly and furthered the development of Contemporary Dance on the island.”

Diaspora (2017) - Performed by Contact Dance Company (Credit: Emma Tranter)

In 2008 she was instrumental in the development of the start-up of the full-time dance degree at the University of Malta through the support of Father Peter Serracino Inglot, where she later graduated with a Masters degree in Performance Dance Studies.

Fast-forward to 2022 and the launch of Dance Festival Malta under the auspice of Festivals Malta, Francesca Abela Tranter together with her project coordinator Sandra Mifsud, have realised a dream for the local dance community – a festival dedicated entirely to dance and open to different genres, where local and international dancers can build relationships, network and showcase their work.

“Dance Festival Malta is a space where students and dance professionals can try out different movement languages, train, and above all, celebrate movement. It is a space where we recognize the importance of inclusivity. It is a festival planned out for its audiences, the ones that love the performing arts and the ones who are eager to discover them.”, explained Tranter. The festival is set to give a spotlight on dance as a major force that not only contributes to a healthy society, but also has economic value while opening the minds of modern society through the experience of watching live performances, participating in workshops and masterclasses. “Dance opens pathways to understanding and communication between people serving as a channel for creativity and celebration. It can transform the most challenging conditions of life and community. As an artform it mobilizes passions and builds bridges that cross boundaries uniting people through their common humanity and needs for creative expression.”

What does the future look like for Dance Festival Malta? Tranter is certain that the festival will become an international point of reference for dance and performing arts to help the local dance community by bringing together artists from across the globe for a multicultural and quality experience of diversity. It aims to showcase the enormous richness and versatility of dance, while striving for innovation and preserving its history. As Tranter explains it, “We will continue to commit our responsibilities to society, as dance is for everyone, professionals, amateurs, inclusivity, ageing bodies and young people.”

Dance Festival Malta will feature a rich programme of dance artists the UK, Italy, Israel, Norway, France, Germany, Poland, Greece and Malta, with opportunities to discover new approaches to dance through masterclasses and workshops. An innovative aspect of the festival is the community project led by two artists who will create a work with the participants during the duration of the festival which will culminate in an outdoor performance in Valletta. We encourage dancers aged 16 and upwards to apply for this interesting platform that will bring new experiences towards choreographic approaches enriching their dance portfolios. For the first time we will offer a session of Gaga People Movement at the Upper Barakka Gardens where everyone is welcome to join dancers and nondancers to move together and celebrate ourselves. “Days will be filled with training, sharing, exchanging energies and open panel discussions. Evenings will be filled with shared performance bills at Spazju Kreattiv, Manoel Theatre, and Valletta Campus Theatre including site specific performances in the streets of Valletta. There will be post performance Q&As for which everyone is invited to have continued discussions at the official DFM cultural hub where food meets art at The Undercroft Restaurant in Valletta. Everyone is welcome and we look forward to see you there between the 28th and 31st July,” concluded Tranter.

Dance Festival Malta is organised by Festivals Malta and will be held between the 28 and 31 July, in collaboration with Malta Tourism Authority, Spazju Kreattiv, AIS Group and the Ministry for National Heritage, The Arts and Local Government.


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