Friday, 3 February 2017


Standard YouTube Licence

ŻfinMalta Dance Ensemble, Double Bill CAST in Doncaster, 1 Feb 2017, 19:30

In response to a question from me about how ŻfinMalta Dance Ensemble ("the ZMDE") came to be formed in the Q & A that followed the show, ZMDE's artistic director, Mavin Khoo, said that there were a number of reasons some of which were public and others personal.  One of those reasons was to find work for graduates of the University of Malta's dance courses. He reflected that the Arts Council Malta was already funding the excellent Malta Philharmonic Orchestra.  He offered it the chance of supporting a world-class contemporary dance company.

The ensemble launched in September 2014 and has already achieved much. Khoo stressed in the Q & A that he preferred to refer to his dancers as an "ensemble" rather than as a "company" because "ensIemble" acknowledged their status as "artists" adding that there was a significant difference between an "artist" and a "dancer".  The ensemble has toured Germany, India, Isreal, Malaysia, Palestine, Serbia, Slovenia and Thailand and presented works by Jose Aguido, Iván Pérez Avilés, Athanasia Kanellopoulou and Francesca Tranter as well as Khoo.  I set out some of the background to the ensemble as well as details of its current British tour in ŻfinMalta Dance Ensemble's UK Tour on 12 Jan 2017.  As I said in that article, the aim is to reflect Malta's Mediterranean and European heritage.

The show that ZMDE presented in Doncaster on Wednesday was enthralling.  It consisted of two works performed back to back without an interval.  The first was a duet by Khoo and I think Gabin Corredor. I say "I think" because there was no cast list and the programme did not indicate exactly what or whom we had seen.  The second I believe to be Khoo's Home danced by everyone in the ensemble except Khoo and Corredor. 

If the theatre's press release is correct the first work must have been Iván Pérez's Kick the Bucket. Khoo explained in the Q & A that it was originally created for a man and a woman and that he had adapted the female role for himself.  The scene opened with Khoo on stage dressed in loosely fitting shirt and trousers. He started a monologue. Corredor, a much taller man dressed in similar garments, placed his hand over Khoo's mouth and stopped the flow of words. There then followed several minutes of the most intense interactions which looked at times like embraces and at other times like combat. It was danced to a percussive ever-changing score. Some of the music sounded Indian to me. The lighting was impressive, particularly towards the end when the dancers' figures were amplified as silhouettes on the backdrop.  In the Q & A, one of the audience members described the work as "unsettling". It was certainly challenging.

There was a short break for a scene change during which we were asked not to leave our seats. Then the curtain rose to a washing line around the stage.  Dancers appeared in the background.  In the foreground a man lay on the stage dressed only in his underpants. He was drawn up by the other dancers all of whom appeared to wear black nose attachments on elastic bands rather like the red noses that some of us wear on "Red Nose Day." The man in his pants uttered a cry which was answered by a sustained yell from one of the females. I guess she must have represented his mother. They helped him into a suit of clothes.  Then they made him put on a black nose.  At one point, the dancer tried to remove the attachment but was compelled to put it on again by the other dancers. There followed various scenes in life which I think must have represented education, adolescence, maturity, old age and, finally, death.  Technically the dancers were very accomplished.  Their turns and jumps were as polished as those of the corps of the Bolshoi.

At the curtain call, Khoo emerged with Corredor. Khoo acknowledged the applause with a namaskar.  In the Q & A, Gita remarked that he was trained in Bharatanatyam as well as contemporary and ballet and asked which style he preferred for telling a story.  She added that she had also studied a little of each of those three dance disciplines and had found the hand movements in Indian classical dance to be particularly expressive. Khoo acknowledged that it had been a good question. He answered that he had regarded them as different ways of expressing the same thing.

The company has two more engagements, Liverpool tonight and Sadler's Wells on the 9 and 10.  If readers can get to see these remarkable talents.  I may be wrong but I think Malta may become Europe's Cuba. By that, I mean a small island with an enormous reputation for dance.  There's something about small islands and dance. Come to think of it, Great Britain is a small island too. Bigger by far than Malta or even Cuba, of course, but not when compared to Australia, Greenland or Madagascar.  We also have quite a lot of dance.

Post Script

I am grateful to Rodolfo Barrades for sending me the cast list for Friday's performance.

ŻfinMalta Dance Ensemble
Double Bill - Kick the Bucket & HOME

Malta’s national contemporary dance company, ŻfinMalta Dance Ensemble, present a double bill of works by critically acclaimed choreographers Iván Pérez – Kick the Bucket and Artistic Director Mavin Khoo – HOME.

Presenting to UK audiences for the first time this double bill will present distinctive works that demonstrate the versatility and diversity of the company within its Euro-Mediterranean context and sensibility.

Kick the Bucket
Choreography: Iván Pérez Avilés
Composer: Aaron Martin
Costume Design: Carlijn Petermeijer
Costume Making: Lula Alvarez/Andrew Coombs
Lighting Design: Peter Lemmens
Décor: Iván Pérez Avilés
Text: Eckhart Tolle

Dancers: Mavin Khoo, Gabin Corredor

Choreography: Mavin Khoo and dancers of the ŻfinMalta Dance Ensemble
Protagonist Voice: Felix Brunger
Sound Design, Composition & Arrangement: Niels Plotard
Rehearsal Directors: Celia Amade, Athanasia Kanellopoulou, Nico Monaco, Paolo Mangiola
Dramaturgy: Celia Amade, Denise Mulholland
Lighting Design: Moritz Zavan Stoeckle
Costume Design and Making: Deborah Rossetto NO.ME
Text: Mavin Khoo
Additional Music: Lament Il-Kappillan Ta' Malta - Mario Sammut; I've Got a Feeling I'm Falling - Annette Hanshaw

Dancers: Emma Walker, Florinda Camilleri, Martina Zammit, Danae Dimitriadi, Keith Micallef, Jure Gostinčar, João Castro, Nico Monaco.

Supported by the 2017 Maltese Presidency of the Council of the European Union, Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Malta, and Arts Council Malta.

Sponsors: Intercontinental Malta, Korzo Theatre.

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