Dancing over a clean slate | Francesca Tranter

Dance choreographer and teacher Francesca Tranter speaks to us about an upcoming collaborative event, Tabula Rasa, which assembles a group of choreographers in an attempt to present a stripped-down take on the dance performance. Tranter also delves into the leaps and bounds made in dance education in Malta, and the steady professionalisation of the dance profession locally

Francesca Tranter
Francesca Tranter

How would you describe the state of contemporary dance in Malta?

I have been teaching and mentoring contemporary dance for the past 30 years and am very happy to see it is now developing in a healthy way. It has the potential to be full of opportunities where artists can develop their ideas further, however the support needs to be given to a lot of different projects because only when a lot of ideas are allowed to be developed the artistic environment will flourish further. Some contemporary dance companies such as Contact Dance Company (1998), Moveo Dance Company (2010) and Red Tape Dance Company (2012) for example have been working locally and internationally.

Artists such as these need to have continuous support so that our contemporary dance scene can be borne out of both local and international artists based in Malta. Of course the setup of a national Dance Company ZfinMalta has contributed immensely to the dance profession.

What is the School of Performing Arts doing to elevate the level of dance in Malta? How far do you think we are from having fully-professionalised dancers?

After several years of chasing the University of Malta to bring a dance degree to the island, thankfully with the support of Fr Peter Serracino Inglot, the Rector of University Prof. Juanito Camilleri and government I am proud to say that we have a solid fully functional Dance Studies programme as part of the School of Performing Arts at the University of Malta since 2010. 

The Dance Studies department provides invaluable training, experience, connections and a portfolio of written and digital work that develops artists to be incredibly competitive in the contemporary world of dance and performing arts.

The degree programmes challenge and thrive students with an in depth daily physical training in multiple techniques while also choreographing, creating websites, study in the roots of dance and enables dance practitioners and performers to reinvigorate, diversity and deepen their comprehension of their craft. 

It has elevated the level of dance firstly through the weight of a recognised BA (Hons) Degree or Masters where it is now more respected as a profession. The school of Performing Arts has brought about a fresh approach towards the way performing arts training is perceived in Malta.  It is not only training Maltese students, but has a regular input of both students and lecturers with international training. 

SPA also supports and organises many projects throughout the year which contributes greatly to the dance scene on the island. The programmes have succeeded in their variety in the curriculum which has given the opportunity to experience other fields related to dance such as choreography, community work, education, collaborations, etc – widening their tool box and increasing young artist’s chances to have a viable sustainable artistic career.

With regards to having fully professionalised dancers there are now two or three companies that have full time dancers employed so that already means that there are already professional dancers on the island. This without counting the many freelance dance practitioners that already work on the island. What we now need is to stop questioning the professionalization of our dancers and start concentrating on offering them the support that they need.

What was the main impetus behind Tabula Rasa? Why did you decide to deliberately limit the concept?

Tabula Rasa is designed as an artistic statement, on the need of the go back to basics in choreographic work. The aim of the evening is to show choreography without any embellishment and to challenge the creativity of the choreographers applying limitations to what they can use and do. Four separate duets will be presented by four Malta based artists Dorian Mallia, Diane Portelli, Lucia Piquero and myself, all coming from diverse backgrounds but moved by a common interest on the development of dance and choreography.

What’s next for you?

I will continue to develop my research practice, teach and mentor dancers both at University and various private institutions and although only just finishing the 14th Edition of the Dance Hybrid Malta (MIAF+) which is now embraced as part of the Malta Arts Festival Fringe.

The ‘Evening Dance Space’ launched next September will offer diverse open classes in  dance training with a local and international team. These classes will offer a vast range of dance techniques in a creative hub nurturing their artistic views both physically and mentally working towards possible collaborations or specific events that will be part of audience development.  Amongst all this I continue to pursue the establishment of Zfinfest International dance festival of Malta a pilot project launched two years ago. 

I am excited about choreographic commissions coming up which I truly look forward to in the coming months and being on the board of the Malta Arts festival allows me to fulfil my obligations towards the performing arts especially in the area of dance. It is a great team with commitment brimming with solid ideas and excitement building towards 2018.

Forming part of the Malta Arts Festival, Tabula Rasa will be taking place at the Blue Box, Msida tonight at 19:00. Entrance is at €15. For more information on the Malta Arts Festival, log on to www.maltaartsfestival.org. For more information on ZfinMalta, log on to zfinmalta.org/