They say that dance is the hidden language of the soul. ŻfinMalta challenges this statement and expresses that although dance can be creative and entertaining, it can also inspire and challenge modern concepts by bringing them to life on stage. Lyndsey Grima explores ŻfinMalta’s strengths and sense of uniqueness.
Words by Lindsey Grima | Extract taken from December's 2021 Il-Bizzilla Magazine | Read more here
These last two years were no easy feat for the Arts. Live performances were put on hold as the pandemic was taking the best out of all of us. However, there was also a dynamic shift in perspective. Locked safely in our cozy homes, a lot of us started to realise what was right in front of us all along. In times of struggle and dire pressure, we somehow always resort to the Arts to escape reality and find comfort in a different world, even if only for a few hours. We enjoy feeling entertained, inspired, and sometimes challenged.
ŹfinMalta, the island’s National Dance Company, creates pieces of art with the aim of inviting audiences to contemplate and question the contemporary world that we live in. Their work inspires, moves people, and it is challenging and unique in its own way. All with the aim of providing an enriching experience and one that makes you feel happy.
ŹfinMalta is a dance ensemble with a diversity of creative voices, reflecting the many influences that form today’s Malta. Established in 2014, it is now the country’s leading public cultural organisation, at the forefront of Malta’s cultural scene. But what makes ŹfinMalta so unique? Having twelve full time dancers, the core of the company is made up of both Maltese and international artists, all classically trained and extremely versatile. This diversity is expressed in each production, and it brings across ŹfinMalta’s strength and uniqueness as each artist brings his/her own influences to Malta while taking inspiration from our tiny island’s nature and identity.
The company’s contemporary dance is known for addressing modern concerns and bringing them to life on stage. Girls & Boys tackled the lifelong ‘brainwashing’ of how males and females should think, speak, dress, and act. Aħna explored Maltese culture through its landscape while 21 Dances for the 21st Century was a multi-layered dance piece that traced the spirit of what it means to live now.
The latter two dance pieces followed the choreography of none other than ŹfinMalta’s Artistic Director, Paolo Mangiola. Paolo started his studies in classical ballet at the mere age of seven and he received his first contract at the age of nineteen.
“Throughout my career as a dancer, I was always interested in choreography and its craft. I was lucky enough to meet incredible mentors along the way which have helped me cultivate this passion and through this journey I acquired the skills I needed in order to take on board such a responsibility as being ŹfinMalta’s Artistic Director.”
Joining the company in 2017, Paolo was the youngest director leading a national dance company in Europe at the time.
“Every season I create one full-length work for the company and one short work to combine it with other ones. However, my job as an artistic director is not only to choreograph, but also to curate, every season, works that speak to audiences in ways that are unfamiliar and yet accessible. Works that are engaging and beautiful, that are not there to ‘educate', but there to offer a thinking platform where each member of the public can engage in an experience.”
Paolo explains that every performance that we see danced out so brilliantly on stage comes with a set of new challenges behind the scenes. However, this is what makes it so exciting and, in turn, rewarding.
‘During these past three years, we have performed works for different settings and audiences. We produced a durational piece of work of six hours, which was also intergenerational. We produced works for younger audiences and we opened the Valletta 2018 Capital of Culture. We made two beautiful films and we started an online series on the making of choreography. I work with a fantastic team of people which are incredibly dedicated, and all of this would not have happened without everyone’s effort.’
As heart-breaking as it was for ŹfinMalta when the pandemic struck as all live performances were kept on hold, their creative minds started buzzing. Dance is Us came to life shortly after, a nine-week-long online campaign with the aim of keeping their audience engaged through a simple, yet profound idea – everybody has a body so everyone can dance! When we are children, dancing is part of our everyday life, and we have all danced at some point in our lives. ŹfinMalta’s campaign emphasised just that and offered online classes, podcasts, interviews, and a film – all in the aim of keeping creativity, and most of all, dance flowing!
Now that restrictions have started to be eased, ŹfinMalta should be able to resume every activity post-pandemic. However, that does not mean that their creativity will come to a halt. ŹfinMalta is taking the opportunity to rethink, eager to come up with new and spectacular ideas to entertain the public. In fact, their new season’s tagline is Resilience.
“We want our audiences to, first of all, feel safe on their return to theatres and venues where we will be performing and training in, and that they can experience each piece of work with their minds open and full of curiosity,” Paolo highlighted.
“This season we have a strong focus on female choreographers and the programme featured sell-out shows and a line-up of ground-breaking artists and collaborators, so come and join us in this beautiful journey, come and get inspired and moved by these beautiful dances,” he added.
For more information on ŻfinMalta, visit their:
Website: www.zfinmalta.org, and follow them on
Instagram: instagram.com/zfinmalta/ for the latest updates.