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MT 27 March 2016

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maltatoday, SUNDAY, 27 MARCH 2016 30 This Week Letting Malta dance with the What has the progress of Zfin- Malta been so far, and what would you say has underpinned its philosophy? How will the company be taking full advan- tage of recent national cultural initiatives, chief among them being Valletta 2018, of course? The progress has been over- whelmingly rapid in relation to activities that fit our objectives. Particularly this year, as we are more clear of our artistic and administrative infrastructures, working and research meth- ods and individual roles within the company. I am particularly pleased at the development of our education and outreach initiatives – that is extremely important in ensuring that we 'give back' to the community. The creation of international work has always been of impor- tance to the company and we continue to develop and search. In the last year, we have also toured Israel, Palestine, Malay- sia, India and Belgrade. More international tours will soon be announced. We have very quickly gained global visibility, which is great, but it also cre- ates expectations for the group. I don't take this for granted, as it's uncommon for a company that has only been performing for over a year to have the support and the following of such signifi- cant international partners. The philosophy of the company is one that we are developing. It's underpinned predominantly by our approach to dance – the way we work and the kind of work we are interested in performing and commissioning. We are commit- ted to a deep search that goes be- yond codified steps and choreog- raphy. It's a particular quality that is invested in striving for a depth that is emotional and pure; it can all sound abstract and intangible, I know, but in reality it transmits itself in the performance space and through the dancers. It's one that is slowly becoming identifi- able as a 'ZfinMalta quality'. I believe strongly, that the further we invest in this, the potential to create a sense of identity will evolve with depth and arguably, with more relevance to what we refer to as a Maltese identity. What was the main spur be- hind HOME? What were some of the initial ideas behind it and how did you develop them as you went along? HOME is being created at a very complex time in political history. The construction of identity is a product of so many factors that relate to migration, mobility, globalisation and diaspora. The creation of HOME comes at a point when I myself have a lot of questions about myself and my own diverse global existences. I also went through a renewed intense love affair with Spanish cinema (in particular Almodo- var and Wild Tales directed by Damián Szifron). In an ever growing xenopho- bic environment that is further being challenged by territorial claims and cultural distinctions, I was interested in devising a work that looked at the idea of home as a metaphor to the identity construction of a single man's life journey. The work fol- lows him through the phases of birth, childhood, love, tragedy and death and he is accompa- nied by seven other manifesta- tions of his previous existences and his inner voice recorder with British actor Felix Brunger. The work has drawn a lot from cinema and is developed though a cinematic kaleidoscope. It aims to bring together our 'serious' life perspectives with the absurd and ridiculous... considering the construction of identity that we claim and own as nothing more than one determined by social rules and boundaries that define and segregate. The work is a collaboration be- tween myself, the dancers, our company production designer Moritz Zavan Stoeckle and Niels Plotard (formerly main company dancer and now Creative Resi- dent Artist). National identity seems to be turning into a go-to subject for Maltese artists, and it's almost becoming something of a tic. How do you hope to approach this topic without descending into kitsch or complacent tru- isms? That's a great question... as I said, it's extremely important that we (ZfinMalta) consider the notion of identity with tremen- dous responsibility. First of all, to understand that identity in it- self is complex by nature and as a result, should not be limited to simplistic and literal representa- tional codes. I was alarmed when I first took on my position as Artistic Director, when I was ap- proached many times to work on projects that were aimed at cre- ating a 'national identity'. It was unsettling that this was limited to the sea, genres of music and lan- guage. Yes, these are significant factors but for me, the inherent dynamic that sits within the soil of the nation is something more complex and intangible and can only be embodied through years of in depth research and develop- ment. What are some of the main challenges of putting together such a show? There are many… the first is to ensure that everyone is working in the right direction. Humility is a must and by this I mean a real ability to keep searching – this of- ten means that everyone has to be Director of ZfinMalta Mavin Khoo speaks to TEODOR RELJIC about the national dance company's upcoming production – HOME – which seeks to address the themes of national identity in a way that eschews the usual clichés associated with the subject… particularly on our cultural scene Caroline Mougenot and Keith Micallef Jure Gostincar and Martina Micallef ZfinMalta Artistic Director Mavin Khoo

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