Ahead of the family-friendly ballet Parade & The Velvet Gentleman, dancers and choreographers Diane Portelli and Dorian Mallia tell Jo Caruana why this is an exciting time to be helping to develop Malta’s dance sector.

There’s something very exciting about walking in the footsteps of greatness – or, as the case may be for dancers and choreographers Dorian Mallia and Diane Portelli, dancing in the footsteps of greatness.

After all, both of these performers – known for their recent win of the Artist of the Year accolade at the first-ever Malta Arts Awards – are about to present a reworking of the iconic 1917 ballet Parade, which featured music by Erik Satie, and costume design and scenography by none less than Pablo Picasso himself.

“Parade & The Velvet Gentleman is very special,” says Dorian. “Aside from the little matter of its incredible history – it was first performed at the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris – it has developed into a show that’s visually stunning, fun, educational and played to live music, which always gives that extra edge to any production. Plus, we’re excited to get back on stage at the Manoel Theatre, our national theatre, which has also become our second home.”

In this reworking of the ballet, artistic director Ruben Zahra also incorporates contemporary storytelling techniques and technology such as stop motion animation, puppetry and projection dancing to embellish the stunning choreography. Beyond Dorian and Diane, it includes the talents of designer Ritienne Zammit, who designed the Picasso-inspired costumes, as well as stop-motion animation by Christ Scicluna, masks and puppets by Charles Bezzina, projection dance sequences by MAKA Visuals, and a paper cinema by Trevor Zahra.

“As a show, we first choreographed and performed Parade & The Velvet Gentleman at the Żigużajg Children’s Festival last year, so it’s wonderful that it is returning by popular demand,” continues Dorian who, together with Diane, runs the Moveo Dance Company. “It has a very holistic vision, which is exactly what Moveo is all about, so it’s a perfect match. Working with Ruben is also a privilege – he has brought so much to the contemporary Maltese and international music scene, and his input is priceless. Our collaboration has been seamless.”

However, it hasn’t all been easy for Dorian and Diane when it comes to developing the dance scene in Malta – and both highlight the lack of local resources and the limitations that that brings with it. “The difference I find in Malta is not necessary the talent, but more the possibilities of meeting a spectrum of artists that have a similar or strong drive that encourage you to push yourself and experiment further,” Dorian says. “We are, at the moment, breaking through our post-colonial attitude and that is challenging. Trying to find a voice or an identity is hard since it is also very fluid as a concept.”

Nevertheless, the duo has faith in the advancement of the dance scene in the next few years – even though it won’t necessarily be easy. “There are many factors that contribute to the development of dance in Malta. One in particular is the issue of funding. If this is cut back, then it will definitely affect the sector, which would be a shame,” Dorian says. “I do have hope that, one day, we will manage to find ways of growing locally and internationally that will be fruitful for dance on the island and which will put us on the map as a Maltese dance identity that is sought after and appreciated.”

Finally, both are looking forward to Parade, followed by a well-deserved break and, then, the start of the next theatrical season. “It promises to be busy!” Diane says. “Apart from the community work we do, we will also be touring in Romania and Hungary, which is wonderful. As for our local work, we will be creating a new production at the Manoel called Perfume – The Story of a Murder. It’s going to be a very exciting year.”

Parade & The Velvet Gentleman is organised by the Manoel Theatre, the Valletta 2018 Foundation and the Malta Association for Contemporary Music as part of the Valletta 2018 programme. The show runs on July 27 at the Manoel Theatre.


Source: Times of Malta

Photo Credit: Stephen Buhagiar