5 Questions to Mavin Khoo – Artistic Director ŻfinMalta Dance Ensemble, choreographer, rehearsal director

Mavin Khoo.<br />© Mavin Khoo. (Click image for larger version)
Mavin Khoo.
© Mavin Khoo. (Click image for larger version)żfinmalta-uk-tour

The UK Tour is now underway with dates to come in Doncaster, Derby, Liverpool and London at Sadler’s Wells. Details above.

Malta’s national contemporary dance company, ŻfinMalta Dance Ensemble, are touring to the UK for the first time – we have a word with Artistic Director Mavin Khoo. But first, in case you are wondering, the word Zfin means ‘dance’ in Maltese…

Congratulations on bringing ŻfinMalta Dance Ensemble to the UK – briefly what bills are you bringing and what do you hope people will take away from them?

We have 2 programmes that form this national tour. One is a triple bill which will be performed in Swansea and Derby. The evening encompasses works by myself and Jose Agudo and Ivan Perez (both of whom are Associate Artist and Associate Choreographer respectively of ZfinMalta). The works form part of the programme that first launched the first company season in 2014. Its been great for the dancers and myself to revisit these works having become more connected as an ensemble since they were first premiered. The second programme is a double bill with a full length work Home (devised by myself with the dancers) and the same work for the triple bill by Ivan Perez which is a duet entitled Kick the Bucket. (In London, the double bill has been billed as “From Home with Love’.)

ZfinMalta Dance Ensemble in <I>Home</I> by Mavin Khoo.<br />© Darrin Zammit Lupi. (Click image for larger version)
ZfinMalta Dance Ensemble in Home by Mavin Khoo.
© Darrin Zammit Lupi. (Click image for larger version)

How big is ŻfinMalta, where do the dancers hail from and what made you decide to direct the company – for a fixed term of three years, we hear?

The company has 8 dancers (4 boys and 4 girls). Half the company is Maltese and the other half come from France, Slovenia, Brazil and Greece. Myself and our rehearsal director, Nico Monaco, also dance in some works depending on the needs of the company.

The decision to take on the role as Artistic Director was pretty organic.  I had been here (in Malta) working at the Dance Studies department whilst continuing my international work as a performer and rehearsal director to Akram’s company. Having an invested interest in young dancers in Malta combined with the knowledge I was gaining working with Akram seem to provide me with the right tools to take on the challenge – so to speak!

ŻfinMalta Dance Ensemble in <I>Kick the Bucket</I> by Ivan Perez.<br />© Emma Tranter. (Click image for larger version)
ŻfinMalta Dance Ensemble in Kick the Bucket by Ivan Perez.
© Emma Tranter. (Click image for larger version)

What’s the biggest surprise you’ve had in running a company in Malta?

Hahahahhahaha… There is never a day that is short of surprises and challenges! Having to literally develop everything from grass roots in relation to the artistic vision, strategy, business plan, organisational infrastructure as well as ensure that the dancers and creative team would be lead with a clear artistic vision and goal meant that I have had to develop a relentless sense of pursuit. It has been challenging working within a context where there really has been no point of reference as this is the first company of its kind in Malta. I have been fortunate that the Arts Council and my administrative and creative teams have been tremendously supportive and pro-active in helping me through the challenges.

ŻfinMalta seem to be touring a lot – what’s next for the company?

The company moves on straight to the rehearsal period where we are re-staging Exhausting Space by our Associate Choreographer Ivan Perez and a shorter work by Lucia Piquero an interesting emerging female choreographer based in Malta.

And what’s next for you – I think you are leaving the company this summer?

I will be leaving the company in the summer but will maintain an Associate role till the end of 2018. This will enable me to lead some projects that have already begun in terms of Research and Development as well as ensure that a realistic transitional phase is allowed between me and the next Artistic Director.

ZfinMalta Dance Ensemble in <I>Stabat Mater</I> by Mavin Khoo.<br />© Darrin Zammit Lupi. (Click image for larger version)
ZfinMalta Dance Ensemble in Stabat Mater by Mavin Khoo.
© Darrin Zammit Lupi. (Click image for larger version)

I will be accepting some really exciting projects as a performer and Rehearsal Director. My commitments as Artistic Director over the last few years has meant that I have had to turn down quite a few interesting proposals so it will be great to now move on and take them on.

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