14.11.29 Divina Review News

"Naupaca dancers bringing Dante’s La Divina Commedia to life"/Anna Maria Galea/ The Sunday Times of Malta / 23.XI.2014 / Photo: Charles Paul Azzopardi.

Divina by name, divine by nature was very much the order of the day at the staging of Naupaca Dance Factory’s 10-year anniversary production at the Mediterranean Conference Centre.  

Posted: 29th November 2014

Review: Dante Dancing to Salvation
Reviewer: Anna Maria Galea
Published on: The Sunday Times of Malta
Edition: Sunday 23rd November 2014

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Known for its experimental, cutting-edge interpretations of well-worn classics, the contemporary dance group which hails from Gozo and is headed by Joeline Tabone, based their latest adaptation on La Divina Commedia, the epic Italian poem by Dante Alighieri which had long enthralled the Naupaca team.

Production manager Deborah Agius also played the yearned for renaissance pin-up par excellence, Beatrice. Like Dante’s original, Divina was composed of three separate acts: the heavy and opaque darkness of Hell, the ambiguity of Purgatory and the shining Heaven where the much-adored Beatrice held court over both Dante and the audience’s heart.

Interestingly, apart from the three main characters of Dante, Virgil and Beatrice, the individual bodies in Divina represented states of emotion rather than specific characters with identities.

Departing from a point of despair and beautifully brought to life through the words of the very talented Maria Theuma (who acted as the production’s solitary narratorial voice), Dante was played by Sergey Kheylik and guided down to hell by Francesco Mariottini’s Virgil. He danced what can only be described as the dance of the mad.

Ensconcing the audience in their manic gyrations, after Dante meets with an unexpected representation of love in hell narrated through the story of Paolo and Francesca, the production’s portrayal of Hell provided an intense, emotionally engaging experience.

There was frenetic and energetic dancing to the music composed by Mario Sammut, formed around a rhythmic, rich percussion; this had the dancers swaying, as if in a death-induced trance. Most striking was also the overall use of colour, in this act in particular.


While Dante wore a beautiful scarlet costume and Virgil was clad in black, the other dancers wore a rainbow of different colours which brought the stage to life in the manner of wild, dancing flames. These further aided close the gap between dance and theatre.

In keeping with its modern take, Purgatory took place in what appeared to be a motel, complete with bar and bed. Yet, despite the element of seediness and confusion that this scene was meant to project, it was still imbued with the air of magic that Naupaca Dance Factory has become so famous for.

Once again, Theuma’s voice guided us to through her monologue about Satan, leaving a captivated audience seduced by her words. The dancers tossed and turned on the unmade bed to the haunting music sung by Mel Xkejfa, formerly of the popular Maltese band Chasing Pandora.

Divina’s final act did not only succeed in paying fitting tribute to Dante himself and his original Commedia, but also to the legendary Beatrice, who shone with beatific perfection. Agius successfully embodied both innocence and knowledge in equal measures, displaying her impressive physique and laudable talent while seamlessly floating across the stage and giving a trembling Dante the salvation that only she had the power to bestow.

What was equally impressive was the fact that Heaven’s music was composed by one of Naupaca’s own homegrown young dancers, Denise Buttigieg. A remarkably talented dancer, Buttigieg is one emerging artiste to watch.

In keeping with the production team’s wish to do the production its deserved musical justice, all the score was original and composed particularly for Divina. Furthermore, one cannot but comment on Beatrice’s majestic outfit made by Matthew Pandolfino: the gold embroidery on the light blue dress was exquisite and gave her the much sought after Madonna-like air that Beatrice is remembered for.

If there is one thing that Naupaca Dance Factory have always strived for, it is to take their audience on a mystical journey. Divina manages to not only lead its Dante to salvation, but the audience too.

A dynamic collection of talented creative, Naupaca Dance Factory is bound to reinvent the Maltese dance scene as we’ve known it.

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