Paul Malek is making his mark

By Regina Green

Paul Malek must be one of Australia’s busiest dance professionals.  Just a week after presenting Stratagem, his latest work for his company, Collaboration – The Project, the tabs opened on iOverload, the latest work for his youth company, Project Y.

In 2009, Malek organised Immersed, a Dance Industry night held at Melbourne’s Forum Theatre, and plans are afoot for a second showcase, tentatively booked for this September. He also has his own dance school, Metropolitan Academy of Performing Arts, based in Seddon.

Between all this, he somehow finds the time to teach at Melbourne’s top studios, including The Edge Performer’s School, Jason Coleman’s Ministry of Dance and The Space. I told you he was busy!

What’s the most challenging part of what you do?
We, as a team, get together and create these performances on low budgets, so we wear a lot of hats. Instead of having the avenues to outsource assistance for things like graphic design, marketing and promotion etc, we have to do it ourselves. So there are many long hours and tired eyes getting through what we do, but when we get our desired result, it makes it all worthwhile.    

What gives you the greatest satisfaction?
The applause our performers receive after that first show, and then every consecutive show until we close – whether it’s 30 people or 500 people. The appreciation level from the audience, the relief and joy from our performers when they have succeeded in not only creating a dance work, but creating something that reaches out and makes the audience think about what they are witnessing. That is great satisfaction. 

How was Stratagem received?
It has been received wonderfully. It definitely makes the audience as a collective discuss quite in depth life, and the means to the end. This topic doesn’t always sit well with some people, so when that is the case, they instead focus on the performers. They watch in complete admiration of what the performers do with their bodies. The effort, commitment and true fearless attack to their work are something to be in awe of; I think that sums up most people’s reactions.  

What do you think has made Collaboration’s shows so strong?
I think the collective is very important – the group’s commitment to the show and the project. Everyone who comes in and works with us and creates with us feels that we are striving to make a difference, make something special and in turn continue to develop dance and the scene here in Melbourne. It is never about just one person, it is about the end result and what we then give the audiences to enjoy. 

A lot of your work features death as an idea or theme. What is the attraction to this theme?
I think death was always the unspoken aspect of my life. I couldn’t deal with the thought of it, and it has been frustrating- that endless question of ‘what is next’?

In saying that, it has never been a conscious decision to create works with a focus on death, except for Stratagem.  The focus is more on the experience of life, and because life ends in death, it as an element that features in our shows.

When you set out to create a work, what are you hoping to achieve?
A work that connects with the audience. Each individual is affected in different ways, and I want each audience member, whether they understand or not, to be activated mentally, and leave with not just the answers but also a few questions as well. 

In your opinion, what makes a great show, as opposed to a good show?
A show should take those watching it on a journey – whether literal or not – heightened with highs and lows, climaxes and resolutions. All avenues of the performance should also highlight each other: lighting, sound, choreography, and also the direction of the choreography and staging is very important. 

Which choreographers do you admire most?
Those choreographers who push the boundaries, who don’t necessarily follow trends, but create their own. Those who are true to themselves and their work. 

What are your goals with Project Y?
To give young artists the opportunity to expand their craft, whether that is with performances in Melbourne or interstate, with workshops or with rehearsal processes. To give as many people – who may or may not have future careers in dance – this chance to share in the production process, to go forward in their lives instilled with a love and passion for dance and performance. 

Are Project Y and Collaboration mutually beneficial? How do they work together?
They are. Collaboration is about giving Australian artists the opportunity to work together to produce works and perform on Australian shores. With Project Y already giving the opportunity to over 100 dancers since its inception, they are well on their way to achieving this. A lot of Project Y members also help out with Collaboration productions, giving them technical experience in the theatre as well. 

What is next on the horizon?
We have a couple of projects on the go including the full length production, Collection of Forgotten Treasures, which will be held over three weeks in November. 

Could you impart some advice to budding choreographers?
Just do it. Remember, dance may have expectations of what it should be, but that does not mean it is the way it has to be. Dance is movement, arranged in different formats, with differing dynamics, emotions and energies. The greatest choreographers of our time are those who, against critique, stuck true to their work, no matter how long it took for them to gain respect. Believe in yourself, and when someone tells you ‘no’, don’t dwell, take the comments and move forward. There is enough room in this world for everyone to create dance, so create, create, create.

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