University of Malta

Dr Malaika Sarco-Thomas
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Dr Malaika Sarco-Thomas

Malaika Sarco-Thomas is a dance artist and scholar researching the potential of improvisation technologies to facilitate developments in environmental perception. She joined the University of Malta in 2014 and became Head of Department of Dance Studies in 2015. Previously she was Senior Lecturer and Course Coordinator for BA Dance & Choreography at Falmouth University incorporating Dartington College of Arts in the UK. Since 2011 she has co-org

anized Contact Festival Dartington and Conference, an annual platform for exchange in practices of contact and improvisation, with Richard Sarco-Thomas Contact Festival Dartington 

Malaika’s PhD thesis ‘Twig Dances: Improvisation Performance as a Practice of Ecology’ charted her six-month peripatetic overland journey from England to China, in which she planted trees, gave free improvised dance performances and worked with children to develop artwork and original performances, during a collaborative journey with artist and social worker Richard Sarco-Thomas. Her research for this project was carried out while at Dartington College of Arts in the UK and as a researcher of improvisation and contemporary dance practices at P.A.R.T.S. the studios of A

nne Teresa De Keersmaeker in Brussels. Malaika studied for her Master of Arts in Devised Theatre under the supervision of David Williams at Dartington College of Arts in 2004, and a Master of Arts in Liberal Studies at Hollins University in Virginia, USA in 2003. As part of this MALS degree, Malaika undertook a three-month residency with Monochrome Circus Dance Company at the Kyoto Art Center in Japan, involving study of Japanese martial arts, Zen Buddhism and calligraphy. Malaika’s post-graduate studies were funded by a Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Graduate Fellowship.

During her undergraduate studies at Hollins University, Malaika studied at Bates Dance Festival, the Nomadic College of Frey Faust’s Axis Syllabus, and the Laban Centre in London. She taught yoga with the American Dance Festival and the Hollins Dance Project, and did her early training in modern dance at the North Carolina School of the Arts.



  • Techniques Labs: contemporary technique, improvisation, contact improvisation, ballet, yoga
  • Choreography: Dance Theatre;
     Choreography: Modernism and Postmodernism, Final Choreography
  • Theoretical Studies: Dance as Communication, Dance & Performance Theory, Masters' Theoretical Frameworks
  • Praxis: Independent Dance Practice (Presentation), Independent Dance Practice (Essay), and Masters' Independent Dance Praxis. 


Performance Projects

2015. Performed in Deiter Heitkampe’s performance installation Going into Contact, Contact Festival Freiburg.

2012-2015. Performed in teachers’ performances as part of Contact Festival Dartington, Warsaw Flow Festival, Contact Festival Austria, and Touch & Play.

2014. Performed solo Thuja occidentalis at Winter Dance Symposium, Performance Centre, Falmouth University.


Creative and Curatorial Work

2015. Choreographed The Space Between Us, a solo for Stefania Catarinella, for the Dance Studies Tour, University of Malta.

2015. Directed White Duets: The Spaces Between Us, a group site work working with contact improvisation principles, presented as part of Notte Bianca festival in Valletta.

2012-2015. Curated touch + talk 

performance series exploring questions in contact improvisation, answered by experienced movers. Performed by artists including Ray Chung, Scott Wells, Chris Aiken, Charlie Morrissey, Mirva Makinen, Lucia Walker and Jennifer Jackson in Warsaw Flow Festival, Contact Festival Dartington, Touch & Play Project in Cardona, Contact Festival Freiburg, Ibiza Contact Festival, and European Contact Improvisation Teachers’ Exchange.

2013-2014. Curated Contact Festival Dartington + Conference. The conferences sought to articulate questions and concerns within contact improvisation practices.



With Richard Sarco-Thomas, Malaika co-teaches Aiki-Contact: Ex-Tension, a workshop series investigating principles from Ki Aikido practice applied in contact improvisation training. Together they have presented their research at Contact Festival Copenhagen, 2016; Contact Festival Austria, 2015; Contact Festival Freiburg, 2014; Kontakt Budapest, 2014; Contact Improvisation Cornwall, 2014.


Selected Publications

2017. ‘Mass may be the single most important sensation’: Perceptual Philosophies in Dance Improvisation’ chapter in the Oxford Handbook of Dance Improvisation, edited by Vida Midgelow.

2017. ‘Performance & Interdisciplinarity: Contemporary Approaches’ co-edited with Stefan Aquilina.

2015. ‘Diving into the Wild: Ecologies of Performance in Devon and Cornwall’ chapter in Moving Sites: Investigating Site-Specific Dance Performance, edited by Victoria Hunter.

2014. Co-edited with Misri Dey, a special issue of the Journal of Dance and Somatic Practices issue 6.4 ‘on Contact [and] Improvisation’.

2013. ‘Excitable Tissues in Motion Capture Practices: the Improvising Dancer as Technogenetic Imagist’ Journal of Somatics and Technology 5: 1. Intellect. 

2011. ‘Improvising in Ruyang: Community Art as Ecological Practice’ Journal of Arts & Communities, 1.1Intellect.



2017. co-presented with Fiorella Camilleri of the Malta Philharmonic Orchestra ‘Preserving and Redefining Folk Art Through Adaptation: Lateral Thinking in Japanese and Maltese Musical Performance’ School of Performing Arts conference on Interweaving Cultures: Theory and Practice, University of Malta, 8-10 March

2016. co-organised with Brandon Shaw the Dance Studies conference on Thinking Touch in Partnering and Contact Improvisation: Artistic, Philosophical and Scientific Perspectives’ University of Malta, 30 June 2015. ‘Momentum, Gravity and Sens-ational Facts: Interdisciplinary Materiality in Contact Improvisation’ for School of Performing Arts conference on Performance and Interdisciplinarity, University of Malta, 9-11 March 2013, 2012. Contact Festival Dartington Conference, Falmouth University, August.



Malaika has supervised Masters’ dissertations on topics including community dance practice, improvisation, choreographic processes and collaborative structures for making performance. She welcomes PhD supervision in areas of contact improvisation, applied performance, site dance, embodied learning, and phenomenological approaches to studying dance.



European Contact Improvisation Teachers’ Exchange network

Contact Quarterly


Practice as Research in Performance

Congress on Research in Dance

Society of Dance History Scholars

Performance Philosophy


Contact Details 


Student Representatives on Board of Studies
Theatre Studies, Music Studies and Dance Studies
Study-units on offer for Erasmus Students - 2017-2018

Please find the list of study-units for Erasmus Students for academic year 2017-2018

Optional Study-units on offer 2017-2018

Please find the list of Optional study-units for the the School of Performing Arts for academic year 2017-2018

Last Updated: 20 April 2017

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