The Covent Garden Dance Company was founded in 2006 by its director Matt Brady. Twelve years later, the blurb on its site proudly states,
The Covent Garden Dance Company is renowned for taking beautiful and unique locations around the world and creating a stunning 400 seat dinner theatre. We pride ourselves on our reputation of creating programmes that are beautiful and inspiring for all tastes; whether a season ticket holder at The Royal Ballet or a first-time visitor at Hatch House, we promise performances that will stay with you long after you leave.
Why did Brady decide to create another dance company in an already crowded field?
We were aiming to create a new ballet based on a work by a British author. Over the last 12 years it has evolved into something even more exciting and, we hope, substantial — a concept and company that is unique and beautiful.
Four years ago, Mara Galeazzi, former Principal of The Royal Ballet, was invited to collaborate with the company. She had retired at the end of the 2012/13 Season wanting to devote more time to being a mother but, not quite 40, she was still in excellent shape and happily accepted occasional opportunities to dance. This included an invitation to return as Guest Artist in The Royal Ballet 2014/15 Season, and to participate in Covent Garden Dance Company performances at Hatch House. It has become a fixed partnership.
We love working with Mara. She was invited initially to perform as a special guest star at Hatch House in 2014. When she performed not only was she utterly brilliant — as one would expect from a Royal Ballet Principal of her stature — but she also loved the experience of working with us in the beautiful location that is Hatch House. We decided to ask her if she would like to work with us more regularly and to our great joy she said she would!
They have already worked together on several projects including Les Copines, which was inspired by a Norman Parkinson photograph, and Les Colombes, which was based on Terence Brady's last libretto. Matt Brady is the son of Terence, the actor and playwright who was one half of the husband-and-wife team who wrote some of Britain's best loved television sitcoms and dramas, including the first two series of Upstairs, Downstairs. ‘Matt and Mara' have also worked on small 3D projects and Galeazzi has created some solo works on herself that have been performed under the company's auspices.
‘Matt and Mara' — how does that work?
Any and all relationships are peppered with highs and lows, especially artistic ones. However, working with Mara is incredibly rewarding, she brings so much experience and artistry with her to not only the roles we create but also to the creative process, she is constantly correcting me when I make a mistake… which is all the time!
Mara never stops to surprise me. Whatever she sets her heart to she seems to excel in. She sent me some photos she had done recently, and they were insanely good. I mean world-class. If you had seen one in a gallery in LA you would have assumed it was from an established name. This was her first ‘attempt' at photography. The same with design or music. This is the quality in my humble opinion that defines her… the ability to apply herself to each individual project, as an artist and especially as a dancer. That ability to transform, to let herself be taken over and absorb the essence of what is being created on her whether it is contemporary, neo classical or classical.
Are there ideas for future projects together?
Too many. Not enough hours in the day to do all the ideas… so we are choosing the really exciting ones. I believe that we must always strive to push ourselves further forward and upwards and that is not a 9-to-5 job… That is a lifetime commitment.
Do you both have the same opinion about which are the ‘really exciting' projects?
No… not at all. But that is ok. It is foolish to surround yourself with people who think like you or are ‘yes' people. You need an odd argument to keep the blood up!
Will be a long-term partnership?
We have been working together for four years now, so I think it is already long term!
The Covent Garden Dance Company first brought it's work to Hatch House in 2010. Hatch House is set in the heart of the Wiltshire countryside, and its theatrical façade faces the exquisite 17th century walled Dutch garden. It is here that the performances take place — this year Ballet Under the Stars will be from 20-22 22nd July. Carlos Acosta, Lucia Lacarra, Vadim Muntagirov and Laura Morera are some of the names who have appeared in the Dutch garden.
I have had the huge privilege of working with a lot of world class dancers and ballerinas and in my experience, I find that giving the artists and creatives their heads and allowing them to find the core identity of the work without being interrupted or questioned at every turn, makes for a happy family. My input and guidance takes place before the studio in the conversations running up to the work. Once they start to create I step away.
Would you like to see your own dancers? A fixed group?
It is something that needs to be considered as we are now in a position that we're doing so much around the world that it may become a necessity. Having your own
What is the most important aspect of this project for you, outside the performances themselves?
I got a card from the dance school who are local to Hatch House saying how much the open rehearsals and creative workshops had inspired them… and that one of them wanted an autograph. It suddenly made me realise that we had got to somewhere that I had been aiming to get years ago… and not even realised it.
And which performance are you most proud of?
A performance of Aubade by Alastair Marriott. Mara Galeazzi and Greg Dean [Principal Dancer with the Danish Royal Ballet] danced so utterly exquisitely in it and Alastair created such a beautiful work on them. I gave Alastair the music, On the Nature of Daylight by Max Richter, which was a piece of music that I found just after my father died and I used to listen to it to help me connect with a lot of emotion I was suppressing. It was my musical emotional valve.
It was my personal homage to my Father and I could not have asked for three people who understood this more than Al, Mara and Greg. Godsends … all of them.
What of the future for Covent Garden Dance Co?
Simply put… to bring the joy of dance and the passion we have for it to as many people around the world as possible. To create work that entertains, give young creatives a stage, move people, develop audiences and venues… oh… and world peace.
Graham Spicer is a writer, director and photographer in Milan, blogging (under the name ‘Gramilano') about dance, opera, music and photography for people “who are a bit like me and like some of the things I like”. He was a regular columnist for Opera Now magazine and wrote for the BBC until transferring to Italy.
His scribblings have appeared in various publications from Woman's Weekly to Gay Times, and he wrote the ‘Danza in Italia' column for Dancing Times magazine.