Compañía Azul has a heart split between the coasts of Atlantic Canada and the dry earth of Andalusia. Drawn to the beauty of the music, movement and rhythms of flamenco, Compañía Azul creates a passionate, stunning display of emotion, sound and colour. Founded by dancer Megan Azulita Matheson, the company premiered at Neptune Studio Theatre in September 2010. Since then they have appeared at numerous festivals and events in Nova Scotia and are garnering interest across the country. Recently, AE spoke with Matheson about her passion for Flamenco and the troupe’s upcoming show in Halifax.
How, when and why did you get involved with Flamenco?
My Spanish teacher told the class about a flamenco group that was going to be performing at the Neptune Studio Theatre "El Viento Flamenco". I went to the show and was mesmerized. The group eventually moved to Halifax and eventually, with a lot of hard work, I became part of the group. I was studying Neuroscience at the time at Dalhousie University and planning on med school, but when Evelyne Benais (Director of El Viento Flamenco) offered me the opportunity in the group and took me under her wing, it was like a light went on. It was what I needed.
Are they the same reasons that you do it today?
At the time, I was dealing with a depression, after my father had died of cancer when I was 19. This was a large part of my draw to flamenco I think. It's such a platform to let your emotions out. I was so sad and life was just moving on, and I felt like everyone was expecting me to move on too and I couldn't reconcile it in my heart or in my head. Flamenco gave me a place to make sense of it in some way that I can't really explain. This is still the reason why I do it today. I feel like it really gave me ground that had seemed to have vanished when my father passed away. I'll be forever grateful for that and to Evelyne who really supported me and believed in me through some ups and downs. She never gave up on me.
Who are your students, and do they remind you of yourself at that age?
I have wonderful students in both Halifax and Cow Bay, who inspire me like crazy. Every time I think I've got nothing more to create or give, their enthusiasm for showing up to class and eagerness to learn from me, brings something new out of me. I definitely see the spark I had for flamenco in many of my students.
Compañía Azul has been relatively quiet since last fall has it not? Why is that?
For the past two years, we've really been creating. I spent some time in Spain in 2011 for the creation of one of the pieces. It's amazing how fast two years can go!
What does it mean to be "Company in Residence" at Halifax Dance?
Halifax Dance is hugely supportive of the professional dance community here. Being in-residence is like having a home for the company. All of our rehearsals take place there. It's our hub. The staff is so amazing and accommodating.
What can audiences expect at Saturday night's performance?
In past shows, it's been mainly the choreography that has been original, but this show will be entirely original material, apart from two traditional letras (verses) in the piece Soleá. This is a new departure for us. It's completely normal in flamenco to use traditional letras or cover flamenco pop tunes, but collectively we really felt the need to express our own artistic ideas more thoroughly. This show is much more personal. Sean Harris and I have both written the letras and the musicians have composed all the music to accompany them. It has been such a collaborative experience and one that has felt very natural. We never planned to have this much original material, it just kept coming out of us until we had a whole show full. Daniel MacNeil has been a huge part of this. Among the collaborations, he has written two beautiful pieces that appear in the show, including one that was composed for dance, and Bon Sutherby and Ian MacMillan have contributed immensely to a number of pieces. I think we all inspired each other and I don't think it's going to stop. It's been really exciting for me to start song writing again (something I gave up in my early 20s). The guys have been so supportive and it's so amazing to hear these incredible musicians (Sean Harris, Daniel MacNeil, Bob Sutherby and Ian MacMillan) taking these little ideas in my head to such a new level by adding their own ideas. It's a bit mind blowing, compared to my song-writing days when I accompanied myself (poorly) on guitar.
What are your thoughts on the state of dance - and Flamenco specifically- in Atlantic Canada?
If you ask me, I think dance, like any art, is vital for the soul. I think it needs to be valued more in our society. I think there are many people out there who could really benefit from dance, if they had access to it. It's uplifting, it teaches discipline and healthfulness. I think flamenco is growing as a dance form, not just in Atlantic Canada, but around the world, because it inspires people and is such a platform for wellness. It teaches strength and confidence. Also, flamenco, is accessible to all ages. Some of my most dedicated students are in their 50s and 60s!
What is next for Compañía Azul?
This show has been orchestrated for symphony by our incredibly talented and creative guitarist Daniel MacNeil. It will be premièred with the Victoria Symphony and the Edmonton Symphony in November 2012 and January 2013 receptively. We're pretty excited about that! After that, it will be adding in some of these new ideas I have in my head, and ideas that the guys have and creating another show to premier for our Nova Scotian audience! Hopefully 2013, but with our track record, it could be 2014!
Compañía Azul presents Cremesí at the Sir James Dunn Theatre in Halifax
Saturday, June 23, 8pm