EUDON CHOI UNCOVERS/ MICHELA MEAZZA
Ballet & Contemporary Dancer and Associate Dance Practitioner
Michela Meazza is a professional ballet & contemporary dancer and associate dance practitioner. After joining Matthew Bournes’ New Adventures dance company in 1997 Michela is considered a muse of Matthew Bourne, and has performed lead roles in productions including Swan Lake, Nutcracker!, and Cinderella. Michela has worked as movement director for Hedda Gabler at the Sherman Theatre, Cardiff; Associate Movement Director for the likes of the National Theatre and the Hampstead Theatre. She has choreographed for music videos and short films by new artists. She regularly teaches dance classes and movement workshops for Matthew Bourne and Birkbeck University.
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EUDON CHOI: How long have been at New Adventures and how has your career developed there?
MICHELA MEAZZA: I started working with Matthew Bourne around 97’/98’ when he brought Swan Lake to the West End. It was my first contract, so it was very exciting, I was 21. I had trained as a ballet dancer, so joining his company was slightly unusual as his company is contemporary dance. I explored contemporary from then and I got to know a different way of performing which was acting based and then I never looked back! I really fell in love with his style and way of telling stories. After my first contract I stayed with him, but it was the start of the company becoming popular so the gaps between productions were much longer. In-between I did other jobs as it became more established, which meant each contract followed another. But, the fact that I had time off from the company was really good because I got to explore different contemporary choreographers.
EC: How old were you when you started ballet?
MM: When I was eight!
EC: Talking about physique, you are quite tall, how do you think this has affected your career?
MM: My height was a bit of a problem when I was training and a lot of teachers would say it will be difficult for me to join a ballet company, because there is a standard height. There were auditions that I was not allowed to go to because of it. It was quite harsh. But moving into contemporary dance the height wasn’t a problem, if anything it was an asset!
EC: Yes, you stand out on stage and have such striking features.
MM: But, actually in Matthews company it doesn’t matter, the height, shape, look, you just have to fit the character. The only problem sometimes is with partnering, it can be hard to find a man who is tall enough, it’s even worse when you’re on pointe in a ballet company.
EC: What has it meant to be a muse of Matthew Bourne?
MM: It’s interesting because I never think about being a muse for him, but he has talked about me as one of his muses. It is really interesting because if I think about the beginning of my career with him, he was my boss and I sort of looked up to him. Overtime slowly I grew in the company and now I think of him as a friend. I think it is really nice that there was this evolution for both of us. Also, as an artist I feel I was allowed to grow and develop a voice in the company and he’s very good at respecting us as performers and artists. We can bring in our ideas and its really nice that now we have this lovely dialogue about characters, their ideas and the story, how it should evolve etc.
Michela in 'The Red Shoes'
EC: Is there a production/character you would love to be part of?
MM: In Matthews work I tend to play the strong women; femme fatal, seductress, evil stepmother, dramatic ballerina and I especially love it when there is comedy in the character. That is something I developed within the company and even Matthew didn’t think I could play a comedic role. Matthew loves entertaining audiences, so I really enjoy the fact that my character often is the one to make them laugh.
For me it would be really interesting to play something that was completely the opposite of what I’ve been playing so far. Someone who is vulnerable and sweet, but I’m also aware that we have certain features and bodies that people perceive a certain way on stage, so you do have to play your strengths. I love every character I’ve played, but sometimes I feel it would be interesting to know what it’s like to step on stage without having to win the audience over through being evil. The other character I’d really like to play is someone androgenous, partly because I love studying the details in body language. I think it is so interesting to observe it and see whether the female could remove the feminine traits, to create a sort of neutral body language, or shift into male body language and those subtleties.
EC: Can you tell us about your most recent production and anything you are working on?
MM: My most recent production was Red Shoes, that was at Sadler's Wells Theatre, but it came to an abrupt end because of the pandemic. It was going to go on tour but luckily, I had finished my contract, I felt it for the company and everyone that had to stop. Next, I’m planning on creating a solo and I’d like to work on something that would be a film.
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EC: Obviously, the performing arts have been massively affected by the pandemic, can you tell us about how challenging this has been for you? And what people can do to support the arts during this time?
MM: Yes, it’s been incredibly challenging and has caused a massive loss of identity, not just for me, but for everyone in the arts. I think it is underestimated how much artists and their art are one thing, and the moment you take away the opportunity for performers to perform it’s like chopping their legs off. It is not for everyone to just produce their own pieces or show at home. For example, lighting or set designers need to put on a show, they can’t do it on their own at home. With all that knowledge and identity gone, it is hard to apply in a different environment all together. It’s a big ask to ask artists to reinvent themselves somewhere else. Of course, we have incredible skills that can be applied somewhere else but there are also a lot of people applying for the small jobs. It is underestimated what impact it has on people mentally. With the Fatima add, it showed the reaction of artists was so strong, people are really hurt and sensitive about the fact that they don’t know where to go at this point.
"How to support the arts is promote it and make sure it is well known how viable and important it is. We forget that all that creativity and all the art you go and see, spark ideas for engineers, designers, fashion designers, etc. If you take that away it will just dry a lot of other creatives.”
EC: Which woman do you find most inspirational and why?
MM: I really enjoy the work of Barbara Hepworth as it provokes a physical reaction in me. I am so fascinated by the materials and the textures. But then there’s also fascination of her as a person, her life and what she went through.
EC: What do you do away from work to relax?
MM: Through the lockdown it was really interesting as I found myself really enjoying cooking. I found I would try new dishes and I love it when I’m into making something and then a song comes on and I start dancing around the kitchen. It is quite a private moment and sometimes you explore new movement ideas there and then, because there’s no one watching and you’re in your flow. I find making food and inviting people round is something I really love.
EC: Best coffee in London?
MM: Well I’m Italian so I’ve got an Italian cafetiere. But I like drinking coffee with oat milk, I really look forward to it in the morning. I like Climpson & Sons on Broadway market, the Shed opposite Haggerston station too.
EC: EUDON CHOI has for years looked at architecture as a source of inspiration. If you could live in any building in the world, what would it be?
MM: This one! There is such a personal connection through this house, and I’ve seen the process of it being built. Ed has put so many personal touches to it and he considered it a family home and then we build a family here. I can’t picture myself living anywhere else we are so attached to it. So many choices are ours, from colours, where things go and the ergonomics so that everything works smoothly. Things move around; the lounge becomes a studio or a great party room! I find my mind works better if it's clear, people say how long have you lived here it looks new, and I’m like ‘no no’, this is the process we go through to keep shedding stuff and keep it really clean.
Michela's Home and shoot location
EC: Best place in the UK for a romantic escape?
MM: We wanted somewhere we could go together with the kids by the sea. We ended up in Kingsand and Cawsand on the edge of Cornwall, two fisherman villages. We had the best week ever, we went for walks along the coast and to the local pubs that make really good food. We thought maybe we should go back, it’s so pretty with all the little cobbled streets.
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EC:What is the biggest lesson you have learnt during the pandemic?
MM: How vulnerable we are as performers and people in the entertainment industry really hit me. And also, how much I love what I do and how blessed I’ve been to work with the people I work with. Another really interesting thing is realising how little we really need because we went into a very simple lifestyle. I felt we’ve been very good at living a very minimalistic way, but I really enjoy the fact that you can live with very little and you realise what you really need. I like that and want to keep it like that.
EC: What is your favourite Eudon Choi look from AW20?
MM: I love your coats, the one with the big collar, the Afi Olive Coat. I think a coat is such a statement. Once you have a nice coat on, you are dressed and you don’t need much else.