Monday, September 14, 2009

Who is Matthew Donnell, and why is he doing this?

Please allow me to introduce myself. My name is Matthew Donnell, and I have announced that this will be my tenth and final season with the Kansas City Ballet. I have spent nearly my whole life preparing and maintaining myself to be a professional ballet dancer. In this field, we are taught from an early age that we must be focused, disciplined and perfect. We are given the tools to succeed from masters in our art form, and from there, we either "make it or break it." Then, one day comes something that many of us weren't taught to deal with. RETIREMENT. One definition states it:

Retire: to give up one's regular work because of advancing age.

Some dancers make it to their forties before they "retire." Some rare ones have made it even longer. However, many finish in their thirties and below. Regardless of the age one decides to, is asked to, or simply has to retire because of unforeseen circumstances, the dream can feel like it is over. We spend so much time, blood, sweat and passion to make it this far, and with one curtain call, it's over. Going into this field we know that we have a short time, and just like death, "retirement" is inevitable. This comparison may sound dramatic, but to many who have spent their entire lives focusing on this one passion, it can be quite daunting.

So, what is the point of this? Why am I blogging-I've always been one who thinks that "Facebook statuses" are obnoxious and overly informative. I'm not doing this to let people know every time my dog goes for a walk or I get up to change the channel. Here it is:

During my career, I've watched people come and go. I've seen short careers and very long ones. I've read stories in the major dance publications and newspapers bidding farewell to the stars as they gracefully bow out. What I would like to do is document my year and my journey towards "The Big R!" I am not a star. I have not graced the cover of "Dance" or "Point" Magazine. I simply have been fortunate to have had ten great seasons(almost) with a wonderful company, and I'd like to write about the fears, excitement and anxiety that is going to be a part of my life this year. My goal is to inspire others in this field to look towards the big picture: Dance is a way of life, but it cannot be our life. I hope that instructors-both those currently teaching and those who will someday fill those roles-will continue to encourage the budding artist to focus and live in the moment but also give them a healthy sense of reality. This career will end, but there can and will be life after. Finally, I want to show a very "human" side to what we as artists(and this isn't limited to dancers) go through.

I welcome anyone along for the ride. I am excited to share about this transitional phase in my life. If only one person finds it remotely helpful and/or interesting, that will be enough for me. (Thanks ahead of time, Mother.)

Matthew Donnell

*"Merde" is a French term that dancers use instead of "good luck" or "break a leg." Feel free to look up it's translation. I promise it will be the only word of it's type used throughout this blog.


  1. Good for you! I will read and cheer you on! (And I don't need to look up "merde." :) I like your definition, though.

    Have a great final year!

    I'll bookmark you!

    Becky Brown

  2. Thank you! You were the teacher who inspired me to write. I'm afraid I'm a bit rusty, but I sure do still enjoy it.

  3. Very well written! It's been great watching you grow as a dancer over the years. What do you plan to do "after ballet?"

    I wish you only the best of luck in the future!!

    Debbie Thursby-Brock

  4. Thanks Debbie! Stay tuned if you'd like!