Sunday, February 28, 2010

So Long Winter Series.

I was calm today. There were no tears during or after the performance. I allowed myself to focus on the delight I felt by seeing my coworkers perform. As dancers, we really do care about our work. We push ourselves harder than anyone I can think of because at the end of the day, we know that it's our butts on the stage. It's not the choreographer, rehearsal director or any member of the artistic staff. We take any and everything that is given to us as a note or criticism and filter it through our entire bodies because we take this profession so seriously. Yes, sometimes we take it too seriously, but that is because we are doing what we love.

I am ready to be passionate about something else and leave the drama of the ballet world behind, but I know that part of me will miss it. I also know that there will always be "drama" in any career path I am on, so I rest assured that I won't be bored.

Tonight, upon the completion of our highly successful run, I feel grateful and proud of the company that I call "home." We did it again as we have so many times before, and I really think this was one of the best shows that I've been a part of in years. It was challenging to the artist as well as pleasing to the audience. Those two things don't always go hand in hand. Tonight, I applaud the Kansas City Ballet. Maybe that sounds vain, but honestly, I feel that I am looking as an outsider, and I am really proud of this company.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

The Moor's Pavane: Final Chapter.

Ordinarily, it would be an artist's nightmare to get "booed" by the audience. This was not the case for me as I felt thankful for the response I received during my curtains calls as Iago. I performed my last of two shows of "The Moor's Pavane" tonight. I felt good about both of them. My cast members were so strong, and I felt so connected to them. I can't help but say again how fortunate I feel to have gotten to play this part. It really is the gem of my balletic career. I realized tonight that this was my last principle role with the Ballet. I'll get to do great parts in the Spring show, but as true career defining lead roles go, this was it.

I haven't yet begun to go into my post-show withdrawal, but I'm sure it's on its way. Wow. I have eight weeks of work left. My anxiety levels are through the roof, and I'm being a bit of a grump. This isn't something that I'm proud of, but it's where I am. I've caught myself being outright jerk-ish, and that's something I really want to keep in check. It's hard to be in control of my emotions when so much is happening as my life begins to turn upside down. As always, I welcome it as a challenge.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Opening Night.

If there's one thing that I try to be consistent about, it's that I never know what I'm going to be feeling from moment to moment. I felt that I was in a funk today. I was anxious about the show-which went swimmingly for the record, but I couldn't put my finger on what was bothering me until about halfway through it.

In earlier posts, I've spoken about the "last time I will do...." I have always thought of these things as certain roles. Tonight, I was focused on the actual nitty-gritty of the classical ballet technique. These are the last shows in which I will execute some of the steps that are fundamental to the classical vernacular. I have taken these things for granted for the better part of eighteen years. This may not seem like a big deal, but imagine removing milk from your diet when you've been working on a dairy farm your whole life.

I know that many of the things I do will find their way into my next chosen profession, but it's bound to be different. I perform with an elite group of artists. We are chosen for our near-perfect (seemingly) abilities to create the illusion of perfection and beauty which is above and beyond humanity. I will never again be in this Mecca of "Chosen Ones." I will be in a new and exciting place, but ballet dancers are an unusual breed. I am so lucky to have been blessed with ten solid years in this profession. I am dumbstruck when I try to figure out how I hoodwinked the powers that be into allowing me to play within this grouping.

Tonight, after a wonderful opening, I am happy yet saddened to know that I am only nine performances away from the end of my career as a professional ballet (company) dancer. (four more this rep-five in the Spring.)

-I do get to finally perform "Iago" in Limon's "The Moor's Pavane" tomorrow. I'm ecstatic!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Dress Rehearsal.

Let's go on with the show!

Tonight's dress rehearsal went just fine. It had its share of issues as any dress rehearsal will/should. Tonight, I am thinking about where I stand in "the countdown" towards the season's end. This was my next to last dress rehearsal with the Kansas City Ballet. That's kind of weird. By now, some of these sentiments may sound overstated or corny, but this blog was set up to give the ins and outs of my last year dancing, and I have no way of knowing how things will affect me from day to day. It's strange to know that there will indeed be an end, and I continually take comfort in the knowledge that I decided when that end would be.

I have my fair share of anxieties as I've expressed about this show, but I am looking forward to putting it in front of an audience. Who knows what will happen? The audience is the missing piece that makes a performance come together. We've rehearsed, and now it's time to get on with it! I am proud of my fellow artists, and I hope this weekend goes well for all. We have some newbies making some big debuts, and I'm sure there will be some nerves flying. I look forward to seeing their successes. Ten years ago around this time, I took to the stage for my first lead roles as well as my promotion from "Apprentice" to "Full Company Member." Where did the time go?

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Performance week day one.

I certainly will come away from this week with memories of dancing to last me a long, long time. I haven't hurt this much or been so tired in years. Careful the things you wish for!

Joking aside, I am thankful to get to be in all three of the pieces in this program. It has been a long time since that has happened. It's the luck of the draw. To quote Ol' Blue Eyes, "You're riding high in April, shot down in May." Sometimes this is how it feels in a mixed repertory ensemble company. It can and has been frustrating at times. In this company, I have had to learn a valuable lesson that I will take with me. Sometimes you're the star, oftentimes you're not. Of course, there are exceptions to that rule. There are those select few who are always the star. It's the same way in theatre. That's life! It's not fair. Once I began to accept that reality, things were a lot rosier for me. This would have been a bad career for me to choose, and especially the next one, if I felt that I was entitled to always dance the lead.

Fortunately, though I definitely wouldn't say I'm the star of this show, I am loving the opportunity to dance so much. I really have missed it as I haven't felt that I have done quite so much over the last year or so. I am continually realizing, as I've stated before, how perfect a season this is for me to go out on. The repertory is great for me. I am completely grateful.

For now, I must crash and prepare for the next day!

Monday, February 22, 2010


I took my house guest to the airport this morning after a great visit and getting to see her magnificent performance in her show. It was sad to say good-bye as always, but this time I knew I'd be living in the same city as her and all of our friends soon.

The lead actor in the production she was in, "Young Frankenstein," was in the first Broadway show I ever saw many years ago. His character work then inspired me to want to do those kinds of roles, and I've always enjoyed seeing him on stage and screen.

Yesterday, my friend said she had a surprise for me. After seeing the show, while we were getting dinner, she opened a playbill and it was signed, "To Matthew. All the best!" and it was signed as the canine-character I had first seen this actor portray (and his name, of course.) I began crying in the middle of the Mexican restaurant-how dramatic. This was such a sweet gesture by my friend.

I am not one to be starstruck. That's not what this was about to me. It was about the support that my friend was showing me, number one. Number two, I realized again how nervous I am about this move. Seeing the dancers/actors on stage was exciting. Yes, I feel that I'm good enough, but there are SO many who are good enough. There are many elements that go into casting.

I had a fifty-second panic attack about the move, and then I was fine. There is no way at this point that I could be paid enough to reverse my decision, even if it was possible to. I have been so lucky to live and love my dream here, but I have fulfilled my goals here, and it's time to let another eager artist have a chance. How generous of me-I know, I know. Just the kind of benevolent senior artist that I am. (please note sarcasm.) Really though, yes, I feel weird, but I still keep coming around to the fact that it is indeed time for this change. Lately, I've felt like a broken record in some of these entries, but I find it interesting how completely different situations keep arising that affect me in different-yet the same way emotionally. These different situations keep bringing me to the same conclusions, so I must still be making the right decision.

Hello, and welcome to the department of redundancy department....

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Onward we go.

The last day in the studio before performance week went pretty well. There is still one part in the choreography that I have to think about a bit more than I would like to at this point, but I think things will be ok. We ran the cast in which I am in all three pieces. It was good to finally get a feel for what that will be like stamina-wise.

I find myself in a strange place of not wanting the shows to be here yet but wanting them to be finished. I feel that I need to begin getting on with my preparations, but I feel stuck right now. I'm really having to fight to focus on what I'm doing while my mind is racing about my move.

One thing needs to be clear, and that is that I love this next show. I can't wait for it to be a success. The company looks wonderful, and I am pleased once again to dance alongside such talented people.

Friday, February 19, 2010


Tomorrow is our last day in the studio before going into the theatre for my last Winter series. I must confess that I don't feel as comfortable as I usually like to going into performance week. I'm just a bit anxious because this is a challenging show for me. Overall, I'm excited. As I've said before, I love a challenge, and I have no choice but to meet it head on.

It's an honor to get to perform alongside such talented artists. I look forward to the energy of the theatre. It really is my home, and this is the next to last time I will get to perform at the Lyric Theatre of Kansas City. Fortunately for me, it is probably the most dancing I have done in one show on stage for years.

Bingo-that's why I feel anxious! Just figured that out. Guess it's a good thing I'm blogging.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

It's real now. Part II.

I have to post an sequel to yesterday's entry. Today, I received in the mail a letter from Kanas City Ballet confirming that I have indeed decided to move on, and based on that decision, my contract is not being renewed.

I've been unsure how I would feel with every step that comes along, but this felt amazing. I'm not in one of my sad moods at the moment, so this truly felt good. It was a right of passage of sorts. I was thanked for my years of work with the company. That recognition was lovely and appreciated. This was a lovely way to end my day.

The ball is rolling full speed ahead, so I'm just going to hold on tightly and hope that all of this crazy dreaming works out for me.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

It's real now.

Today, a note went up on the company call board that the letters of intent to the company (contract offers) have been mailed to the dancers. It is completely real to me now. I will never be asked to be a member of a professional ballet company again-well, not on this level. If this sounds dramatic, well, it is to me. I always was a little nervous waiting for that contract offer to arrive, and I was fortunate to bank on it for several years. Now, this chapter is clearly closing, and I'm going to have to start pounding the pavement so that I can get another type of contract.

Today, I stumbled upon old video footage of myself when I was in my early teens auditioning for summer courses. I was good for that age! It was sad to see some of my technique being at a cleaner level then than it is now, but that's how it goes when you're a student. You work on your craft daily from a technical point of view, thereby your muscle memory is cleaner and clearer. It was fun to see that and remember back to that time when I was excited about achieving my dancing goals. Now, I'm excited to work that hard to achieve my next ones.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Full Circle (continuing.)

One of my closest high school friends is staying with me while her Broadway tour is in town. This is significant to me because she was one of my first house-guests in my loft years ago. Moving into my apartment, I swore that it would be a safe place for friends and family. I've been fortunate to entertain many people during the six years I've been here.

It's strange to think of the "shoe box" I'll probably be moving into in New York! I wonder what it will be like? Will I even be able to entertain guests? I am simply thrilled about the adventure.

I am so glad to have my friend here because I've been feeling a bit down and in need of some familiarity. She's here this week, and next week my parents will be here for my last Winter Series. Things are looking up.

Monday, February 15, 2010

A talented city.

I had such a wonderful weekend of theatre going! A dance performance on Friday, a musical on Saturday, and one on Sunday. The show on Sunday really blew me away. It was a production of Jonathan Larson's "Rent," and it was a community theatre show. It made me realize again just how talented people are in this area.

I have seen such amazing community theatre over my years here in Kansas City. Oftentimes I have seen people give performances that are clearly on a professional level. I grew up in an area that didn't always do the best in this arena (to put it politely.) Here, I have to say that my feeling is that the only reason some of these folks haven't "gone pro" so to speak is because they want to have "normal" lives (and perhaps make steady money!)

I find it interesting that the energy and commitment levels people have when they're not being paid for their performances can seem much higher sometimes than. They are performing purely for the love of their art. There's something admirable about that. I'm not saying that it's better or worse than those of us who want to try to make a living at it, but I do find it interesting to see the difference in the dynamics between the two.

I have been joking lately that I only want to do things from now on that are "commercially viable"-a phrase I stole from a friend of mine. "I have artistic fulfillment coming out the wazoo right now" I tell people. "I just want to make money and be comfortable!" Of course this isn't completely true. However, as I've said before, I will be interested to see how my dancing goes when I'm not getting paid anymore to do it full time. I'm lucky to have been paid for so long to do what I love, but I'm excited to do it once again solely for the love of it.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Six degrees of separation.

I attended a lovely performance last night of a company I have had the pleasure to work with in the past, Storling Dance Theatre. They specialize in theatrical dance, and it made me realize again how much I love it when movement is used to tell a story. I love abstract works that don't have a plot, but there's just something fun about storytelling with dance. I guess that's the actor in me.

After the performance, I had the pleasure of meeting some of the dancers I had never worked with. As dancers always do, we played the "Hey! you danced with __________? So did I! Do you know _________?!?" As luck would have it, one of the dancers had gone to a certain summer workshop a couple years after I had, and had lived with the same family that I had lived with and lost touch with over the years.

I love knowing how small the world is. I know that is completely cliche, but I love it. It comforts me because I am a person who places a lot of value on networking. Of course I network for work opportunities, but I also aim to network "sincerely." What I mean by this is that I love making friends and keeping them. I find safety in knowing that I know people across the country and across the globe that I can genuinely call "friends."

As I am transitioning, I find that I'm needing to feel this comfort more than ever. These are the people who help pull me through easy and hard times, and I will in turn be able to do the same for them. Meeting someone who was also close to people I had been close to at a point in my life instantly made me feel as if I'd met a distant family member for the first time.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Sharing roles.

I think I've discovered something I won't miss-at least for a while. Usually, there are at least two casts of each ballet that we perform. This means that you share a role with someone else. This gives more people a chance to get on stage which is a good thing especially since we only do five performances per series.

What I won't miss about this is the tension it creates. Even under the best of circumstances in which both artists are supportive and generous of one another's opportunity to dance a part, I feel that competition between them on some level is inevitable. We all get attached to our roles-our way of doing it. It's only natural given how passionate we are about our job. Sometimes our drive becomes unhealthily though. I don't like the feeling this creates in me. I don't like questioning whether I am as good as the other person. More than that, I hate watching the rift that it sometimes puts between artists. Even in a company as close and familial as ours, we can sometimes be nasty with one another when we have to share parts.

I have always tried to keep myself in check in this regard and make sure that I am being gracious, generous and supportive with whomever I am sharing with. But that said, I will be glad not to worry about split casting for a while.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Focus Matthew. Focus.

Our Winter show opens two weeks from tomorrow. Oh boy. I'm excited and nervous. I still feel that I'm making more mistakes in rehearsals than I want to, and we basically have only one more week in the studio after this one before going into the theatre. It's strange how things come to be. Sometimes, it seems as though we over-rehearse ballets and peak too early in the process. This time, it doesn't quite seem that way.

Hey, here's yet another challenge! I'll choose to look at this as a parallel to the times when I'll be learning a show quickly before putting it on stage in my next career. That happens a lot more often in theatre than in ballet.

I know that we will be fine and the performances will be great. That's one of the things I love about performing artists. We love what we do so much, and we are extremely aware that it is our butts that will be judged once we're on stage. We pull together and in the case of my company, we support one another. It makes things all the more pleasant. I feel that this show will be a rewarding one, and I'm looking forward to it.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010


Today, we ran "The Moor's Pavane," and it felt like a successful one. I believe we're beginning to gel together as a cast. I love this place in the process. At the beginning of the run, a colleague (and friend) of mine came into the studio to watch. I was excited and nervous for her to see the piece for the first time. As we began, suddenly, and briefly, I became aware that I was conscious of her being our audience. Fortunately, I quickly blocked that awareness, and I was able to continue on in character.

I honestly believe that theatre is (or at least should be) first and foremost for the entertainment of the audience. As and actor/dancer/human, naturally I always know that the audience is there. However, thinking back to today's experience, I began to come to a realization of one of the differences between dance and acting. Note: this piece is much more acting than dancing. It's a "walking ballet."

Rarely in my career have I been in story ballets other than the Nutcracker. Most of the works I have performed have been plotless art. This is not a negative statement in any way. It is simply the nature of "concert dance." When doing these kinds of pieces, one can be oneself and interpret a part as such. Often, in this kind of ballet, the "fourth wall" is broken, meaning the artist actually may communicate with those in the house, i.e. smiling directly at them and eye contact with audience members.

As an actor, one needs to remain in character and be a part of the story that the audience is looking into. There are exceptions to this of course, but often, unless the piece is being done in narrative form, the actor will communicate only with his/her other actors to tell the story. Only when this seems real can it be a success for the audience member. If it isn't real to the actor, it won't be real to the audience.

Today, as I allowed myself to forget the "audience," I was able to tell the story fully. I was able to believe it myself, and thereby, fortunately, it worked. I think this is what I love most about acting. I get to tell a story to the audience. I get to take them somewhere else. I get to be someone I'm not. In this case, I get to be "creepy," as my friend said.

Well, great then. That's what I was going for.

Monday, February 8, 2010


I'm starting to have my panic attacks again. There is such a rush of adrenaline coursing through me at all times. I can't sleep well. I'm overwhelmed and anxious, and at the same time, I'm excited and inspired. Once again I'll state how this feels like the time when I was about to come here-leaving everything I knew behind and beginning from scratch. The main difference is that then I had a definite job ahead of me. There was a paycheck to be had. Well, I suppose I'll look at unemployment as my paycheck to be had this time! At least there's that.

I'm beginning to feel the strange sensation of being pulled in two directions. I want to be close to the people I'm around, but yet I want to distance myself so that "good-bye" won't be as painful. It makes me sick to my stomach.

In the meantime, I continue to pour myself into my work and the gym. Both will hopefully continue to help me disperse my energy into positive places. Oh, what a journey.

Saturday, February 6, 2010


This was a tiring but rewarding week. Normally, I feel that I've been trying to hold onto every moment, but I'm okay with these moments being behind me. It wasn't a bad week by any means, but there are some times when my body feels just too sore to go on. Perhaps I'll have some days/weeks like this in the theatre world, but I'd be surprised if there are as many. Theatre seems to ebb and flow a bit more. Even if a show is physically demanding, for me, the hardest time is the learning process. Once I'm in a groove and my body knows what to expect, I'm good to go. The balletic learning process is killer because we learn and rehearse for so long before getting to the stage. I never really feel that I get in a rhythmic flow.

Who knows, perhaps I'll find that I am totally off the mark. As I've always stated, I am perfectly fine with finding out that I am wrong with my preconceived notions on my new path. I should just focus on getting there first and then find out what it's like.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Brain overload.

I have no idea how dancers in large companies such as the New York City Ballet keep so many ballets in their heads and bodies at the same time! Today we were working to retrieve a piece that was made on us in the Fall but won't be performed until the Spring. It's laughable how short term my memory is.

I feel all over the map while we are doing this. We are learning "Who Cares?" which doesn't go up until May, but we still have a lot of work to do on the show we're performing at the end of this month. On top of that, I have to somehow manage to find time to begin thinning out all of my stuff in order to get ready to move out of my apartment. To say that I'm frazzled would be an immense understatement. Of course, I love a challenge, so I plan to rise to the occasion.

All I keep finding myself wanting to do is soak up time with my friends. I guess that's ok-no, I know that is ok. I'm going to miss them so much.

It should be evident to anyone reading this post, that today, I am all over the place mentally.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Full Circle.

I cannot think of a choreographer whose works I have enjoyed dancing more than George Balanchine. He is the man who created what is now the New York City Ballet. (in case any readers don't know of him.) He transformed the world of ballet with his neo-classical approach to the form. He made works that are still relevant today many years after their creation. I have had the honor of dancing in several over my career.

Along with loving to dance these pieces, I also love to watch them. Fortunately, it seems that I won't have to watch the next one we're doing in May. I spoke yesterday and the day before about the "audition process" for "Who Cares?" Today, we began learning the dance "Biding My Time" which is danced by five men, and I have a spot in it. I am thrilled. I'm in the ballet.

Of course one always dreams of dancing the lead role in a work, but this time, I am tickled at the idea of getting to dance in this corps section. This was the first Balanchine ballet I ever performed fourteen years ago as a student. Now, I'll get to go out on it. It will be the last thing I do on stage with the Kansas City Ballet. The music, the choreography, the energy of the piece are all not only crowd pleasers, but they are also dancer pleasers in my book.

George Balanchine spoke of being able to "See the music and hear the dance." His choreography makes the audience ever able to do just that. I love it.

By doing this piece, I will be able to perform it as an homage of sorts to my teacher, Melissa Hayden, who while I've expressed wasn't my favorite, definitely gave me my first taste of this style. I am honored and thrilled to get to say "goodbye" to Balanchine with one of my favorite of his works.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Who Cares?

The audition went well today. We learned the lead man's variation, and I have to say, I'm pretty sure I looked good at it. It's exactly the kind of dancing that I love to do, and I also had the comfort of having learned the part in my past. I was able to add style and character and enjoy it right away. (I think my technique stayed on par as well.) I usually don't say something like this unless I know I did well.

So, naturally, I didn't get that part. Oh well! Once more, I look at it as preparation for the many auditions I'm going to have to do once I move to New York. Oh, but was it fun to dance! I let myself perform for anyone who cared to watch.

There are still five other corps-guy spots in the piece who dance a lot, so my hopes aren't shattered just yet. We'll cross that bridge when it comes.

Today may have been a flop from the standpoint of getting the "gig" or not, but personally, it was a success.

(Note to the universe: I'm willing to NOT get used to these "personal successes." I'm willing to have the opportunity to get used to actually getting the cast! Just putting it out there.)

Monday, February 1, 2010

My last KC Ballet Audition.

Tomorrow, we will begin rehearsing for George Balanchine's ballet set to Gershwin music "Who Cares?" This was the first Balanchine ballet I ever danced, and I performed it when I was at the School of the Arts in tenth grade. It is fun and jazzy.

I just realized today that this is the last "audition" process I will ever go through with this company. I will find out by the end of the week (hopefully sooner) whether I will be in the piece or not, and of course I would love to do the work, but I count my blessings for what I am doing right now. I haven't had a show as great as the one I'm going to dance later this month in years.

It's eerie to think that around this time in the Spring of 2000, I was frantically putting together the video audition that would land me this job. Tomorrow, I will once more give it my best shot to try to impress one last time. It's all coming up so fast, and I'm not sure what will happen, but I guess I'll try to be happy with my situation regardless of the casting. I should just learn to from the title of the piece and simply say, "Who cares?!?"

I can completely give in to the final months after this ballet gets cast and enjoy my last days here. I'm looking forward to all of them.


For many years, I have been told that I have good posture. Often, I've had people ask me to "please slouch" because it makes them uncomfortable how straight I stand, sit or otherwise carry myself. Well, lest they think that I am perfect, I will point out something that I've discovered of late that I need to correct.

Dancers at rest, stand on two feet, but they usually have their weight distributed to one foot or the other with their feet semi-turned out. I have learned that this is NOT how most "normal" people stand! It's actually driving me a bit coo-coo as I have become aware of it recently! When I force myself to stand with my weight equally distributed between both feet with them slightly spread apart and parallel, I am so uncomfortable, I'm almost in pain.

I am enjoying this challenge. I consider it a "character study" of sorts. I've been made aware of something so natural about the people around me that I had never really noticed before. It's fun to make discoveries. Even if they are simple ones.