Sunday, May 30, 2010

What a day.

I spent most of my day by the sea relaxing and throwing frisbee with a couple of my close friends, and then by dusk I was watching sailboats play around the Statue of Liberty. Following these events, went home, showered, and then went back out to meet with some friends. While we was at the restaurant, the server (my friend's friend" said "Matthew?!?" Yup. I knew her. We had gone to school together at the Rock School eleven years ago! Here I was concerned that no one would ever recognize me again!

I don't know any other city for myself at this point in my development where I could experience the exciting things I am at this moment. I'm looking forward to my auditions this week, and we'll see how they go!!

Familiar faces.

Yesterday was a beautiful day in New York City! Sure, the weather was lovely, but I had my first experience that helped prove that I will still get to see people I love even if we don't all live in the same city anymore.

I began the day by having coffee with my former stage manager from KC Ballet, and that was simply great. I've always enjoyed the times when I get to visit with her. A bit later, I had lunch with one of the dancers who is in town visiting and taking classes. This place really is a safe place to be if one is concerned with staying in touch with dancers. I ended the day having dinner with my stage manager and her friends. It was lovely.

I am so thankful for opportunities like this. This city is full of them around every turn. It would be easy to forget why I'm here, but I haven't! I have a couple of auditions coming up this week, so here I go! Let's get this started!

Friday, May 28, 2010

I'm here.

Finally, for the first time in my life, I live in New York. I'm residing in Astoria, Queens, and it takes me about twenty minutes to get into Times Square by train. My neighborhood is charmingly residential without seeming suburban, and yet I'm a block away from busy life round the clock. I finally just finished organizing my room. It was a huge task considering I have the most stuff of all of the three of us living here. I now feel like I can breathe a bit easier.

Next week if all goes to plan, I will attend a couple of auditions. It's time to try to make it happen. I'm still feeling a bit burned out from the past ten years, but I know that I am up here to perform. It's what I love doing, and energy or not, I need to go for it. I can rest when I'm dead! Whether it takes me days, weeks, months or years, I am excited that I live in a city where there is life to occupy the dull moments and the waiting times. Sure, there is life everywhere, but nothing touches the energy of this city.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

I can almost taste it.

The drive across the country has been beautiful and fun. I am going to miss my life in Kansas City terribly, but to be East again and going through the mountains and seeing the green and with a good friend and a good dog-Aaaaahhhh!! Big sigh!! I feel home again.

We spent the night with my brother and had a wonderful time being goofy around the fire and grilling food. I woke up early tired but too excited to sleep. We're so close to our new home, but our roommate (the one who actually has a job) is shooting today and isn't available until the evening.

Every step of this trip is working out in such a way that I am feeling more and more comfortable with my decision. That's a great thing because I've felt pretty darned good about it since day one anyway!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Woah boy!

Today was a wonderfully easy drive overall. We left at ten this morning, and we arrived in Indianapolis at eight. I only backed into one car with the truck at one of our gas fill-ups, but there was not damage, and my roommate and I left the scene feeling very lucky.

So.....we are spending the night in a mansion. Yup, that's right a mansion. This house is full of beautiful European artwork and treasures from all over the place. I am writing my most poorly worded entry because I can't think straight! I'm so in awe of the generosity that has been offered to us by these friends of my roommates mother.

The lesson I take from this? Keep connecting with people. ALL OF THE TIME. As a performer-heck, as a human, I believe it is important to learn the best people skills one can in order to share experiences and events and....I have to stop writing! I can't put into words what I'm thinking! I'm simply floored, and I am learning so much from all of my opportunities.

I can't wait until I can once again offer a place for others to stay and extend (in a much wimpier way) a helping hand.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Here goes....

My last two days in Kansas City were packed to the brim. I'll hit some of the high points that meant something to me.

Story one requires some background first. Ten years ago, during the summer of 2000, I attended a jazz concert in my hometown of Mt. Airy, NC right before I was to leave home for good, and it was there that I first heard the jazz standard that says "Goin' to Kansas City, Kansas City here I come..." I've loved that song ever since. On Saturday, I went to listen to my friend's father who is an amazingly talented and versatile guitarist play jazz at an awesome barbecue joint. Talk about killing two birds with one stone-KC jazz and KC barbecue! The second song that I heard them played was-you guessed it-"Goin' to Kansas City!"

Earlier that day, the Penske moving truck rate was dropped from $609 (an already good rate) to $258 because they were late having the truck delivered! WOW!! I'd dare say this trip is a go!

On Sunday, I went to the high school graduation party of a young lady who I had first met when she was played an angel in "The Nutcracker." It was completely wild to see her grown up and preparing to go to school. It had been a couple years since I saw that family last. I had to fight back tears when watching the power point slide show of her life.

Tonight was a low-key night over drinks and food with a small group of friends. I am continually touched that people would come show such wonderful support for me. I am fortunate to have had such a strong core group in this town. The feeling of rebuilding that is quite daunting.

I feel stranger now at this moment than ever. I officially have no car, I drove a car for the last time-for a while at least-tonight. Until we arrive in New York, I will have no apartment keys on my key chain for the first time in ten years. These things may seem insignificant, but consider again that this was the first place that I made my own home.

I guess I can finally understand the famous quote, "There's no place like home..." After all, that story did take place nearby. Now, if anyone thinks I'm going to wear ruby slippers, then think again!!!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

So close I can taste it.

What do I do to stay calm at this point? With only six days left until I move, I'm pretty frazzled! I have been loving working on the Starlight Theatre Gala because it's a revue of many musicals, so I'm getting to sing and dance. I've had to fight back tears a couple of times when we sing "What I did for love" from "A Chorus Line." Yes, so I'm sentimental. Just like the actors auditioning in that show, I'm not sure what my life would have been like if I hadn't had the opportunity to do what I love for the last decade.

On another note, I've come upon some frustrations with the knowledge that somehow some people don't seem to know that I sing. I am quite pigeonholed in this town as a dancer, and that is another frustrating reason that it is time to get out of town and get a fresh start. Am I an opera star? No. Can I do a bit more than just carry a tune? Yes. It's amazing how people get an idea of you in their mind, and that can be hard to change for some reason.

Well, I look forward to auditioning for everyone who thinks they know me again sometime. Hopefully, this confidence with which I'm writing will carry over and out of my mouth in the form of a voice that will surprise them. A triple threat I am determined to be.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Level playing field.

I went to the college graduation party of a former student of mine yesterday. Of course, I had another opportunity to talk about what I was going to be doing soon with my move and my transition. Speaking to my student and hearing about his summer gigs and then his plans to move up to New York in September really made me think again about how I really am starting over in a way. Thankfully, I have a good resume behind me, but I'm moving up with "the class of 2010" from all of the theatre departments across the country. It can be quite daunting when I stop to think about it. Thereby, I choose not to-well at least not for too long at a time.

On a fun note, at this time next week, my roommate and I will be on the road and hopefully about four to five hours into our journey eastward! How exciting!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

In Limbo

Rehearsals are going just fine for what will be my last gig while I'm living here in Kansas City. That's a strange thing to think about! What a wild ride this has all been.

I'm going a bit crazy today. I feel somewhat stuck right now. I feel as if I am waiting for a train (or something) to come and take me off, and it's running late. I know that this week will fly past, and I need to just enjoy it, but I feel somewhat detached from everything at the moment. Several of my close friends are here in town still, but since work at the ballet ended, I don't see them every day. I suppose my withdrawal has quietly begun. I do miss the day in and out of my job at the ballet. Well, at least I miss the idea of it. I miss the security of knowing that I can begin work again in three months and see everyone as usual.

I really want to get to New York and find out how I'm going to do. I hope to be settled in relatively quickly. I'm just anxious about the unknown. Well, it won't be unknown for much longer.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Counting down.

I can’t believe I have eight days left. It has been hard saying my “Goodbyes” to people as they leave for the summer, and I know I won’t see them for longer than usual. I have been having dreams about my Kansas City friends and weird scenarios. I find this tends to be a pattern when big changes come my way in life. I find dreams interesting, and I wish I was skilled at interpreting them! Ah well, I will just let their mystery baffle me!

Today, I was rehearsing for the gala I am performing in before I leave town, and we were singing “What I did for love” from “A Chorus Line.” I had to fight back tears again as I sang because the emotions I felt when seeing that show a couple weeks ago came flooding back. This career was amazing. I can’t wait for the next one.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Let's Continue.

High in the air traveling back to Kansas City, I finally have some time to process the events of the last couple of days. The only thing I can say is “Wow. I did it. I’m doing it. Wow.” I had a dream as a little boy of someday and living in New York to pursue theatre. It was thwarted for almost two decades (and thankfully so) by another dream to become a professional ballet dancer. Now, as of a few hours ago, I saw the apartment that will be my home for at least the next year. I am going to be a resident of New York in two weeks.

I find it appalling that some people would have the audacity to crush the dreams of others. Somehow, I was born into a family where getting ahead wasn’t the name of the game, so success was able to be birthed. Let me explain. You see, when you don’t focus on being number one and killing the competition, something happens naturally. The universe makes it possible to succeed. Thereby, success comes at the time and level it is supposed to. Yes, there are those in life who are driven to “get ahead.” They will stop at nothing to win. This can be a great quality in some, but in most of the people I have known with this quality, one major thing is lacking. That is true happiness. At the end of the day, unless one is actually happy and grateful for their success, I don’t really call that being successful. Now of course, this is my own opinion.

Some who know me would say, “Matthew, who the heck are you to say this? You’re not happy all of the time,” and some would even go so far to say that often I seem downright miserable. That is very true. I struggle with the “get ahead” mentality. I am super competitive, and I always have been. However, I am learning more about my nature, and perhaps not booking any of the last few gigs I have auditioned for is meant to teach me something. Sure, much of that could be based on a slew of things-luck, timing, type, but I’m trying to find ways of studying the events in my life. This time, I’m using my rejections as a time to try to learn to be happy for the people who do/did land the jobs I was going for. Thereby, when it is finally my turn, I won’t simply take my success for granted.

So, I began by talking about stomping on dreams and then went off on a tangent (true to form,) but I do have a point. I need to make sure that I aim to spread the same support that I have almost always been given throughout my training and career to those around me. I am about to find myself in an interesting position. I’m going to be living with two other actors. While we are ALL in different areas and different types, I would be a fool not to acknowledge the risk of feeling jealous or competitive as we begin to have successes at different times. I’m gearing up now to make sure that I work to aid in the dreams of my roommates.

The last ten years really taught me a lot. I have much more to learn.

This blog was initially designed to chart my last year as a dancer. I feel that I have completed that goal. However, I have been encouraged to continue this blog into the next phase of my transition, and I think it could be interesting to do so. Thank you to all who have taken the time to read, respond and support me this year. I will continue to report and still strive to stay true to my first goal of not making a glorified “Facebook” status of my postings.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Coming down.

My schedule was crazy on Sunday. I finished the show at four, was on a flight at 6:10 with one of my coworker's mother and grandmother (which was nice,) and after a long and bumpy flight, I finally arrived at my friends house by 12:30am. When I awoke, I went and had breakfast with two dear friends from Kansas City, and then I went to stand in line an hour and a half before my audition. After the audition-of which I made it to the second cut, I met friends for cocktails and dinner, randomly met a girl who had graduated from my school six years after me, went and played board games with the friends from earlier in the day and finally went back to where I am staying for the night.

Needless to say, I haven't had time to take in the fact that my career with KC Ballet ended on Sunday afternoon at 4:00. In a way, I'm happy, but I know myself, and I am going to need to find time to grieve that loss. However, if I am really honest with "knowing myself," I know the time to grieve will find me. Probably by something harmless and random such as a hot dog stand that looks like one that used to be outside my building in KC or something. I'll be standing weeping on the sidewalk in NYC making people wonder who the new crazy guy is who has just been added to the mix?!? Actually, here, no one would notice!

I LOVE MY NEW CITY!! I cannot wait to get back. No, I didn't book the Radio City job, but that's ok! It's not my turn yet. I did well, and I know that my ballet performance stood out-perhaps too much-who knows. In the meantime I'll just focus on my last week and a half in KC (I fly back tonight,) and I'll make them wonderful. This is my last "visit" to New York! It's my last time "crashing" with friends! This year has been full of many bittersweet "lasts," but these are wonderful ones!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Today is the day. It is my last day as a member of the Kansas City Ballet. My whole career here in Kansas City will come to a close. I am at a loss for words. Instead of trying to come up a description of what I’m feeling now, I’ll simply say “Thank you.”

I am grateful to the audiences who have supported and watched me. Throughout the weekend I had several people tell me that they had enjoyed watching me since I arrived. Sometimes, with so many people in one company, it’s easy to feel overlooked by ones boss, and it can be discouraging. However, when I receive the feedback from the audience, my work is completely validated. Sure, we as dancers want our employers to appreciate us, and they probably do, but what we leave behind, our legacy, rests in the minds of those who paid to watch us for years.

I’ll have more to report later, but for now, this is it.

I wrote the above early this morning, and was unable to publish it due to no Internet connection. Here is part II.

I am "retired!" The performance went well, and I didn't even cry too much. I'm now sitting in the airport waiting to board for my flight to New York. All of this will settle in soon enough, but for now I'm sure I'm in denial. I know that I am excited. Up, up and away I finally go.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Another opening, another show...

This wasn't just any opening for me. This was it. This was the last time I will open a Kansas City Ballet performance as a member of the company. I've said it before, and I'll take the luxury of saying it again, where did the time go?!?

The show was a huge success. The audience was receptive and jovial. As I watched from backstage, I tried to savor every moment. I took in the view of the dancers from the wings with lighting "booms" in the way, and I tried to take mental snapshots. I have had the best seat in the house for years. The audience sees the perfect illusion. Those in the wings see the true beauty in the perfection and imperfection. They are both amazing in their own rights. I actually prefer the latter.

Tonight, dancing George Balanchine's "Who Cares?" I let myself go. Was I perfect? No. Can and will I improve upon my performance in the next two shows I do of that piece? Yes, or at least I hope so. However, I had the time of my life. I gave everything I had to the audience and those sharing the stage with me. To me, it was my way of saying "Thank you" to everyone who has been watching for so long.

After the show, at the opening night party, I was presented with a beautiful photograph from my performance as "Iago" in "The Moor's Pavane." This was the role of my career as I've said before, and I am ecstatic to have this memory saved and framed. Several people at the party approached me and thanked me for my work here. I felt so humbled and thankful that I have added even a small speck to the portrait that is the Kansas City Ballet. I will always carry the good wishes of these audience members with me for strength as I pursue the next phase. Here I go.

Home stretch.

My final dress rehearsal was a bit eventful. Earlier in the day, one of our dancers was having anxiety attack-like issues, and so he had to go to the hospital. Before I go on, I will say that he is fine and will be back in for the performances. I happen to understudy said dancer in one of the pieces, and so I was thrown on for the run. I was pretty anxious, but overall, it went well. The choreographer was pleased and shook my hand, my ballet mistress came back stage to praise me, and even my director seemed happy. Needless to say, I felt quite relieved.

The rehearsal continued on, and the piece I do "Who Cares?" closes the show. It went well until the very end. There are a series of lifts in which I pop my partner quickly into the air fully extending my arms. Tonight, the music was played a bit faster than we have been rehearsing, yet I still tossed my partner and brought her down very quickly. During the second of these three lifts, something pinched, pulled, slipped-or something-in my lower neck/extreme upper back. Now, I am currently sitting writing with an icy-hot patch glued to me. Today, I will see the physio therapist, and although in pain, I'll make it through tonight. Never a dull moment in ballet.

I am excited about opening. It is going to be special. My colleagues are being sensitive towards me knowing that this is a strange experience for me. The good thing is that all of my loose ends seem to have come together, so I can enjoy the weekend.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

The final piece.

I have an apartment lined up! As of yesterday morning, my roommate who already resides in New York found a great deal on a large three bedroom place in Astoria. It is newly renovated and will be perfect for us! I am excited to see it next week when I am in the city briefly.

Just knowing that I have a place to look forward to moving to is a huge relief. I had reserved the moving truck the day before without even having an apartment locked down, so to have something fall into place the next day was simply perfect.

Yesterday’s theatre rehearsals went well overall. I was definitely ready to get some rest afterwards though. Today, we have tech and then dress rehearsal at night. Man oh man it’s flying by! I’m savoring as much as possible, but it’s going too fast! The whole last ten years feel like a blur. All I can do is point my feet as hard as possible, smile and let it all soak in.

Monday, May 3, 2010


Well, that snuck up on me! I looked at my schedule today for the next couple of weeks and realized that tonight is my last class teaching my students. I am booked with rehearsals and out of town travel the next couple of weeks. In a way, I'm glad that I didn't see this coming because I had no time to dread it! Tonight, I'll teach my heart out and try to give one last great class to these kids. It is clear to me that I may never teach some of them again, and that is a strange feeling.

The dance world is small, and I look forward to seeing these kids again. I'm sure that many of them will continue on with their dance education and then on into the world of performing. Teaching has been one of the joys of my career here, and I hope that I will get to continue doing it in my next surroundings. One thing at a time though. I need to recover from this closed chapter. Heck! Who am I kidding?!? I need to get my resume out soon so that I can book some teaching gigs! I've never found a better and more enjoyable way to make money (other than performing!)

Part II: (written today, the 4th) the Class was great. The kids worked extremely hard, and afterwards there were many tears. Wow that was hard. I held it together though. Now, I'm off to my first last day of theatre week.

Beautiful Friends.

Tonight, I attended the end of the season party for the dancers of the Kansas City Ballet, which was hosted at one of the dancer’s lovely home. The party began at six, and I felt a little bad showing up late, but I had my students’ last show to attend. I got there around ten, and was bowled over. As I entered the house everyone began singing “For he’s a jolly good fellow.” The end of the year party was a party in my honor. They had all gotten there at six o’clock, and the joke had even become that they didn’t know if I would even make it. Make it I did, and I am still incredibly moved.

They presented me with a framed picture of the entire company, and around the matting, the dancers had written messages to me. I also learned that one of the dancers had organized a questionnaire about me that each of the dancers had been working on throughout the week with questions ranging from “When you hear the word “Donnell” what do you think of?” to “What was Matthew’s best/funniest moment?” and on and on.

There were a lot of funny comments, but there were also a lot of heartfelt ones which made me realize all the more how much I am going to miss my colleagues. This was the most amazing gesture that I could have been given, and I will be forever grateful. This gives me yet another group of people that I don’t want to let down. Where would I be without the support of these people in my life? I hope that I may be the friend to them that they have been to me.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Dress Code Attire.

Today, my last full rehearsal day in the studio of Kansas City Ballet was quite fine. I didn't have any emotional breakdowns-thank goodness! I simply danced and enjoyed myself. I'm ready to do these shows. For class, I wore what a student wears: white shirt, black tights, white socks and white shoes. At least that was the common attire when I was a young kid in school. My line was "I wore this coming in, I'm wearing it going out!"

Tonight, I was inspired as I watched my students perform in their Spring concert. My piece opened the show. They all seemed so excited to see me there, and I was equally excited to see how much they put into the performance. One of the most important things when being in a position of director/choreographer is to realize that once the show goes up, there is nothing left for you to do but sit back, relax and enjoy whatever is presented to you. Yes, I am critical of my work and the work of my students, but it does no one any good to come down on someone for their performance if it didn't go perfectly. This is my philosophy on this type of leadership. It promotes a safe zone where people feel encouraged to succeed. Unfortunately, it isn't always like this in the world of performance, but when it comes to myself, I can control the energy I emit to my students. As a result, I believe they felt safe to do their best, and they gave a beautiful performance. I was proud. I'll get to see it twice more tomorrow with a different cast. I can't wait to see what they bring to the work. It is exhilarating to see one's work come to life! It has been wonderful to have the chance to work with young artists over the years.

All in all, I must say that today was a nice day. I look forward to seeing what tomorrow will bring. I hope to make my last twenty-two days in Kansas City full of positive energy and good times.