Welcome to Part II of my conversation with American Ballet Theatre soloist Jared Matthews, who appears as a guest dancer tomorrow night on Fox TV’s So You Think You Can Dance. (Thurs. 7/22, please check your local television listing for times) Matthews will partner fellow ABT dancer Yuriko Kajiya in a condensed version of the dramatic Grand Pas de Deux from Act III of “Don Quixote.” I wouldn’t miss this treat! Both dancers impressed when I saw them perform last Thursday during the opening night of ABT’s “Sleeping Beauty” at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, Matthews with his strength, precision, and effortless partnering as one of the Fairy Knights and Kujiya with her delicate yet arrow-sharp pointework as Princess Florine in the Bluebird Pas de Deux.
During our phone chat last week, Matthews shared his thoughts about guesting on So You Think You Can Dance as well as the state of ballet in the dance world today. After a short break to take a call from ABT’s conductor- who was editing music for the shortened pas de deux and sending the cd to Matthews that evening- we resumed talking.
D. on D.: “How did you come to be on So You Think You Can Dance?”
J.M.: “Nigel (Lythgoe, Executive Producer and one of the show’s judges) is a big supporter and fan of classical ballet. He was in Bermuda last year for a benefit, saw Yuriko in a show there and really enjoyed it. He spoke with her afterwards and then called Kevin (McKenzie, ABT’s Artistic Director) directly, and that was it. Although we’ve basically had to cut the pas de deux in half to fit the minutes allowed, I think it’s great that we’ll be dancing Don Q on his TV show.”
D. on D.: “Why is that important?”
J.M.: “The fact that I’ll be in white tights and Yuriko in pointe shoes and a tutu will be reaching a whole new generation that has never been exposed to ballet. I think ballet needs that crossover value to work, because the arts are struggling right now in terms of accessibility. But because of shows like So You Think You Can Dance and Dancing With The Stars, people are becoming interested in dance again, and classical ballet can ride off that.”
D. on D.: “You sound hopeful.”
J.M.: “Well, I think dance had a big recession. It’s heyday was in the 70’s and 80’s, when Misha (Baryshnikov)and Gelsey (Kirkland) were dancing. I was talking to one of the ABT conductors recently and he remembered one day in the late 70’s when Balanchine, Tudor, MacMillan and Robbins- four of the greatest choreographers- were all rehearsing dancers in these studios. It was a very different time.”
D. on D.: “So, where does it go from here?”
J.M.: “For me, classical ballet is the most important thing. It’s what I love to perform, and it’s important to keep pushing it and putting it out there. I think about a show like Swan Lake and see that people are still moved by it. It’s not dated at all. And in Europe, you can see the support is still there…I was visiting a friend in Great Britain over the holidays and on Boxing Day (celebrated there the day after Christmas) the BBC had the Royal Ballet on all day long, and not just “The Nutcracker.” The more this country can do things like that, the better.”
D. on D.: “Well, this has been great! Thank you again, Jared.”
Diamond on Dance, signing off for now. Until next time….