American Stars Gala’s Jared Matthews: There’s always room to be better in classical ballet
Jared Matthews, principal dancer of Houston Ballet, is in the roster of artists performing in Ballet Manila’s American Stars Gala on July 7 at Aliw Theater. For the one-night-only concert, he is joined by Boston Ballet principal dancers Lia Cirio and Junxiong Zhao, fellow Houston Ballet principal dancer (and real-life partner) Yuriko Kajiya, Boston Ballet soloist Hannah Bettes, and Ballet Manila resident guest principal artists Katherine Barkman and Joseph Phillips.
Formerly a soloist with the American Ballet Theatre, Jared moved back to his hometown of Houston, Texas in 2014 where he signed up as a soloist with Houston Ballet. In 2015, he was promoted to principal dancer and has since danced such roles as: Albrecht in Giselle, Solor in La Bayadere, Romeo in Romeo and Juliet and Sharpless in Madame Butterfly, all by Stanton Welch; Prince Florimund in The Sleeping Beauty and Prince in The Nutcracker, both by Ben Stevenson; and as Lescaut in Manon by Sir Kenneth MacMillan, Lucentio in The Taming of the Shrew by John Cranko, Lysander in A Midsummer Night’s Dream by John Neumeier and Tony in West Side Story Suite by Jerome Robbins.
This is the first time Jared and Yuriko are visiting the Philippines and both are excited about the opportunity to perform in American Stars Gala.
Before heading to Manila, Jared answers some of our questions about his love for ballet, his favorite role to dance and his advice to budding ballerinas and danseurs to ensure a thriving career.
How do you prepare to perform before a completely new audience?
Audiences all around the world are very similar. If they see something that moves them, then they are going to react in a positive way. Yuriko and I are very aware that there is lots of work to do so that we can deliver an honest performance for this special audience. We hope to move them.
How did you get your start in ballet? And what or who inspired you to pursue a career in it?
I started out as a tap dancer. And to this day I love to watch tap dancers. The reason I started ballet was only to improve my coordination and flexibility to make me a better tap dancer. But when I saw (Mikhail) Baryshnikov in the movie The Turning Point, I realized what a male ballet dancer truly is. That was the moment for me when I decided to change course and pursue becoming a ballet dancer. Even now, I watch films of Baryshnikov to continue learning and to be inspired to push myself to be a better dancer.
What is your favorite ballet or character to perform? How do you put a fresh take on something you’ve done many times before?
My favorite role to perform is Albrecht from Giselle. There is something about the character, and the dancing that I am able to connect with. I am very lucky to have had the opportunity to perform this role many times in many different productions. And truthfully it never gets old. The thing that makes classical ballet so challenging is that there is always room to be better. And it is the pursuit that makes dancing a role like Albrecht still interesting because you can always grow and find new ways to execute the steps and to tell the story.
What is it about ballet that makes all the effort worth it?
Being a part of the theater performing for people is a very special thing. Those few hours on stage when you are able to connect with your fellow dancers, and transport the audience to an imaginary place is very rewarding. And it is those moments when all the other stuff makes it totally worth it. I have had a great career and it has taken me all around the world. Without being a ballet dancer, I might not have had the opportunity to travel to the Philippines, and learn and experience their amazing culture. It is times like this that make it all worth it.
What advice can you give to young dancers who want to nurture a fruitful career in ballet?
Think long term. You want to have a long career and be able to maximize everything you can. Perseverance always beats talent. Think about what kind of dancer you want to be, then set out to become that.
What’s your life like outside of ballet?
My life is very normal. I love to read books and watch travel documentaries on Netflix. I am really looking forward to learning about the Philippines while I am there.