In an art as precise as ballet, the introduction of chance isn’t exactly welcomed. At 19, however, Matthew Cluff is an exception to the rule. Joining Ballet Victoria at least until the end of the summer, he couldn’t have arrived at a better time.
Anticipating year’s end at the San Francisco Ballet School, Cluff sent out audition tapes to find a place for himself over the summer. For most ballet students that means paying fees to live at a ballet school and continue training.
In December, Cluff sent the prerequisite tapes to the larger ballet companies in Winnepeg, Toronto and Calgary. Next he sent auditions to a few smaller companies, including Ballet Victoria. Cluff says he couldn’t have imagined it when he heard back from artistic director Paul Destrooper that night. With that response, the young dancer would not only be training with world-class dancers — he’d actually be getting paid for it.
As chance would have it, Robb Beresford had recently left the company, leaving a sizable gap in Ballet Victoria’s dancer portfolio. Beresford often danced opposite Andrea Bayne as principal. Now Cluff will have his turn.
“I just came out of a ballet school. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I’d be doing Corsaire. And I’m the lead!”
According to Destrooper, we’re watching the beginnings of one of ballet’s future stars. But joining mid-season means new choreography, new dancers and new chemistries to create. Add to that getting to know a new city and it could all become overwhelming.
Cluff says he’s not immune to nerves. “In rehearsal, I’m not thinking about doing the lead in front of the audience,” he says. “Thinking about it at home, at night — a big stage lead — it kind of scares me. I know I can’t let it rattle me though.”
Keeping his nerves in check, Cluff joins Ballet Victoria for The Secret Garden and Other Works. The show features excerpts from Le Corsaire and its tale of a pirate’s love for a slave; choreographer Bruce Monk’s Northern Lights inspired Noctilux; and wows with choreographer Joe Laughlin’s White Waltz (we’re told there are rollerskates!).
The second act’s Secret Garden is choreographed by Paul Destrooper and is inspired by a play the Belfry’s artistic director Michael Shamata created.
While chance played a big part in getting Cluff here, good luck has set him up with some great teachers. Principal dancer Bayne is one such guide. “Partnering with Andrea, we clicked almost immediately,” says Cluff. “I was really happy about that, and that my training had paid off.”
See Cluff’s debut next to your Ballet Victoria favourites March 22-24 at the McPherson Playhouse. Visit balletvictoria.ca for more information. M
The Secret Garden
and other works
March 22 and 23 at 7:30pm and March 24 at 2pm
Tickets starting at $24.75 with discounts for children, students and seniors