Matthew Cumbie started full-time as a Resident Artist this month, and we couldn’t be happier to have such a strong dancer, teacher, and facilitator join our team. Matthew came to our 2011 Summer Institute and it was clear from the start that an artist as generous, kind, intelligent and focused as he is is a rare thing. He took a few moments to answer some of my questions about his dance background and what he’s looking forward to in DC this year:
Can you talk a little bit about how you started dancing?
I definitely didn’t grow up dancing. I played soccer and sang in choirs up through high school, which have most certainly influenced how I move today. I got the bug, though, after auditioning to perform at a theme park in Houston; originally, I wanted to sing (thinking it would lead me to a career performing in a boy band!) but had such an awakening experience during the dance audition that I decided then and there that I had to enroll in class. A year later I enrolled at a local studio in the town that I was going to college in and have been dancing ever since.
How did you find yourself at Dance Exchange?
After my second year of graduate school, an alum and friend of mine (Ellen Chenoweth, now Managing Director of the DX) was working for the Dance Exchange and asked if I would be interested in observing a rehearsal while I was in DC for a performance. At the rehearsal I met a few other members of the company and shortly afterwards decided that I wanted to know more. After graduating I enrolled and attended the 2011 Dance Exchange Summer Institute and have yet to leave.
What were you doing before you came to DX?
This past year after finishing my M.F.A. at Texas Woman’s University I spent living in Brooklyn, NY, pursuing the life of a professional dance artist. I was dancing for a number of choreographers, including Keith Thompson/danceTactics Performance Group, Jill Sigman/thinkdance, and Christian von Howard. I was also working this past spring as an adjunct lecturer at Queensborough Community College.
What kinds of responsibilities do you have here?
My title with the DX is resident artist, though like many here, my role with the organization include many facets. In addition to my artistic capacities, like performing and helping contribute to the art-making process, I also lead and facilitate a number of classes and educational functions. The other part of my title, Education Coordinator, is a position that is relatively new and as such we’re still exploring what all that might entail; at the moment, I facilitate and work closely with our Youth Programs and adult class series. I will also be helping initiate other kinds of educational programming, as well as contributing to blogs and social media.
What do you like about DX’s work?
I think the things I appreciate the most about the work that the DX does gravitate around the intense research process that goes into the making of each work. I’ve found that the organization as a whole is really unafraid to ask important questions about who and what and why. I’m very much interested in looking at who’s dancing, what the dancing is about, and why it might be important because for a long time I felt that my artistic and everyday lives were so separate; by engaging in this rich process I feel that divide lessen, which I find exciting and moving. And I like being moved to move.
What are you excited about this year as a new resident of DC?
As I’m new to the DC area, I think I’m most excited about the food, museums, and parks. I’m a huge foodie- I love trying new cuisines, restaurants, dives, and drinks! The accessibility to parks is also exciting. You’ll very soon come to find out that I’m obsessed with my dog Lucas. When in NYC, though parks were accessible, we rarely had the time to go and hang out in them together. For a number of reasons, I think that will not be the case here and I’m looking forward to people watching with my dog all over town.
What do you do when you are not at DX?
Like I said before, I’m obsessed with my dog. I usually spend a lot of time with him. We’re currently really excited about exploring our immediate neighborhood off of Rhode Island Avenue; there are a lot of other dogs (and owners) that Lucas seems happy to meet. My neighbors, roommate, and I are also in the process of starting a garden in the backyard of our apartment, so that will be something to look forward to once things get going. You could also find me curled up with a good book….or food.