Matthew Cumbie featured on Frame Dance


Fearless improvising. Photo by Emily Theys.

Matthew Cumbie, Dance Exchange’s Resident Artist/Education Coordinator, wrote three wonderful posts about his experience as a dancer, improvisor, and facilitator for the Frame Dance blog in January. Matthew addresses three topics in these posts: financial compensation, worth and values in dance, the practice of staying fully present and how interruption engages the present moment, and his transition from graduate school to Dance Exchange. A short preview of these posts follow; click the title to read the full posting, and enjoy!

January 4, 2013: And this is why I despise the word “passion”, or, Establishing our own value 

That’s right. We are sometimes the cause of our own problems, especially in this situation. I say this because we, as performers and makers and teachers, perpetuate this problem of not paying artists when we participate in this cycle. We do it because we have no other option. We do it because we want to be involved in this love affair at whatever the cost. We do it because we know that if we don’t, someone else will…and for free. We do it because we want that, that right there, on our CV. You know, so when we decide that we’re marketable or valuable we’ll have more artistic weight to throw around. And that’s the magic button- we decide.

January 14, 2013:“During the pause is the ideal time to listen…”

Now how do we go about attuning ourselves to the now? Really I believe that this is a personal process, one that we develop with repetition and over time. In my practice, it’s about finding a pause or interruption. When improvising and moving from one score to another, a certain kind of momentum builds that is either physically manifested in the body or an internal momentum of choice making in which choices are made before they are fully realized, or both.

January 21. 2013: “Small Dances About Big Ideas” and the importance of story telling

It was at this point that I began to want and need and work towards finding a way to compromise the distance I felt between my artistic self and my everyday self. I began to question the processes that I was engaged in, wondering why I was doing this work and of what value did it have for others besides myself. What good was I doing for anyone else but me? What did I value in both my art making and my life making that I could harness in a process and feel satisfied with? How could I participate in a rigorously full artistic process and a rigorously full life simultaneously? These questions felt important in lessening that gap. When I started my work with Dance Exchange at that Summer Institute, and subsequently on some residencies that I was invited to help facilitate, answers to some of these questions manifested themselves either in the work that was made or in the relationships that formed, and I have a feeling it has to do with the alignment of my values and the organizations’ values and in the way that this process and work asks me to bring my whole self regularly.

About Sarah Levitt

Sarah Levitt (Resident Artist/Communications Coordinator) is a dancer, choreographer and teacher based in Maryland.