August 08, 2017

Photo by: Aleksandar Antonijevic

It all began with a phone call, make that a Skype call, in January, 2017. Matjash was speaking with Ashton Gordon, a Post-Secondary Student at Canada’s National Ballet School, hoping to find inspiration for his new work. He recorded the call, and afterwards sifted through the hour-long talk to find ‘the gold’. Around the same time, he discovered some beautiful music by Michael Nyman and at that point, Matjash says, the work clicked into place.
 “I transcribed and edited Ashton's words into a monologue that she delivered over the course of the piece, as the other dancers moved around her.” Matjash says, “Eventually she lost her mic, and joined in the dancing. Ashton's topics ranged from finding purpose in life, commitment and effort in dance, and wonder at the cosmos. I also had her recite an essay by Kevin Kelly entitled We Are Stardust. I felt it was a nice metaphor with which to celebrate this international gathering of young dancers”.
Matjash was one of 10 NBS Alumni choreographers asked to create a work to be performed during the AssemblĂ©e Internationale 2017. Tasked with completing a work in only 10 hours, the choreographers were also assigned dancers, none of whom they’d ever worked with previously. “It was a fast-paced process”, says Matjash, “but I had so much fun working with students from schools in Germany, New Zealand, France, the United States, Holland, Spain and Canada”.
An NBS grad from the class of ’93, Matjash has accomplished much and chosen a path that embraces other theatrical forms, not only dance. He’s a multiple Dora-award nominee and in June, 2016, completed an MFA in large scale theatre direction offered by York University and Canadian Stage. His projects have ranged from the local to Europe, where he recently staged Dangerous Liaisons in Switzerland, as well as to directing purely text-based work, like Shakespeare’s The Comedy of Errors in High Park in the summer of 2015.
I Wonder, his work presented as part of the NBS Alumni Choreography: Fast Forward to Cutting Edge had audiences responding on an emotional level. Combining both spoken word and dance, I Wonder resonated for many. Perhaps it was the combination of Ashton Gordon’s delivery of the monologue, as well as the way in which his cast blended so well together. Matjash’s way of working with his students was very collaborative, speaking in either English or French, depending on their first language. In advance of them arriving at NBS, he asked them each to choreograph a solo of their own to contribute to the work, which was included with the monologue and some other set movement phrases. And he encouraged the students to talk about what they experienced in the piece during the 10 hours they spent together. Matjash believes it’s important that they be able to articulate a point of view. Providing and receiving feedback is something he values and found more practiced in the theatrical world as experienced during his MFA. It’s something Matjash makes a point of sharing with his students, as he believes this process has improved his ability to problem solve.
Matjash heads back out west this summer, working at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity, but there’s no doubt he’ll be remembered around the world by the many students who took part in his ten-hour choreographic workshop, I Wonder in addition to the audiences who were lucky enough to experience one of the performances.