Tuesday, December 20, 2016

♥ an Interview with Artistic Director of the Nutcracker, Jose Mateo.

a few weeks ago, henry, nick and i had the joyous opportunity to see Jose Mateo's 
Nutrcracker for the second year in a row at the Cutler Majestic Theater! 
equally as riveting, compelling, beautifully choreographed, well-designed 
and downright entertaining, this season's Nutcracker did not disappoint! 

as i watched the dancers onstage and engaged with the audience that evening,
i was reminded of the importance and significance of having a diverse cast, something which
directly correlates with the colorful community that came to enjoy that night's performance. 
as a mom, it means so much for me to put Henry in situations where he can celebrate people's
differences, and to appreciate how magical it can be when people from all different walks of life
come together to make something beautiful, and what better way to do so than an evening at the theater?

i recently had the chance to interview the artistic director and creative genius behind
the nutcracker, jose mateo, and wanted to share his amazing responses with you-
may you enjoy reading his insights into dance and life as much i did! 

Photo credit: Gary Sloan

A Glimpse of Glamour: The Jose Mateo Ballet Theatre, "believes that ballet should be accessible and enjoyed by people of all racial, cultural, socio-economic backgrounds." How does it feel to stand behind such strong and inclusive values and to offer opportunity at a time in the world where not everyone is being celebrated for their diversity? What role does dance play in breaking down those barriers?

Jose Mateo: Dance is the most suitable medium for breaking down barriers and creating new bonds among people of different cultures and
 traditions. In all its form, dance is an inherently honest expression of a person's truest self. It is an innately and universally understood
language that can be more effective than verbal communication in creating a sense of optimism about the social connections we share
and the promise of the strong communities we envision for the future. Inclusion is simply a respectful practice of the acknowledging
the obvious truth that we are all part of a greater collective expression as a species and that, as diverse as we are, we share the same need 
for a sense of belonging within the greater community.

A Glimpse of Glamour: You just finished up your November 25- December 4th run at the Cutler Majestic Theatre and will now move on 
to the newly renovated Strand Theatre in Dorchester from December 9-18. How would you say that these two venues influence the performance
of The Nutcracker?

Jose Mateo: The two venues are similar in many ways but are clearly in two very different parts of town. We are always looking to serve the
broadest audiences possible and hope that audiences that normally attend events in the theatre district will venture out to Dorchester and
vice versa. We also want the public to understand that the high quality productions that are expected of the theatre district can be found in
Dorchester. The hope is reflected in the production itself and is of course an intrinsic part of the organizational mission.

A Glimpse of Glamour:  Your Nutcracker is the only professional production in the area to open auditions outside of your school- for
upwards of 200 roles, including mice, partygoers, cherubs and angels. What work goes into preparing children- some with no experience
at all- for the stage?

Jose Mateo: This may be the most challenging part of getting the production ready; working with children who come with different experiences
of training (if any) and expecting from them a higher standard and level of achievement than they may be used to. Preparation involves ten or
so weekends of intensive rehearsals where we try to instill in the children a stoic work ethic that allows them to prepare their roles for public 
showing. They learn quickly that the job they've agreed to take on requires hard work and that it is the hard work and pride in their achievement
that will account for their fun they invariably end up having. This is a lesson that will often carry them far in whatever endeavors
they choose to undertake later. Watching the children develop in very positive ways is one of the principle joys of my job.

A Glimpse of Glamour: I noticed many familiar faces on stage from this year to last, but most were playing new roles. How does the
audition process work within the company?

Jose Mateo: The professional company dancers will often stay five or ten years or longer and so there is generally very little turnover.
This year we had only two dancers who were new to the production and several who were new to certain roles. Continual casting is another
way to keep the production fresh.

A Glimpse of Glamour: The role of Clara is played by five local girls this year- Amy Chan (15) from Cambridge, Olivia Hynes (15) from
Saugus, Samin Charepoo (16) from Quincy, Cecilia Zevallos (16) from Somerville and Ashley Waters (16) from Wellesley. Tell me about
the audition process for Clara and how she is chosen!

Jose Mateo: The Clara role usually foes to girls whom we have had the opportunity to watch over a long period and who have demonstrated
not only a high level of technical skill, but also an alert awareness of space and of other people around them. These contribute immensely to
the engaging presence you look for in a dancer in a featured role.

A Glimpse of Glamour: The costumes and set design definitely add flair and nuance to a beautiful story, set to beautiful music, danced by talented
dancers- tell me a bit about how Laura McPherson's designs have added to this newly minted production of The Nutcracker. Do you have a favorite
costume in particular? And a favorite backdrop?

Jose Mateo: Laura and I began working together only a year before we featured the new backdrops. The challenge was to give the production
a new look and support the story and choreographic development that we wanted to retain. Continuity of painterly style, color and creative
imagery were among the many subjects in score of telephone calls, emails and text messages that were often accompanied by countless sample
sketches and photographs. Laura and I developed a close relationship during the project. I think she did a very fine job and believe she's equally
proud of the results.