Matthew Maxwell. Photo: WinkiPoP Media
Matthew Maxwell, finalist in The Sydney Eisteddfod Ballet Scholarship for 2018, talks about his longstanding dream of performing Prince Siegfried's Solo from Swan Lake for his Classical Variation for the Final. He also gives some insider tips for aspiring dancers wanting to compete in Sydney Eisteddfod events.
What inspired your passion for ballet?
Once I had started ballet, I was inspired by the strength and athleticism of the older male dancers and I always wanted to do what they could do - big jumps, multiple turns and pas de deux. I'm still working on all these things, of course!
What inspired you to start ballet?
From the age of about two I would dance around the lounge room and when I went shopping with my parents in the electrical stores I would often end up in front of the big TV screens dancing to the music and oblivious to the fact that people were watching me! I kept asking my parents when I could start going to dance classes. Mum always said 'if you want to dance you need to learn the proper technique' and so I had to wait until I was four to start ballet. I have been dancing ever since and have loved every minute of it.
What motivates you as a ballet dancer?
Ballet is very challenging, but this is what makes it so worthwhile. As a dancer I am always striving for perfection. No matter what you achieve there is always a higher goal. This is very motivating and rewarding.
Tell us a little bit about your classical & Free variation that performed in the final.
My classical variation was Prince Siegfried's Solo from Swan Lake, Act 3. There is one place in the ballet where the Prince is truly happy and in control. He thinks he has found his true love and he is proud to dance for the court. From a young age I have always wanted to perform this solo.
My contemporary variation was choreographed for me by Adam Blanch and the choreography is inspired by Nijinsky's 'Afternoon of a Faun'. The piece is set in a New York street, late at night, illuminated only by street lamps and the moon. I feel very emotionally connected to this piece and I hope to communicate some of this emotion to the audience.
Which other performers do you most like to watch, and why?
There are so many amazing male dancers. I enjoy watching Steven Macrae perform; he has so much charisma and personality and just lights up the stage. I admire Kevin Jackson, as he is a strong dancer with lovely clean technique and Daniil Simkin has amazing jumps and turns. I could go on and on.
What is the best piece of performance advice you've ever heard?
This may sound like a cliché, but I always remember the phrase 'Practice like you've never won - Perform like you've never lost.'
What have you learnt from your Sydney Eisteddfod experience?
Sydney Eisteddfod attracts the best dancers from around the country, but there is a very friendly atmosphere backstage. It helps you to perform at your best when everyone is supportive of each other.
What would you say to a younger dancer who was thinking about entering Sydney Eisteddfod?
I would encourage younger dancers to take part in the Sydney Eisteddfod, as it is a wonderful experience to be performing alongside so many talented dancers. My advice would be to try to be a good all-round performer. It's important to do your best in the class and also in the classical and contemporary solos, as you are judged on all aspects.