Signing a full-time professional contract at the age of 17 (back in 1977) Matthew Hawkins had already trained for ten years. As a child, his dancing was intuitively driven - twinned with a youthful sense of adventure and discovery. Intellectual dimensions would bring their sustenance somewhat later. His continued desire to share the assets of his dance knowledge stem from a prolonged delight in dance activity, heightened by key moments of seminal experience.

At the same time as he began to get serious about dancing, Matthew was also singing his heart out in a local choir. When he joined the Royal Ballet School at age 10, he could already read music and somehow he had also begun to learn the syllabus of adult ballet exams via evening classes at the Royal Academy of Dancing. His tutors expressed concern that he was a prodigy who might get bored. They need not have worried.

In his first years at the Royal Ballet School, Matthew 'walked on' as a pageboy in "Giselle" at Covent Garden and here his artistic education began. From his vantage point in the wings, or centrally seated in the house at stage rehearsals, he absorbed the underpinnings and the presentation of this classic dance-drama. He was fascinated to see how different principal players would repeat but reinterpret key scenes - the subtleties and nuances gripped him. The performances of Giselle were preceded by abstract 20th century masterworks (By Frederick Ashton and Jerome Robbins). Young Hawkins would observe these gems obliquely repeatedly and entirely. In the creation of Benjamin Britten's 1971 opera Death In Venice, Ashton choreographed the dances and Matthew had a small role as one of the children in the beach scenes. Despite being the work of masters, as played out on great stages, Death In Venice unsettled its audiences - its mixture of controversy, risk and theatrical knowhow was savoured, especially by juvenile players on the scene.

Meanwhile Matthew was being taught how to learn dancing; the RBS regimen was not strenuous and there was a strong focus on physical co-ordination, ease and clarity of movement. There was a sense that ballet should be something a person could live and grow with. A contrasting experience was offered via an exchange with the Paris Opera School, where Matthew enjoyed the exposure to a more intense and pressurised training environment. A move to the Royal Ballet's Upper school comprised a dramatic change of pace in a locale where professional exigencies were confronted.

Around the time of Hawkins' graduation, initiatives were begun in the UK dance community that focused on the possibility of fostering new generations of choreographers: for the first time on the dance scene, a creative choreographic act was thought 'learnable'. The International Course for Choreographers and Composers started its long run of summer schools and Matthew joined the pool of dancers for the second of these in 1976. This bracing episode opened Hawkins' eyes to new realities of experimentation and fostered a healthy grapple with critical discourse - such energies would engender changes later on.

Completing his formal training and cast in leading roles in works by Ashton and Nureyev, for performance and assessment at graduation, Hawkins then entered the ranks at the Royal Ballet and danced there for five years. His execution of small or solo parts in the classical repertoire was honourable, yet this was a time of transition. The great choreographers Balanchine, Ashton, Massine and De Valois were still active on the scene and there were masterworks by Nijinska and MacMillan to participate in or observe, yet there was also much to admire beyond the ballet's confines. Hawkins felt the pull towards another cycle of dance activity. Galvanised by choreographic studies and inspired by all that was flourishing in an emerging contemporary realm, Matthew took the initiative to make and show short chroeographic works in emerging new venues. He needed to honour his earlier interests and studies and somehow bind these gains to unprecedented possibilities. He bent his steps to join the original 1982 lineup of Second Stride (directed by choreographers Siobhan Davies, Ian Spink and Richard Alston) played a season with Mantis Dance Company (for which troupe he also choreographed) and joined Michael Clark's first troupe - all in quick succession. He spent the rest of the 1980's dancing for various choreographers and establishing a profile as a choreographer.

Matthew can be seen dancing in the early work of Michael Clark on Youtube

Creative Output At A Glance
1979 - 82: Royal Ballet Choreographic Group (Riverside Studios) - short pieces in group shows.
1983 - 86: commissions from small companies (Mantis. Lurching Darts. English Dance Theatre) and showings in Dance Umbrella festivals.
1986 - 89: formation and artistic directorship of the Imminent Dancers Group (3 full-length productions for large ensemble).
1990 - 92: commissions in Holland (Dansproduktie Amsterdam) France (CNDC Angers) Hungary (Szegedi Balett).
1993 - 96: formation and artistic direction of the Matthew Hawkins and the Fresh Dances Group (3 full-length productions in residency at The Hackney Empire, London: partners/funders; Arts Council England; London Arts; Digital; CNDC Angers; foundation for Sport and the Arts: additional commission from Dance Umbrella and the South Bank Centre (community dance event).
1998 - 2004: formaton and artistic direction of Matthew Hawkins Dance Company (5 new productions partners/funders: Arts Council England; Royal Opera House; Jerwood Foundation)
2005 - 08: associate dancer/choreographer with From Here To Maturity dance company (UK) and Compagnie Blanca Li (France)

Matthew Hawkins has recently begun to be published as a dance writer. His chronicles usually contain autobiographical elements....

Three Cyrils in one day
In Paris I go to ballet classes at a studio in the vibrant Faubourg Saint Denis quarter. Staggering out into the light, after the strenuous pursuits, I can confront and stash nature's abundance (groceries) amid the local riot of Arab-run veg' emporia and Turkish deli's. A prior bonus is the presence of Cyril: surname unknown (I'll call him Cyril the First)........

Great Clue and Great Love
Paris' winter can get bitter and this year it took us all unawares. Visitors stood out by their lightly-clothed demeanor. Amid the collective cowering only a hardy soul, or perhaps a preoccupied one would bumble along the quaysides, throat bared to the elements. Robert Swinston is one such and a New Yorker. My decision to accost and greet him leads to.........

Injury Diary
....... suddenly I know everything. There is an egg-like swelling at the exact fracture point of a few years back. Calculation and salvage; I know exactly where in the wings to find the shoes I discarded earlier. They will help 'bind' the foot. They do not accessorise well with the bits of costume I am currently in; it will not be a good look for the orgy scene - but.........

Dame Ninette
Ninette De Valois was a wicked beauty who pranced in plumes and chiffon........ as to why the persona 'Dame Ninette' still seems to wield esoteric power, one might search for clues and alight on the phenomenon of convulsion. So much of her genius was........

Summer School
This item revolves around the ballet master Enrico Cecchetti and his influence on dance - that unscientific art form........

For a dialogue about these and other essays please contact Matthew directly via