When you think of the cities that would be most likely to produce a superb male ballet star in the elegant princely "danseur noble" style, the first one that comes to mind is of course....
Or maybe not. But Matthew Golding, born in Regina and raised in a suburb of Saskatoon, and now taking the ballet world by storm, is living proof that wheat, potash, and Brent Butt are not the only great Saskatchewanian exports.
"Export" is, unfortunately for Canadians, the operative word, as we have until now had to travel to Europe to see him dance. Having had my eye on Golding for the last four years, I am thrilled that this will soon change, as he appears in several of the cinema broadcasts of the Royal Ballet. Canadian ballet lovers in particular, who have probably never heard of him thanks to the almost total indifference of the Canadian media to the many Canadian male ballet stars overseas, will be wanting to know more about him and, more importantly, why they should drop everything to go and see him perform.
Like most Canadian boys, Golding wanted to be a hockey player. But he had a kidney removed at the age of 8 and was required to avoid contact sports. His mother thought of dancing as an outlet for his athleticism (still very much in evidence when he dances).
“I was kind of interested in the idea of moving to music. But not ballet. I started tap and jazz at 8 and wanted to do musicals, Broadway shows, those kinds of things.”
Singing, however, turned out to be a stumbling block, so at the age of 14, Matthew set out for the the Royal Winnipeg Ballet School, where in his first year he snagged the role of Drosselmeier's grand-nephew in the RWB's production. That year he also won a scholarship to attend School of American Ballet's summer school in New York, and then moved to Washington DC to attend the prestigious Kirov academy. In 2002, at age 16, he placed second at the Prix de Lausanne, and, three months later, won the Youth America Grand Prix. The former gave him a year at the Royal Ballet School, the effects of which I would say are still visible in his elegant line and unaffected style. A friend of mine says, "He reminds me of the young Anthony Dowell."
The YAGP win gave him a contract with American Ballet Theatre's studio company, from which he went on to the ABT main company and then to Angel Corella's company in Spain.
In a classic understatement which seems to be part of Golding's soft-spoken style, he said of winning the two major ballet prizes for his age group in the space of a few months:
“Yeah, 2002 was a big year. Until then, I thought I was going to specialize more on hip-hop or jazz dance. But after the competitions, I realized, or actually, my mom kind of realized that ballet was something that could work out for me”.
We are all very grateful to his mother for this realization!
I have been fortunate enough to see Golding perform live three times: in Hans van Manen's Grosse Fuge, in La Bayadere with the Royal Ballet and Swan Lake with the National Ballet of Canada, as well as on DVD in Don Quixote and Nutcracker (both available through amazon). Christopher Wheeldon's Cinderella has just been released in Europe, and is available through amazon.co.uk, but not yet from amazon in North America (it is a "region 2" DVD (ie Europe) but it is NTSC compatible so likely will show up sometime soon on amazon.com). He also appears on the Youth America Grand Prix "Ballet's Greatest Hits" video, (in Giselle pas de deux with Greta Hodgkinson and Bayadere pas de deux with Isabella Boylston), which we can only hope will be screened in Canada soon.
In addition to the elegance I already mentioned, he is an adept and strong partner, has beautiful airy jumps and is an incredible natural turner.
Golding, now barely 30, has experienced a deservedly meteoric career. He joined Dutch National Ballet as a second soloist in 2009 at the age of 24, and was rapidly promoted to Principal Dancer a year later after his resounding success as Basilio in Alexei Ratmansky's Don Quixote. (You can expand all videos to full screen by clicking in the lower right hand corner of each video). In February 2014 he joined the Royal Ballet as a principal, and has since then often partnered international superstar Natalia Osipova. You can see him in the RB's Nutcracker in cinemas on December 20, 2015.
In the last couple of years he has been much in demand as a guest artist, most recently with the Royal Ballet in La Bayadere and English National Ballet in Swan Lake, performing alongside ENB's Artistic Director Tamara Rojo.
We are sure Rojo appreciates his fine partnering skills and beautiful dancing, but she is clearly not blind to his other attributes:
Golding has lots of fans in Japan, where he stepped in to replace another dancer in La Bayadere who had cancelled shortly after the tsunami and Fukushima nuclear disaster. Here he is dancing with Tokyo Ballet's Mizuka Ueno in Roland Petit's lovely Thais pas de deux, in which you can see his strong partnering:Tamara Rojo caused much chatter with the lingering kiss that she performed with...Matthew Golding....“I was criticised because my kiss in Swan Lake was too passionate,” says the 39-year-old principal dancer of the English National Ballet. “Well, I thought, after three hours on stage, I deserved it. Look at him. Who wouldn’t?”
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Here are all of Dutch National Ballet's excellent videos featuring Golding, often with his off-stage partner Anna Tsygankova:
Don Quixote (Ratmansky)
Short Time Together (Lightfoot Leon), for which Golding received the Zwaan prize for best male performance in 2012:
Christopher Wheeldon's Cinderella
Rudi van Dantzig's Romeo and Juliet
Nutcracker grand pas de deux (prince's variation starts at 7:00)
Dance Open Ballet Festival, St Petersburg
There is a nice photo gallery on his website:
and also on Dance Europe's website:
For a recent Dutch National Ballet gala, go to this post.