Penn Live Arts Blog

5 Questions with Matthew Neenan

Posted May 19, 2021

Dance World Premieres

A former principal dancer and Choreographer in Residence at Pennsylvania Ballet as well as the co-founder of Philadelphia’s beloved BalletX, Matthew Neenan has been called “fresh, touching, musical, original” with choreography that makes “dancers look vulnerable, openhearted and, above all, marvelously free.” (The New York Times) We can’t wait for Neenan to come to the Annenberg Center to explore intimacy in isolation in a site-specific world premiere on May 27. But first, let’s get to know more about him through just five questions. Enjoy!

What first got you into dance?
I was the stereotypical story for a young boy. My two older sisters danced at Boston Ballet School, therefore I was dragged to their ballet class almost every afternoon. I did not mind though, I was obsessed. I loved it so much and couldn’t wait to start classes once I was old enough.

Can you share a favorite dance moment?
My retirement from Pennsylvania Ballet. I performed an extremely arduous and high stamina solo, The Bugle Boy of Company B, by the amazing Paul Taylor. It was a great way to go out. I was beyond honored to perform that solo as my last.

What is your creative process?
It changes up depending on the project. Usually, it will start with a piece of music and be driven from the score. Sometimes I may be dealing with a narrative and/or a strong concept, and therefore I need to workshop ideas out with the artists and collaborators. I may even attempt to experiment with different music to see what aligns best with the idea.

Who are your biggest influences?
George Balanchine, Jerome Robbins, Pina Bausch, Ohad Naharin, Jiri Killian, Crystal Pite!

What projects are you working on currently?
Besides the Annenberg Center project, I am currently in Salt Lake City working on a premiere for Ballet West (which was supposed to premiere in May 2020). It will be my first premiere for a live theater audience since February 2020! Also, BalletX will be reviving my full-length work Sunset O639 Hours this summer at the Vail Dance Festival and in Sun Valley, Idaho. I’m so grateful. :-)

Bonus Question: What inspires you?
Music, museums, nature, live theater :-)

Bonus Question: I never start my day without _______.