Best remembered as the dancing math whiz, getting a perfect score on his Grade 12 math provincials, graduating a year early from secondary school and starring in the Nutcracker when he was only 16, Matthew Cluff continues to shine.
Cluff went to San Francisco ballet school for two and a half years. When he put together an audition package, including a resume and video tape in December 2012, Paul Destrooper, the artistic director at Ballet Victoria, was quick to answer.
"He said my timing was very serendipitous because another guy was leaving the company," said Cluff. That guy was male lead performer Robb Beresford, who went to dance for a ballet company in San Francisco so Cluff took over that spot.
On his first day with the company, Destrooper told Cluff he wanted him to take the lead in Le Corsaire, a big classical production.
"I was performing that as my first professional ballet and normally for your first show you would be standing in the back of the corp (troupe) doing the same thing as everyone else and here I am getting the lead of Le Corsaire. It was quite exhilarating and the experience is invaluable," said Cluff, 20, who's always believed dancers had to have a strong technical background for whatever style of dance performed and that's why he went to ballet school.
"I could go back to all the different dance styles I learned in Prince George now with an even stronger technical background," said Cluff.
But he won't do that quite yet. He did do some teaching of lyrical, jazz and tap in Kamloops and Kelowna during his few weeks off this summer and really enjoyed the rhythms of tap. He doesn't think his career will ever turn to tap professionally, but it sure was a ton of fun, he added.
"The perfection of ballet has always appealed to me," said Cluff. "You can always strive to be better. It's like a runner trying to shave milliseconds off his 100 meter race. A ballet dancer can always do better."
Ultimately, Cluff, who was looking at different ballet companies before he was offered the job at Ballet Victoria, thought the English National Ballet seemed to appeal to him. He's not sure if it's a true goal but he's thinking about it for the future.
As far as returning to Prince George to perform goes, Cluff said Destrooper mentioned it could be a possibility for a tour in the future, but no firm plans have been made.
"It was a great experience to get thrown into the lead of Le Corsaire because it pushes your boundaries," said Cluff. "For those dancers who are aspiring to go into professional dancing I would ask them to really focus on the technique and don't let that slide. Always take your ballet classes seriously, always work on flexibility, the technique, the strength. You might be able to soar in performance, but ultimately it will catch up to you and other people will swallow you up in the big world. Always push yourself, push your limits, always take class and get better."
If there's a newsmaker you know that we could feature in our Where Are They Now? series e-mail me at chinzm...@pgcitizen.ca or call 250-960-2773.