After 32 years of bringing original and classical ballets to life, Jose Mateo is stepping down as artistic director of Cambridge’s Jose Mateo Ballet Theatre Company. But the Moving Violations program running April 6-29 won’t really be Mateo’s final act. The local dance advocate will expand his school in Dorchester and continue working on the Harvard Square summer dance festival Dance for World Community. We chatted with Mateo about his past, his future and what’s keeping him on his toes during
What is the highlight of your career? I am most proud of establishing Dance for World Community. Now in its 10th year, we have brought more cohesion and visibility to a broader dance community and created a model for repositioning the role of dance to build stronger, more inclusive local communities.
What are you most excited about for the Dorchester school? I have spent more than three decades working to diversify ballet training and performance, but in spite of all the recent publicity about changes in a traditionally exclusionary culture, progress is still unacceptably slow. The Dorchester school will open many new opportunities in achievement-based training that will benefit many who have historically been left out.
How has dance in Boston evolved in your time? A review in The Boston Globe about our company’s debut referred to Boston as a city that was traditionally “inhospitable to dance.” I have since spent a lot of years developing local audiences—no touring, no sights on national or international notoriety—just focused on Boston and its need for better dance. Thirty years later, I believe we’ve had an impact. Through Dance for World Community, I have met many people who are committed to their work and to strengthening the dance scene in Boston and I continue to be optimistic.
What is your biggest achievement? Given the odds for success, I suppose keeping a dance organization intact for over 30 years—let alone one that has provided so many programs—is what amazes most in the dance sector. Personally, I know that my biggest achievement is the less-noticed impact I may have had on the lives of individual students and dancers with whom I’ve worked.
What is your biggest hope for the future? That our culture comes to realize the power of dance as a way to strengthen our personal lives and community as a whole.
Which one of your pieces encapsulates your time as director and why? That’s a difficult question. I’ve created a fairly extensive repertory drawing on the genius of diverse masterful composers whose music caused me to explore different sides of myself, some more profoundly than others. They all evoke memories that are somehow dear to me.
Which one of your pieces best represents the new direction of your career? I am actually looking forward to a bit of separation from my own works in order to discover a new direction altogether. The ballets in the current program—House of Ballet, Schubert Adage, Timeless Attraction and New Pasts—could each indicate a particular direction I could decide to take, but I will be looking for something altogether different.