“I make dances to reawaken a sense of vitality and ferocious curiosity about ourselves and the world around us. I believe dancemaking is a powerful and necessary form of inquiry and exploration, and that our dancing creates opportunities to see and feel more acutely.” — Matthew Cumbie
Matthew Cumbie (he/him/his) is a collaborative dancemaker and artist educator in Washington, DC. His artistic research cultivates processes and experiences that are participatory and intergenerational, moving through known and unknown, and bring a poetic lens to a specifically queer experience. His choreography and dancemaking- considered “a blend of risk-taking with reliability, [and] a combination of uncertainty and wisdom,”- weaves together a physical vocabulary of momentum and clarity, revelatory moments, and a belief in a body’s capacity to meet each moment.
He has danced in the companies of Christian von Howard, Keith Thompson, Jill Sigman, Paloma McGregor, and Dance Exchange- an intergenerational dance organization founded by Liz Lerman- where he eventually became an Associate Artistic Director and the Director of Programs and Communications. With Dance Exchange, he collaborated on and performed in works ranging in topic from the human genome to prayer and protest, on the highest point of the Great Smoky Mountains during a total solar eclipse, and with community organizers and activists after years of research and work in response to structures of racism and erasure in Dallas, Texas. In partnership with Dance Exchange, Matthew advanced his body of work Growing Our Own Gardens– an iterative intergenerational performance project rooted in queer world-making that partners with local LGBTQ+ and arts organizations, like the Rainbow History Project, the DC Center, and Dance Place, to catalyze intergenerational LGBTQ+ collaboration and reflection.
As an artist educator, Matthew helped develop and brand Cassie Meador’s Moving Field Guide: a program created in partnership with the US Forest Service that connects artists with scientists, naturalists, and environmental educators to help people learn about environmental issues, and helped steward the growth of Dance Exchange’s local programming and presence. He has been an artist-educator with Jacob’s Pillow, including their Curriculum in Motion program, and has been on faculty at Texas Woman’s University, Queensborough Community College, Colby College and American University; he has been an invited speaker at the New York City Roundtable Arts in Education conference, the Advancing the Human Condition Symposium at Virginia Tech, and the LGBT Health and Art Making conference, in partnership with the Human Rights Commission and the GWU Health and Well-being graduate program.
Currently, he creates work with Annie Kloppenberg, Betsy Miller, Peter DiMuro, and Tom Truss, and as a company member with Christopher K. Morgan & Artists. He is on faculty at the Peabody Conservatory at Johns Hopkins University, and continues making through Matthew Cumbie Projects. He also supports the development of artists’ work as a professional fundraiser, specializing in online fundraising campaigns and grant writing, and is a certified practitioner of Liz Lerman’s Critical Response Process. His work has been commissioned and supported by places like Dance Place, the Kennedy Center, and Harvard University, and by the National Endowment for the Arts, the DC Commission for the Arts and Humanities, HumanitiesDC, the Arcus Foundation, the Massachusetts Cultural Council, and the Somerville Arts Council. Originally from Houston, Texas, Matthew holds undergraduate degrees from Texas Lutheran University and Texas State University and an MFA in dance from Texas Woman’s University.
Top photo by John Borstel