Back in 1982, Matthew Dunn was a young lad with a passion and natural gift for classical ballet. He had just joined the Victorian College of The Arts and had appeared as a child extra for The Australian Ballet Company in their productions of Coppelia, The Three Musketeers, The Sleeping Beauty and Anna Karenina As Anna’s you son Seryozha, a performance that earned him the praise of “enchanting” from Sydney Morning Herald critic Jill Sykes. He was also featured in the third edition of Dance Australia under the banner of “Stars of tomorrow”, in an article that said he had the appearance and grace of his hero, Rudolf Nureyev.
In July of his second year at the VCA, ages just 13, he was walking across King’s was hit by a car. Knocked unconscious, he lay in a coma for 16 days. His parents were told that he had only 30% of survival. When he woke, he found his left leg broken in two places.
Rehabilitation was slow and painful. He had to recover the use of this brain and speech function. To this day, he has a very bad short term memory, “That’s why I carry a diary with me everywhere”. He also has haemophobia, a fear of blood so acute, he can faint at the site of a cut figure.
To complicate things further, during a CAT scan to check the state of his brain, an infected needle gave him a nasty case of septicaemia. As a result, the healing of his leg, which would normally take six weeks, slowed to a painful 6 months. It was a gruelling and frustrating business, which he survived only to get back to his beloved ballet. “It’s only really thanks to ballet, my passion for ballet, that I got through as well as I did. I didn’t think of the obstacles, I just thought of thought of getting back into the studio, which is where I wanted to be,”
As soon as he was released from hospital in November and still walking with a limp, he began classes at The National Theatre, where he had to go back to the most basic skills. “(Teacher) Eileen Tasker took me under her wing and taught me how to do the plies and tendues, even to skip. To this day, it’s the most physically exhausting thing I’ve ever done.”
By early the following year, he had reached his goal of getting back to the VCA, but the experience was disappointing. “The College just wasn’t able to offer the specialist training I needed. I had started from scratch. I had gone from the child prodigy, to the boy that couldn’t run.”
He left the College and went to St Michael’s Grammar School. Though he continued his lessons at The National and took ballet as a VCE subject, he came to terms with the fact that he’d never be a classical ballet dancer. He dabbled in jazz for a year and studied at the Tony Bartuccio Dance Centre. He thought “I’m not going to be a dancer, tap, jazz or anything else. I haven’t got it in me anymore”.
Having finally confronted his fate, he looked for avenues he could work in his beloved field of ballet. “I decided if you can’t use your body for your career, then you should use your brain. He studied remedial massage and practices in Cranbourne. He has also completed an Advanced Diploma of Hospitality Management. – Dance Australia 2005