Matthew Steffens (Principal Dancer)
We asked the cast and crew of Florencia in the Amazon to ponder a few questions in preparation for their upcoming roles. Here are their answers:
Q: Have you performed in a Spanish language opera?
A: I have done a lot of operas in my career and have never danced, fought or flown in one that is in Spanish so this is REALLY exciting. I teach dance in Mexico every summer, so it’s fun to continue to work on my comprehension skills.
Q: Part of FLORENCIA’s magic is its element of fantasy. What are some of your favorite fantasy novels and films?
A: The important part of Fantasy is that it takes you somewhere. I think Peter Pan and Finding Neverland really did that. While it’s not traditional fantasy, Pedro Almodovar’s films often take me to an altered reality in which i would like to live.
Q: In the magical realism of Florencia, the river and the jungle is full of spirits. What would your spirit animal be?
A: A cheetah. They’re so gorgeous and fast and focused!
Q: What were some of your most important influences on your path to becoming an opera artist?
A: I received a lot of my dance training right here in Washington D.C. at Joy of Motion Dance Studios. Helanius Wilkins was a HUGE influence in my interest in becoming a well-rounded dancer with the ability to do modern & contemporary work. Florencia calls upon us to use LOTS of different styles of dance and meld them together. As an artist, I’ve worked with great directors like Robert Lepage, Bart Sher & Julie Taymor in the opera world. They are SUCH visionaries when it comes to creating an opera, and as a dancer they really connect the story and the singers and the dancers. While we have only been in rehearsal a week, I can already see the importance of that to Francesca [Zambello] and that is inspiring.
Q: What do you find most compelling and/or challenging about your role in FLORENCIA?
A: The most challenging thing is that I have to be a piranha, bird, iguana, the amazon forest—nothing in the human realm—AND, the HUGE BOAT. We envision a lot in rehearsals…”The boat will move here” and until we get into tech and see where it really is, that is very challenging. The most compelling thing is the connection between the dancers and the singers. So often dance is so separate from the show, but in Florencia they are so inter-connected. We are ALL on the same journey down the Amazon and I’m excited for audiences to go on that ride with us.