Updated: Nov 11, 2019
Our staff member that snagged the first Staff Spotlight of the blog is Matthew Bade. I am lucky enough to share an office space with Matthew and get the chance to hear his daily trials and tribulations as well as his expansive taste in music when he decides to quietly play some while we work. My first impression of Matthew was that he is warm and welcoming to those around him. This was impressive seeing as I met him during the busyness of putting on the White Bird S’Wing Ding fundraiser just last month. This impression has proven correct as I have further gotten to know Matthew as someone with extensive worldly knowledge layered with his light-hearted personality. He has accomplished a lot for his age and has seen a lot of the world, which is why he brings a great perspective to the White Bird team. I think it is time to stop the flattery and allow you to hear from Matthew himself.
Where are you from?
I would definitely say Portland, as this is where I grew up. However, I didn’t actually move here until I was six. I was born in Wisconsin (didn't stay there), then lived in the south of France and Austin, Texas, before coming up here.
Where have you been?
I’m just gonna word vomit this one out. I left Portland when I was 18 and moved to Holland for University. Then I worked there for a little bit before moving to Wiesbaden, Germany. Then I ended up dancing for a few years with a company in Southern Sweden. After which I moved to Ethiopia to start a small nonprofit in Addis. From there I came back to the same company in Sweden, then moved to Berlin, Germany, to Freelance. Touring aside, I also worked briefly in Turkey, Kenya, India, France and Holland.
What’s your non-profit?
Well VERY long story short, I run a transition home for orphans who’ve aged out of the Ethiopian adoptive system. It’s pretty much a stable place for teenage boys to live and learn once they’ve gotten too old to stay at the orphanage. You can learn more about it at https://www.ourethiopianhome.org
What was your first memory of dance?
Well, even though I have no idea how they knew who she was, my very non-dancey Irish family dressed me up as Gelsey Kirkland when I was a toddler. I guess this doesn’t count though because I don’t really remember - I’ve only seen the pictures. My first real memory would have to be at Buckman. When I was a kid, dance was just part of school for me. My first memory of professional dance would have to be with White Bird (I promise they’re not forcing me to say that). I remember in elementary school going downtown to see Alvin Ailey and there was an earthquake during the show. We all thought it was planned and were amazed.
What got you into dancing?
Gotta give this one to Portland Public Schools. Even though I was destined to become a politician, I somehow always ended up at arts magnet schools. After Buckman, I went to DaVinci and dance was just the cool thing there (granted, so was wearing your boxers on the outside of your jeans). Anyways, in eighth grade I auditioned for the Jefferson Dancers because all the cool kids were doing it... and I was 14. For whatever reason Steve Gonzales took a chance on this gangly blonde kid and I spent all of high school with JD’s.
Favorite piece you have performed?
So by favorite you mean top three right?
There was Animal by Marina Mascarell when I was dancing in Sweden. It was a pretty heavy work about the individual's role in society and it was my first time working with text on stage. I got to talk about tiny homes and then smash a bunch of boxes at the end. Who needs more?
Then in Germany we did Walking Mad by Johan Inger. This piece is a bit of a rite of passage for a lot of dancers – plenty of companies do it. But after all this group madness it ends with a very somber ten minute duet and I got to perform it with my best friend whom I’d danced with for six years. When you build a trust like that with another dancer anything you do together is pretty memorable.
Finally, Rikud by Nir Ben Gal. Not such a thrilling story but it was one of the warmest choreographers I ever worked with and we all loved the piece because of it.
What is your education/dance experience?
I have my Bachelor of Fine Arts and my Masters of Arts Administration. I’ve also traveled to 39 different countries - and I promise that’s not me trying to subtlety brag. I just think you can learn more from traveling than you can from any university.
I’ve danced for Scapino Ballet Rotterdam, Introdans, Staatstheater Wiesbaden, Skanes Dansteater, Destino, and various freelance projects.
Why White Bird?
I’ve known Paul and Walter for years and admire them immensely, so, White Bird has always been on my mind. Eventually I just reached a point in my career where I wanted something more. I think this is when a lot of dancers start choreographing but I was never interested in that. I had gotten my Masters in Administration instead because I knew that was more my route. White Bird was just a perfect fit. I think spending so much time out of Portland/the States made me realize how unique this organization really is and I knew it was something I wanted to be a part of.
What do you do at White Bird?
I am director of Revenue, Community and Artistic partnerships.
Group you are most looking forward to seeing perform next year and why?
Again, I’m not just saying this because I work here, but I think it’s a really amazing season we have coming up. One that does stick out for me though is Sasha Waltz. I just moved back from Berlin and even though she’s based there, I never got to see her company. I’m definitely not the biggest fan of ‘Classic’ contemporary dance, and while Sasha has been around for a while, her work doesn’t feel dated at all. She is easily one of the most famous choreographers in Europe and this piece she’s bringing is her masterwork. It’s beautiful yet raw. The dancers are immensely powerful while remaining so genuine and vulnerable. I could geek out more about this piece but at the end of the day I just think this is such a monumental visit for Portland. To have such an important piece be shown here is just amazing.
If I had to choose I guess it would be The Fall by Tarsem Singh.
The song you loudly sing along to in the car?
I don’t have a car because after eleven years without one I’ve lost my nerve behind the wheel. Though I scream along to a lot at home. This week it’d probably be I Was Dancing in a Lesbian Bar by Johnathon Richman.
Your career path not taken?
I thought long and hard about working in Public Diplomacy for the State Department.
I let you know when I find one.
Random fact about yourself or the world?
North isn’t up. I can preach about this but I’ll spare you that for now. It’s just one of these weird globally accepted things that has so many unintended consequences.
If things don’t go right, go left - Lemony Snicket