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Meet Matt Carney of San Diego Ballet

Today we’d like to introduce you to Matt Carney.

Matt, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
This summer marks my 10 year anniversary in San Diego. And, I haven’t stopped moving since I arrived. My first gig in town was with Malashock Dance but soon after I joined the San Diego Ballet as a company dancer and later San Diego Dance Theater too. During which time in 2008, the US and the local area suffered from the results of the financial crisis.

Though I was happy creating art and participating in it as a working artist, the economy at the time opened my eyes to the business side of art making me begin to wonder: what does sustainability look like in the arts? how can a dance company commit to presenting high-quality art while still maintaining their bottom line? It led me to pursue a Master in Public Administration MPA from San Diego State University’s School of Public Affairs where I learn about fiscal sustainability, organizational structure, and external/internal communication.

I was able to put my education to immediate use with the appointment as Executive Director of the San Diego Dance Theater in 2012. My most recent appointment as Producing Director of the San Diego Ballet blends both of my artistic and administrative interests and keeps me close to the art of dance.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
There have certainly been some ups and downs. But, I’ve learned a lot from the leaders around me. To name a few: Betzi Roe, Founder of the Dance Department at Coronado School of the Art, inspires me as a teacher and to balance theory and the visceral experience as a dancer. Jean Isaacs, Artistic Director of San Diego Dance Theater, encourages me to pursue leadership while maintaining a steady artistic path.

Javier Velasco, Artistic Director of San Diego Ballet, reminds me how special it is to be in the studio working with dancers and at the end of the day, “It’s all good.” Victoria Hamilton and Alan Ziter, long-time San Diego based Art and Culture Advocates, show me that no matter my job title, there is still the bigger picture to think of and a community to support.

Toni Robin, Marketeer from TRPR, always looks through a lens of quality and pushes me to present a clean and artistic product. San Diego is rich with arts leaders and groups like the Rising Arts Leaders show that the next generation is also brewing for success. The bottom line for all of these friends and mentors for me is tenacity. You have to show up every day, work to the best of your ability, be kind, and have fun along the way. Rinse. Repeat.

So, as you know, we’re impressed with San Diego Ballet – tell our readers more, for example what you’re most proud of as a company and what sets you apart from others.
I <3 the San Diego Ballet. This is my 9th season working with the company and have seen it from every angle. In fact, I started as a volunteer bartender at their Gala before I auditioned for the company! From there I’ve been a Company Dancer, Dancer Liaison to the Board of Director, Communications Director, now Producing Director, and you still might see me on stage as a Guest Artist from time to time. Hallmarks of our company are easily described in our mission, “to excite, enrich, and entertain our diverse audiences with imaginative presentations of quality classical and contemporary dance.”

Our Artistic Director Javier Velasco presents brilliant choreography in many styles and has a commitment to presenting programs that represent the diversity seen in San Diego. Annually we have our Ritmos Latinos show that celebrates Latin Rhythms and we always have world premiere choreography often performed to original and/or live music. SDB keeps ballet fresh and new but also presents classics like Romeo and Juliet, Firebird, and Midsummer Nights Dream. What keeps me coming in every day is our dancers and I’m glad I’m working for a company that strives more and more each year to allocate more funds and opportunities for our dancers.

We really have a team of artists which is seen in the variety of roles danced in our shows and in our annual Dance Gallery concert where the company dancers present their own choreography. As far as my role, I hope to continue to secure sustainable funding, assess and implement organizational structure and best practices, increase our visibility in our community, and make a fun work environment for all involved.

So, what’s next? Any big plans?
I’m really excited about our first presentation of the Season, Jungle Book. Artistic Director and Choreographer Javier Velasco created a work that presents our ballet company along with hip-hop dancers and puppeteers. Sure to fun for the entire family!

Mr. Velasco scouted a piece of mine that I presented at Dance Gallery last season and asked if I would present it in its’ entirety in the SDB November production of Homegrown II. I’m working with the music for piano and voice by composer Alma Mahler and look forward to presenting it with LIVE MUSIC!

Also, next season, 2019-2020 marks our 30th anniversary and am looking forward to celebrating.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Manny Rotenberg, Greg Ronlov

Getting in touch: SDVoyager is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

1 Comment

  1. Jill G. Hall

    August 16, 2018 at 4:07 am

    Nice interview Matt. We are lucky you’ve been here with us in San Diego for ten years now. You are such an asset to our community and it will be fun to continue to watch your career flourish.

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