Culture Compass

Meet the Houston Ballet's Only Bayou City-Born Principal Dancer

Jared Matthews tapped into dance at an early age—8, as a matter of fact.

By Jeanne Lyons Davis August 22, 2016 Published in the September 2016 issue of Houstonia Magazine

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Jared Matthews

Jared Matthews tapped into dance at an early age—literally. “When I was 8 years old, a tap dancer performed at my elementary school,” the Jersey Village native recalls. “That afternoon, I told my parents that I wanted to take dance classes.”

Three years of shuffle ball changes later, an instructor encouraged Matthews to try ballet. Initially, the middle-schooler was uncertain about becoming a ballet dancer, but thanks to supportive family and friends—and an amazing performance by Mikhail Baryshnikov in the 1977 film The Turning Point—he began to explore the art form. At 17, he joined New York’s prestigious American Ballet Theatre.

Matthews spent more than a decade advancing within the company, working with legendary ballet visionary—and current Houston Ballet artistic director—Stanton Welch, among others. He and his fiancée, fellow principal ballerina Yuriko Kajiya, eventually followed Welch back to Matthews’s hometown, the Bayou City, in 2015.

“Houston Ballet is such a strong, world-renowned company, and with Stanton at the helm, we knew it was the right move,” says Matthews. Just a year after coming back home, following his celebrated performance in Houston Ballet’s The Taming of the Shrew, he became the only principal dancer from Houston in the 59-person company.

When his ballet shoes are off, Matthews enjoys eating his way through Houston’s acclaimed Chinatown—“It’s better than New York’s!”—and exploring his hometown with a fresh perspective. “Houston has everything you want in a major city: arts, restaurants, entertainment,” he says. “It’s the complete package.”

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