HUMANS OF THE U: SAMANTHA MATSUKAWA

“I started dancing so young I don’t ever remember a time when I wasn’t a dancer and wasn’t going to dance classes. I believe my mom put me in ballet classes because my older sister wanted to start dancing and because I never stopped moving and singing around the house. I was so shy as a kid and often felt very out of place, but for some reason I felt very comfortable in dance classes. I loved the structure, I loved the comradery and I loved the sense of achievement after accomplishing something I had to push myself to work for. I also developed a love for performing that seems at odds with my more introverted nature, but was very empowering.

Dance has been a constant for so long that has shaped much of who I am. My life is marked and remembered by dances I was in or teachers I had over the years. So many of my milestones were met in the studio or on stage that I can’t even imagine who I would be without dance.

My training as a dancer influences how I move throughout the world, how I understand my body and how I interact with others. It affects how I think, how I process things and how I choose to engage with the world. I can’t hear music without thinking about movement and I don’t feel like myself if I go long periods of time without engaging with some sort of movement practice.

One of my most rewarding experiences was the creation of my first full-length piece. I worked with two amazing collaborators and I had the ridiculous, but exciting idea that we were going to learn magic tricks. We assumed the roles of magicians. I sewed and hand painted yards of fabric for scarf tricks, learned a few card flourishes and tried to pick up some sleight of hand tricks with coins. My thought was that if we tried and believed, we might really be able to create magic.

My peers in the Salt Lake Dance community and beyond have had a huge impact on me. The people I get to work with and take class with are the ones who push me to put my work out there. They know how difficult and heart breaking it can be, but also understand how necessary dancing is. I have had so many setbacks and disappointments that without my friends and community reassuring me that my work is worth being seen, I’m not sure I would have the grit to keep going as an artist.”

Samantha Matsukawa, Class of 2014, modern dance, marketing and communications coordinator, College of Fine Arts, University of Utah

We’ll be featuring Humans of the U and sharing their stories throughout the year with the university community. If you know someone with a compelling story, let us know at ThisWeek@utah.edu.