Arts / Culture

We need to be talking about Matthew Gode

If you have been keeping a watchful eye on the Australian dance scene, (which, if you're not, it's about time you start paying attention), then the name Matthew Gode will be a familiar one. For the uninitiated, Gode is a multi disciplinary creative who has been diligently and humbly refining his craft for over a decade. His style is instantly recognisable; an ability to communicate impactful storytelling through a seamless blend of experimental abstract shapes and movement within a pop lens. Not only is Gode in his own lane, he created it, and with his eponymous show, titled, GODE, he is ready to make some noise.

For those of us who have been admiring his work for years, this moment feels more than a little overdue. From the classrooms of some of the country's leading studios, to the sets of major productions and shoots and of course on stage, Gode's work has long made an impact. And while many of us have been waiting less than patiently for his Town Hall moment, graciously as ever, Gode says the timing couldn't be more serendipitous.

"When Marko from The Dream Dance Company approached me with this opportunity, he had already decided that he wanted to use my last name as the title and also the framework for the show. I could immediately visualise how I wanted to bring the show together, which was pretty clear confirmation to myself that now was the right time and place to bring my journey to life. I just knew it had to be this."

GODE has been created in three distinct parts, each reflective of how Gode has navigated and defied the behemoth that is the performing arts machine. "I know the term outsider is used quite a bit these days, but when I first began choreographing and even dancing professionally, I was constantly disadvantaged for being 'too different'. It wasn't until I completely lent into it that I actually started to bloom," he tells me.

"The show is really about creative rebellion, and this overwhelming sense of youthfulness. One part is about love, sex and pain and then the final piece really focusses on healing. It's been super cathartic in that way."

While the show, which is premiering at Sydney's Town Hall for a one-night-only extravaganza on October 21st, is certainly named after Gode and hints to his journey in the industry and in life, he expresses to me that the intention was never to make the show about him. Through the abstract lens in which he operates, he hopes to create an experience on stage that people can resonate and see themselves in. "I've always been known for taking the less-literal approach to creation, particularly when the piece confronts particular emotions. I like for everything to feel surreal, and for the intention to be pure and human, but for the actual art to be a bit more alien like."

Gode himself will appear in moments throughout the hour-long show, but it's the 12 dancers who hail from all facets of dance who he credits the work's impact to. Unlike many other large scale productions, the cast of Gode only officially came together in the studio a little over two weeks before the show was set to hit the stage. Their ability to work so harmoniously together is certainly a testament to their professionalism and talent, but there's a deeper connection that unites these dancers that goes beyond any amount of rehearsal time.

"Every single one of these people in this room has had my back when no one else did. They did the free concept videos, they came to my classes, some have even been my students but at the end of the day they are all my friends and that connection is unbreakable. All 12 dancers have played a part in the journey that I'm bringing to the stage," Gode shares.

"Every one of the dancers you see in this performance has a different set of talents which is one of the things I love most about the casting. You have traditional, hard-hitting jazz dancers, then you have people like Kieran [Crowe], Jackson [Garcia] and Dom [De Pasquale] who are all from the street scene and basically just do freestyle and I think in what world do you have technically trained contemporary and jazz dancers performing alongside someone who is training to go to the Olympics for breakdancing?"

Walking into the studio last Friday, just one week out from GODE, hitting the stage, the unity between the dancers is undeniable. It's only fitting then, that when I asked the cast what it felt like to be dancing together and bringing Gode's vision to life, performer Ashleigh Tavares described the show as the "ultimate reunion."

"Most of us danced together for many years growing up, and then went our seperate ways, whether that was overseas or just different paths. So it's really fulfilling to be able to come back together and dance with your friends in a way that feels good for your soul," Tavares shares.

It's no secret that the people closest to Gode have known that he has been onto something special for quite some time. There's a sense of pride that fills the room during our chat – one that can only be fostered when your peers also happen to be your friends. For the dancers, having the chance to relive Gode's journey and share it with an audience of 2,000 people is priceless.

"What's really fun about the show is that there are certain moments throughout that pay homage to many of the experiences we have personally had with Matty. There are songs that he's done before that we were part of that he has now recreated, so it paints his career in this really beautiful way but on the largest scale possible," says Crowe.

With 12 different full-scale routines, a mosh pit and featured costuming by Australian designer Dion Lee, it's clear that Gode is not leaving anything in the tank. And why should he? With GODE, Gode and his legion of talented confidants and supporters are here to grab your attention – and if the show is anything like the performance I witnessed in the studio, the impact will be long lasting.

When I ask Gode what he'll miss most about the experience, he leaves me with this.

"I'm actually just so sad for this to be over because I genuinely wish this could be my real life. I just want to make pretty pictures and do it with my friends and dance to fun music all day, everyday!"


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