As the Joffrey Ballet brings its 60th anniversary season to a close, veteran dancer Matthew Adamczyk's season is just getting started. Adamczyk, who joined the Joffrey Ballet in 2003 under Gerald Arpino, returns to the stage after a year away to play the role of Father in Sir Frederick Ashton's "Cinderella," running May 11-22 at the Auditorium Theatre.
Adamczyk, a former Windy City Times 30 Under 30 honoree, ruptured a tendon in his knee at the end of a ballet class while on tour with the company in Berkley, California, last season. "We had to try and figure out some sort of hospital on a Saturday in California," said Adamczyk in an interview with Windy City Times. His patellar tendon, which supports and stabilizes the knee, had to be surgically reconstructed, and Adamczyk said he was fortunate to be connected to Stephen Gryzlo, the team orthopaedist to the Chicago Cubs who has expressed interest in working with dancers.
During the recovery process it was discovered that a similar injury to the other knee was a distinct possibility, so Adamczyk opted to have both knees repaired to avoid becoming laid up in the future. Although rumored to be playing the role of Drosselmeyer in December, an unexpected delay on the second surgery kept him out of the studio even longer, preventing Adamczyk from performing the final presentations of the now-retired Robert Joffrey's The Nutcracker. The delay also contributed to a shift in casting for the company's upcoming Cinderella, for which Adamczyk was originally slated to play the role of Stepsister. He began dancing about a month ago with some slow one-on-one ballet classes with ballet master Gerard Charles, and just two weeks ago started taking class with the company.
"I will have some limitations. I just have to really focus on how I use my body even more. Honestly, I feel so much better, and have more control than before the surgery," Adamczyk said, feeling appreciative of the body awareness that comes from such an extensive recovery process. Though not quite ready to tackle a physical role in full skirts and high heels, Adamczyk will instead play the quirky and fun Father. He continues to understudy the Stepsisters, and has been advising younger dancers on the kitschy role he danced in 2010 when Joffrey first commissioned the ballet. "When we did it the first time, I did extensive research. It's important to understand how a woman would take these roles. I would watch old Joan Crawford and Bette Davis films. …That's where I developed my character from. You need to have this grandiose personality onstage, and the subtlest choices can make or break the character," said Adamczyk.
Although Adamczyk's injuries are not career-ending, and he expects to return to dancing at full capacity this fall for Christopher Wheeldon's new Nutcracker, time off has increasingly placed him in an advisory role enhanced by his affinity for researching characters and his having spent more than a decade at Joffrey. In that decade, the company has changed leadership and redefined the aesthetic originally established by Robert Joffrey and Gerald Arpino.
Adamczyk views himself as an ambassador to the company's history, and particularly to Gerald Arpino's sharp aesthetic. "Ballet needs to adapt," he said. "We can't be doing what they did in 1872. What Ashley [Wheater, Joffrey's artistic director] is doing is great!" Younger dancers, however, are able to draw from the rich oral histories passed down from the company's founders to veteran dancers like Adamczyk, bridging the gaps between Joffrey's past and present.
During his time off, Adamczyk found he had a lot of idle time. "I'm not going to lie. It's very difficult to take a year off of dancing and then get back into it. … I needed something to distract me. I need something to do to occupy my time." During a 2014 interview with Windy City Times, Adamczyk spoke about his increasing commitment to painting as his creative outlet outside of dancing. Coincidentally, he expressed a desire at that time to promote his painting while still dancing, in order to have a strong foundation on which he could fall back when performing is no longer an option. "I decided to take my own advice," he said, and dove head first into creating a number of paintings and reaching out to galleries and potential buyers.
Using color acrylics and a distinct Pop Art style, Adamczyk's paintings cover a broad range of subject matter, although many are infused with LGBT sexuality. A number of organizations and festivals have taken notice of his work: Center on Halsted opens a six-week gallery showing July 22, and Adamczyk will participate in his first juried event, the Lakeview East Art Fair, Sept. 10-11.
Now that he's returned to dancing, finding balance between these two worlds is a challenge that he's still working to figure out, but Adamczyk is adamant that he wants to dance and paint at the highest possible level, for as long as he can.
The Joffrey Ballet will present Sir Frederick Ashton's Cinderella May 11-22 at the Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University, 50 E. Congress Pkwy. Tickets are $32-$170, available for purchase at The Joffrey Ballet's official Box Office located in the lobby of Joffrey Tower, 10 E. Randolph St.; at Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University Box Office; all Ticketmaster Ticket Centers; by telephone at 800-982-2787; or at Ticketmaster.com .
Adamcyzk's gallery opening at the Center on Halsted takes place July 22, 7-9 p.m. in the third floor gallery, 3656 N. Halsted St. The Lakeview East Art Fair takes place Sept. 10-11 on Broadway between Belmont and Hawthorne avenues. See centeronhalsted.org and lakevieweastfestivalofthearts.com, respectively.