Hometown: West Yorkshire, England
Currently: Making his Broadway debut as part of the starry dance ensemble in Twyla Tharp’s Sinatra salute Come Fly Away.
Shades of Billy Elliot: Dibble’s background sounds a lot like a certain young Broadway musical hero. “I grew up in the north of England, and I was scouted to go to the Royal Ballet School when I was 11,” he says. “When I was 16, I graduated to the Upper School, and two years later, I was asked to join the Royal Ballet.” Dibble’s story differs from Billy Elliot’s in that his parents always supported his desire to dance. And fortunately, young Matthew had the ambition and independence to embrace life away from home. “Some people got terribly homesick and didn’t stick it out,” he says. “But I remember my mother having to ring the school and say, ‘Can you please get my son to phone home?’ She’d been trying to get hold of me for eight weeks.’” Laughingly, he adds, “It’s not because I don’t like my parents—I was just having a time of my life.”
Go East, Young Man: After five years in the Royal Ballet, Dibble and four other male principal dancers left to join a new company, K-Ballet, in Tokyo. “There was insecurity about our jobs in London—Covent Garden was under renovation—and we decided it was time to become our own boss,” he explains. Appearing alongside celebrated Japanese dancer Teddy Kumakawa, Dibble and his colleagues became the toast of Tokyo. “We were incredibly spoiled,” he fondly recalls. “The Japanese have a huge affinity for classical dancers. We were like a boy band almost!” Three years later, he was ready to move home—and soon received a job offer from the woman who would change his career.
Look Tharp! Dibble first met choreographer Twyla Tharp when he performed one of her most famous pieces, “Push Comes to Shove,” and was part of the premiere cast of her three-act ballet “Mr. Worldly Wise.” Years later, when Dibble returned from Tokyo to London, Tharp unexpectedly called with an invitation to join her stable of dancers. “So I jumped on a plane to New York and found myself at an audition for Movin’ Out,” he says. “Twyla pulled me aside and said, ‘I don’t think you’re appropriate for this show, but I have a small company that’s touring Europe and the States. Would you be interested?’” Indeed he was, and Dibble has been a member of Twyla Tharp Dance since 2002.
Frankly Speaking: Come Fly Away represents a natural progression for Tharp, whose “Sinatra Suite” has been a hit since the 1980s—and Dibble was part of the of the new show’s development from the beginning. “It’s an unbelievable mix: Broadway, Twyla Tharp and Frank Sinatra,” he says. “Who wouldn’t want to be part of this?” Paired with Rita Okamoto, Dibble shows off an impressive range, including a physically challenging drunk dance to “Yes Sir, That’s My Baby.” As he notes, “I start the show with ‘Body and Soul,’ an adagio heartbreak solo, then I go to out-of-control comedy, and in the end, come back to a more calm place [with “Wave”]. It’s quite a nice balance.” As for working with Tharp, a woman who obviously doesn’t suffer fools gladly, Dibble says, “She knows what she wants, and I like that. I’d rather someone be very clear and plain-speaking than say one thing and mean another.”
Goal!! Tharp might not be thrilled to hear how Dibble spent a recent day off: “I saw some Spanish guys playing soccer in an Astroturf park down in Chelsea, where I live, and I wandered up and said, ‘May I join you?’ Then I did a big bike ride. I don’t know what the hell I was thinking!” Not that he’s a couch potato the rest of the time. “Typically, I’m at the gym three times a week and take four dance classes a week on top of rehearsals and six [Broadway] performances,” he says. How on earth…? “I come from the world of ballet, so I’m used to working for six or seven hours before I do a show,” he says. “The more work I do, the better I become.” And Dibble has definitely caught the Broadway bug. “I’m going to start singing and try some acting,” he says of prepping for a traditional musical, adding with a laugh, “By no means do I think I’ll be another Pavarotti, but maybe I could sing a chorus of something. The talent on Broadway is just outrageous.”