Back in 1982, Matthew Dunn was a young lad with a gift and a passion for classical ballet. He had just joined the Victorian College of The Arts. He had already been a child extra for the Australian Ballet five times, in Don Quixote, Coppelia, The Three Musketeers, The Sleeping Beauty and Anna Karenina, as Anna’s young son Seryozha, a performance that earned him the praise of “Enchanting” from the Sydney Morning Herald critic, Jill Sykes. He was also featured in the third issue of Dance Australia under the banner, “Stars of tomorrow”, in an article which stated he had the appearance and grace of his hero, Rudolf Nureyev.
In July of his second year at the VCA, aged just 13, he was walking across King’s Way when he was hit by a car. Knocked unconscious, he lay in a coma for 16 days. His parents were told that he had only 30% chance of survival. When he woke, he found his left leg broken in two places.
Rehabilitation was slow and painful. He had to recover his brain and speech function. To this day he has a very poor short-term memory: “That’s why I carry a diary with me everywhere”. He also has haemophobia – a fear of blood so acute, he can faint at the sight of a cut figure.
To complicate things further, during a CAT scan to check the state of his brain, an infected needle gave him a nasty case of septicaemia. As a result, the healing of his leg, which would normally take six weeks, slowed to six months. It was a gruelling and frustrating business which he says he survived because of his goal to get back to ballet.
It’s only really only thanks to ballet, my passion for ballet, that I got through as well as I did. I didn’t think of the obstacles, I just thought of getting back in the studio, which is where I wanted to be.”
As soon as he was released from hospital in November and still walking with a limp, he began classes at The National Theatre Ballet School where he had to learn the most basic skills. “(Teacher) Eileen Tasker took me under her wing and taught how to do plies and tendues, even to skip. To this day it’s the most physically exhausting thing I’ve ever done.”
By early the following year he had reached his goal of getting back to the VCA, but the experience was a disappointment.
“The College wasn’t able to provide the specialist training I needed. I had to start again from scratch…. I had gone from a prodigy to being a boy that couldn’t run.”
He left the CVA, and went to St Michael’s Grammar School. Though he continued with his lessons at the National and took ballet as his final year subject, he eventually came to terms with the fact that he would never be a classical ballet dancer. He dabbled in Jazz for a while and studied one year full-time at the Tony Bartuccio Dance Centre. But his heart wasn’t in it any more. He thought I’m not going to be a dancer – tap, jazz, ballet or anything else. I really didn’t have it in me anymore.”
Having finally confronted his fate, he looked for other avenues he could work in his beloved field of ballet. Ï decided if you can’t use your body for your career, then you should use your brain.” He studied and passed as a remedial massage therapist and also completed an Advanced Diploma of Business Management. – Dance Australia.


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