Meet Matthew Couvillon, professional choreographer and alum

Written byAshley McClure-French

“Having not had much formal dance training prior to college — I was more of a musical theatre dancer — the smaller, more concentrated classes at UL Lafayette were beyond beneficial to me. Our teachers focused on clean/classic technique giving me a strong foundation for a career across styles.”

Matthew Couvillon graduated from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette's dance program and is now a professional choreographer
Matthew Couvillon
Graduation Year
Class of 2008
Performing Arts: Dance
Forked Island, La

Where I'm From

I’m from Forked Island, La. where I was part of the speech and drama team.

Where I Am

I am a dancer and choreographer working on A Chorus Line.

Where I'm Going

I am allowing myself to explore things that spark my curiosity in order to make the kind of work I would want to watch.

Matthew is a professional choreographer who has worked on "A Chorus Line" for nearly 10 years. His productions of big-name shows like "West Side Story" (restaged Jerome Robbins’ choreography) and "Newsies" both won awards for their choreography.

He credits his beginning to Kenneth Jenkins, assistant professor of dance.

“My high school theatre teacher and I were able to speak with Kenneth at this presentation and he had many exciting things to say about UL Lafayette and the performing arts program,” he said.

“Dance became an obsession for me as a kid watching classic movie musicals,” he said. “When I took my first dance class I felt as though I found a place of acceptance and a joy like no other. I could finally give my whole self to something and all of my thoughts and emotions could be expressed without uttering a single word.

“Having not had much formal dance training prior to college, I was more of a musical theatre dancer, so the smaller, more concentrated classes at UL Lafayette were beyond beneficial to me. Our teachers focused on clean/classic technique, giving me a strong foundation for a career across styles.”

Choreography as Storytelling

“Choreography became a way to further explore this freedom and what I had to offer as an artist and storyteller,” he said. “As I leaned into choreography, I was better able to accept the fact that my body moves differently than anyone else’s, my ear yearns for different music, and my approach to work and daily life is individual. Choreography taught me to not question that, but to celebrate it!"

As a choreographer, Matthew crafts stories from movement.  

“Story is the most important aspect in all of my choreography. I have endless respect for people who can create movement for movement's sake, or who make dances that capture the essence of a greater idea. This, however, is not the way I work.

“Being that I have been choreographing musicals, or theatrical events, story and character remain my primary focus. I am also excited when shows allow me opportunities to research both time periods and the nuance of how different regions and social groups dance and move," he said.

His career has taken him across the U.S. and Europe to choreograph productions including "Legally Blonde," "Cinderella," "West Side Story" (restaged Jerome Robbins’ choreography), and "Gypsy."

“But the most rewarding and exciting moment in my career, thus far, was performing in 'A Chorus Line' at the Heymann Performing Arts Center,” he says. “I was back home and so many of my friends, family and teachers were able to come and share in the experience. The night was extra special as my stepfather was in the audience. He was battling cancer, and this would be the last time he was able to watch me dance.”

Putting in the Work

Hard work is a foundational component of Matthew’s career, an idea that’s stuck with him since his days in UL Lafayette’s performing arts program.

“Kenneth Jenkins would always say, ‘It's yours for the work,’” he says. “This is something I am reminded of everyday and a phrase I share with my students and the dancers with whom I work. What is so great is that this phrase keeps the idea of work at the forefront of your dreams.

“As a dancer, choreographer, artist, we must put in the work every day. I am always trying to push my craft forward knowing that the work will take me to more exciting places than just dreaming will.”


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