BWW Interview: Douglas Martin of American Repertory Ballet and their NYC Performance on 10/5
The American Repertory Ballet (ARB), New Jersey's premiere ballet company, has a thrilling season ahead that includes performances in the Garden State and several New York City engagements. A one-night-only program of works by former American Ballet Theatre principal Kirk Peterson and former Joffrey Ballet member Mary Barton, will take place this Thursday, October 5 at 8pm at the Gerald W. Lynch Theater at John Jay College located at 524 West 59th Street.
The show will open with Peterson's 1999 creation, The Eyes that Gently Touch. Set to the driving rhythms of Philip Glass' Mad Rush, the work culminates in a dance replete with romance and thrilling movement. The mixed-bill program also includes Barton's Straight Up with a Twist, set to the eclectic sounds of Kaila Flexer and Third Ear, which showcases the versatility of ARB's dancers and Barton's unique choreographic voice while blending rich senses of narrative and neo-classicism. Following its 2011 premiere, this is the first piece Barton created for ARB and has become a hallmark in the company's repertory. The performance concludes with the company premiere of Peterson's Carmen, originally created for Cincinnati Ballet in 1998. Based on Georges Bizet's opera, Peterson tells the tale of Carmen, a passionate, free-spirited woman, the fickle Don José and her love triangle between Don José and popular bullfighter Escamillo.
Martin started his ballet training with Dimitri Romanoff at the San Jose Ballet School and was one of six dancers selected by Mikhail Baryshnikov to study in the newly-formed American Ballet Theatre School. He was invited to join the Joffrey Ballet in 1984 where, as a principal dancer, he performed roles in ballets by Ashton, Arpino, Cranko, Balanchine, Joffrey, Taylor, Pendleton, Kudelka and many other great 20th century choreographers. Martin was featured in performances of Dance in America on PBS and was an original cast member of the historic recreation of Nijinsky's Le Sacre du printemps. He was among the last dancers of the Joffrey Ballet to spend the majority of his career in the company working under founder Robert Joffrey. Martin joined the Cleveland Ballet in 1991 and danced an array of principal roles including the Minister in Agnes DeMille's Fall River Legend. In 1993, Martin was invited to join the American Repertory Ballet. As leading dancer and Ballet Master for ARB, Martin collaborated with directors in creating ballets, including productions as the original cast lead in Romeo and Juliet, Swan Lake, The Dream and The Nutcracker. Martin continued to be a principal dancer in the company as well as Ballet Master for ARB and PBW and Principal Faculty for the Summer Intensive until his retirement from performing in 2002. After retiring from ARB as a performer, Martin expanded his teaching, production and choreographic work. Martin has been an integral part of the teaching staff at the Princeton Ballet School, Rutgers University and Westminster Choir College, and has also served as the School's Music Director and ARBW Ballet Master. He has staged full-length and repertory ballets for several companies, including Romeo and Juliet and Philip Jerry's Our Town. Additionally, Martin has choreographed for several Princeton Ballet School productions, including Sleeping Beauty, Swan Lake, Don Quixote and Coppélia. In 2010, Martin became Artistic Director of American Repertory Ballet. Since then, he has premiered a new production of Nutcracker, choreographed several new works including Ephemeral Possessions, Pathways, Rite of Spring, Firebird and a full-length Romeo and Juliet, A Midsummer Night's Dream and Pride and Prejudice, and has commissioned 29 company premieres, including 19 world premieres.
ARB is such an accomplished and distinctive company. What are some of the qualities that have contributed to its success?
We have worked extremely hard to build a top-notch company by training the dancers in our distinctive American classical style which gives ARB its signature look on stage. We chose dancers with strong classical technique and a lot of natural athleticism. These qualities allow us to perform a broad array of works that only the best dancers can dance.
How were the pieces selected for the New York City performances?
The repertory for our New York seasons was chosen to highlight the company dancers and resident choreographers. It is a showcase for our distinctive repertory and the quality of our artistic product, and will hopefully be very entertaining for the audience.
What would you like NY audiences to know about the upcoming shows?
The choreographers for the upcoming NY performance are two wonderful artists whose works have thrilled audiences for decades. The pieces chosen are works that show the company depth of artistry and strength of technical prowess. Kirk Peterson's Carmen is thrilling to watch as it weaves the tale of Carmen's fiery relationships with all that encounter her. Mary Barton's whimsical Straight up with a Twist is a master piece of playfulness and style.
I am sure the company members are excited about the season ahead. What are some of the challenges of expanding your repertoire?
The challenges are all time based. We have a small company and all of the dancers are involved in almost all of the repertory. When you consider covers for every role, the dancers will double their parts for the season's repertory. We've put two shows together in 5 weeks and performed the first series. While we have an additional two weeks for the second show, the timeline is tight for such demanding works, and injuries are a constant threat. The dancers are up to the challenge and are performing marvelously.
Tell us a little about your vision for the future of the ARB.
We are located between Philadelphia and NYC and both cities have an array of dance offerings. We can't be a cookie cutter company performing repertory similar to these other classical companies. Our vision is to create world-class dancers and repertory with a unique voice and style. We are fortunate to have three in house choreographers as well as the works of other dance makers chosen for ARB that express our individuality and promotes the strengths and style of this company. Our goal is to spread the joy and art of dance to all audiences. Art brings people together and it makes communities stronger by enlivening the culture and businesses of cities and towns.
Tickets for the program of works by the ARB at Hunter College on Thursday, October 6th are $35-$55, $15 students with promo code STUDENT (must present valid I.D.), online at http://www.arballet.org/event/carmennyc/, by calling (212) 237-8005, or by visiting the Gerald W. Lynch Theater box office at 524 West 59th Street.
The ARB will return to New York City in the spring for two performances at The Kaye Playhouse at Hunter College located at 695 Park Avenue on Friday, April 6 and Saturday, April 7 with a program of works by Douglas Martin, along with two classics by José Limón and Gerald Arpino.
For more information about American Repertory Ballet visit www.arballet.org or call (609) 921-7758. Follow the company on Twitter and Instagram: @ARBallet
Photo Credit: Leighton Chen