BWW Interview: Mary Barton of the ARB Talks Dance and Inspiration

Mary Barton is the Ballet Master and Resident Choreographer of American Repertory Ballet (ARB), New Jersey's preeminent professional ballet company. With a full schedule of performances scheduled across the Garden State for the 2013-2014 season, Barton's role in the success of the company is immeasurable.

Mary Barton received most of her dance training at The Washington School of Ballet under the direction of legendary founder Mary Day. She also participated in summer courses at the School of American Ballet and Joffrey Ballet School. Barton's professional experience began when she performed with The Washington Ballet as a soloist in Balanchine's Scotch Symphony, and in the principal role in Tom Paczik's Tzigane. As a dancer with Joffrey Ballet in New York City, she performed a variety of roles including Clara in Robert Joffrey's world premiere of his new Nutcracker.

As a principal dancer with ARB, her notable roles included Odette/Odile in Swan Lake. Barton said, "Swan Lake was very rewarding." She pointed out that the part has great history as generations of ballerinas that have performed the special role. Barton also commented, "The dual role is very challenging with four acts and 32 fouettes. Toward the end of the evening, it is physically demanding."

One of Barton's favorite roles was that of Juliet in Romeo and Juliet where she had the pleasure of dancing alongside her husband and "real life love," ARB's Artistic Director, Douglas Martin, who played the role of Romeo.

Preparation for this season has been rewarding for Barton and she has maintained a very active schedule. She said, "ARB started working a month earlier this season. The new season started in August and the company had three days to prepare two ballets for their debut performance at Jacob's Pillow. Currently, we are working away, buffing and polishing works already in the repertoire and ardently creating new works for the upcoming season."

The ARB received an extraordinary reception at Jacob's Pillow this past August where the company performed Barton's original piece, Straight Up With a Twist. She said, "It was an honor to have the company perform at this beautiful and historic venue and to have a piece of mine performed was truly thrilling." She also said that the company looked "terrific."

ARB will perform Barton's work, Faerie Tyme, as part of the American Artist Showcase at Union County Performing Arts Center's Hamilton Stage. Mary had unique inspiration for her choreography. "Ever since I was a young girl, I have always loved stories about fairy folk. My parents gave me wonderful collections of fairy tales and anthologies from around the world. I also had many of my mother's charming books and poems about fairies, from when she was a child. Another factor in the birth of this piece was the music. It just told me that it wanted to be used as music for the fairies!"

Mary Barton appreciates the marvelous experiences she has had as a performer and also her opportunity to shape the future of the dance performance. She commented, "Throughout my professional career at the Joffrey Ballet and here at American Repertory Ballet, I was exposed to great dancers and choreographers past and present. This exposure has shaped my life and my art." And, Mary Barton's contributions to her art are greatly appreciated by performers and audiences alike.

American Repertory Ballet begins their season with their Fall Kick-Off on Friday, September 20th and Saturday, September 21st at the Bart Leudeke Center Theater at Rider University. Their season will include with a wide variety of performances at venues across New Jersey. For more information about the ARB and their 2013-2014 season, visit their website,

Photo Credit: Douglas Martin

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