BWW Interviews: Douglas Martin Leads ARB to New Heights
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by Marina Kennedy
Douglas Martin, Artistic Director of the American Repertory Ballet in Princeton, is successfully leading the company to new heights. He assumed the position in 2010. With a history of dancing, teaching, and serving as Ballet Master for ARB, Martin has the background and enthusiasm to be an outstanding figure in New Jersey's pre-eminent classical and contemporary ballet company.
Douglas Martin began his ballet training with Dimitri Romanoff at the San Jose Ballet School. As a youth, he was an athlete who played both football and soccer. But, after suffering a broken leg as a junior in high school, he turned his attention to ballet training, proving to be a natural. He was one of six dancers selected to study in Mikhail Baryshnikov's newly-formed American Ballet Theatre School, where his teachers included John Prinz and Patricia Wilde. In 1982, he was invited to join the Joffrey Ballet, which proved to an excellent fit for him. His time at the Joffrey continues to influence his repertoire and professional contacts to this day. As a principal dancer, he performed roles in ballets by Ashton, Arpino, Balanchine, Joffrey, Taylor, and Kudelka among others. Martin remained with the Joffrey 9 years and calls it "the time of his life." Among his favorite roles with Joffrey was that of Romeo in Romeo and Juliet.
Martin became a member of the Cleveland Ballet in 1991, and in 1993 was invited to join the American Repertory Ballet. As leading dancer and Ballet Master for ARB Martin collaborated with directors in creating and re-mounting ballets including Romeo and Juliet, Swan Lake, The Dream and The Nutcracker. It is, in fact, the many roles that Martin assumed with the ARB that enables him to shepherd the company so successfully. He commented, "I know the many aspects of the organization." His history with the company and the school also has allowed him to work with longtime friends.
Martin prides himself at choosing the right pieces for ARB dancers. As a former dancer himself, he fully understands the strengths and the movement qualities of his dancers and chooses pieces accordingly. This spring the company will premiere Martin's Romeo and Juliet as well as his new production of Stravinsky's Rite of Spring. He realizes that the company cannot presently afford to purchase dances that cost $35,000, yet continues to maintain an impressive array of classic and new choreographies. The ARB funds must be spent "wisely" as they rely on corporate support, foundation support and personal gifts. While his dancers are presently on a 25 week contract, he hopes to be able to increase it to 36 or 38 weeks per year.
When asked about his professional future Martin clearly sees his path in guiding the company, The Princeton Ballet School which is the official school of the ARB, and associated community engagement programs. ARB prides itself in on its strong American technique, providing diverse training for students from ages 5-70 in programs ranging from ballet and modern to hip-hop.
Martin embraces the idea of the American Repertory Ballet making a "major impact" in the dance world. As an individual with a career as a dancer, choreographer, teacher, and producer he calls himself "fortunate" and "very happy" in what he has set out to do.
Photo Credit: George Jones
Writers Note: This article was written with the information obtained by BWW's Dance Editor, Barnett Serchuk, in an interview with Douglas Martin.