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Profile: Carolina Ballet’s Marcelo Martinez

Curtis Brown Photography

Curtis Brown Photography

During Marcelo Martinez’s final season with the Washington Ballet in 2007, Washington Post Staff writer Sarah Kaufman observed, “(he is) an underused dancer with flamboyant technique and a sweet crooked smile.”  The latter two descriptors are still true, the first is not: Martinez is no longer underused.  He joined Carolina Ballet for its 10th season in 2007 and since then has had the opportunity to dance multiple solo roles. Under the guidance of Artistic Director Robert Weiss and spurred by the high standards set by his colleagues, Martinez has grown as a dancer and performer.  With hard work and ambition, he plans to continue improving.

Lithe and muscular, with swarthy good looks and graceful athleticism, Martinez commands your attention onstage. While some dancers elevate you to the clouds, Martinez anchors you to the earth with a fiery intensity.  “It is everything or nothing.” He says of performing. “If you get in there and doubt it, it is a waste of time.”

Martinez began his dancing career in Paraguay, one of thirteen countries represented by dancers at the Carolina Ballet.  Rounding out the Latin and South American contingent are regal Alain Molina of Cuba (principle) , and from Uruguay flawless Pablo Javier Perez  (principle)  and Martin Vignolo (corps de ballet).

Like his brothers and sister, Martinez began dancing merely for fun. At the age of twelve, after a year-long-absence, he realized how much he missed ballet. That was when he realized that he wanted to be a serious dancer. Wanting him to rise above the trappings of a South American society with rigid gender roles,  his mother never questioned his decision.

The Right Image Photography

The Right Image Photography

The turning point in his professional career came in 2003, when, at the age of 19, his troupe Companhia Jovem de Ballet do Rio de Janeiro was invited to perform at the Kennedy Center.  Primarily supported by a grant from Partners of the Americas, the group was able to travel to Washington, D.C. to perform for a nearly sold-out audience of 5,000. Despite being among the best of the best young dancers chosen  to represent the Brazilian group (and also the only foreigner), Martinez captured the attention of the Washington Ballet director, who offered him a spot dancing with the company for the 2004-2005 season.

Though grateful for his time with Washington Ballet, Martinez admits it was difficult.  He had to improve his work ethic. He had to learn how to behave as a professional. Then, in his second year, the dancers went on strike. Frustrated to be entangled in the politics of a professional company, Martinez sought inspiration in the form of the 2007 New York International Ballet Competition. He did it for himself, to stay motivated and to have a goal.

His time with Carolina Ballet has been happier. Carmina Burana, his first performance, provided a joyous awakening to the full pleasure of dancing with live music: During one rehearsal, Weiss asked Martinez if he thought the music was fast. Not wanting to complain and unaccustomed to having such input, he timidly replied, “I think a little.” Weiss asked (NC Master Chorale director) Alfred Sturgis to slow down and follow Martinez. “The next day I went to perform… Maestro was paying attention so much to my move. This is the moment that you feel like I am the music. You move in the music with your soul. I was taking my time and dancing. It was amazing experience.”

You will have the opportunity to watch Martinez and other talented members of Carolina Ballet during the second half of their 2009-2010 season, beginning with Cinderella and selected works by Balanchine February 18-March 7. Martinez will be performing in the Raleigh premiere of the Fourth movement from Brahms Schoenberg Quartet.  He describes it a “gypsy style…a character dance….Have to kill body before I can feel character, gain comfort. Want to enjoy it a little bit more.”  If Martinez is enjoying it, you can be sure you will be too.

Carolina Ballet presents Cinderella and select works by George Balanchine, February 18-March 7, 2010. Progress Energy Center for the Performing Arts, Fletcher Opera Theater. For ticket information:  Box Office 919 719-0900 or Ticketmaster 919 982-2787.

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