When Aurélie Dupont unexpectedly stepped down as dance director of the Paris Opera Ballet last June, the company and fans wondered who would be next to lead the 154-member troupe. The POB opened its season in September without a dance director, and now the long-awaited announcement has arrived that José Martinez will take the role on December 5.
The Spanish-born dancer is no stranger to Paris. He arrived in the French capital thanks to a scholarship from the Prix de Lausanne in 1987. After only one year in the upper division of the POB school, he was offered a contract in the ballet corps and quickly rose through the ranks of the company, while winning a gold medal in Varna and attracting the attention of guest choreographer Mats Ek. Martinez was promoted to Principal Dancer in 1997 following his performance as James in The sylph. He excelled in a varied repertoire, including works by Pina Bausch, William Forsythe and Paul Taylor.
Since retiring from the POB in 2011, Martinez has been busy honing his choreographic and managerial skills, returning home to Spain to lead the Compañía Nacional de Danza for eight years. The 53-year-old is credited with restoring a balance between contemporary and classical repertoire at the Madrid-based company, a factor which likely impressed the POB search committee given the opera’s varied and sometimes controversial repertoire. .
The search committee, led by Paris Opera Director General Alexander Neef, was made up of French dance personalities familiar with the inner workings of the POB, including Angelin Preljocaj. After the committee evaluated several candidates and interviewed eight of them, Martinez’s accomplished career as a dancer and director, as well as his “sensitivity to mediation and inclusion will guarantee stability, influence and the excellence of the Paris Opera Ballet,” Neef said in a statement.
“Stability” is a byword, as the POB seek to calm the rapid turnover it has experienced since Benjamin Millepied’s short-lived tenure from 2014 to 2016. His successor, Dupont – a former star who once played alongside Martinez – didn’t stay in the job much longer and received mixed reviews for his leadership. She said the reason for leaving was to pursue other creative endeavors. Due to the dance director’s demanding artistic and administrative duties, Martinez has agreed to put aside his successful career as a choreographer, concentrating solely on directing the POB, with the exception of two previously scheduled engagements where he will conduct revivals. of earlier works.
Expressing his joy to find the POB, Martinez announced his commitment to uniting the artists and the staff of the opera in the service of a “model ballet in its artistic, human and social commitments”.