TWB member Ariel Martinez opens up about his Cuban ballet beginnings and ambitions for the future in D.C. and beyond.
We spoke with 11 of D.C.’s performing arts professionals to learn more about how they set the scene. Check out the rest of the roundup here.
A graduate of the Escuela Nacional Cubana de Ballet, one of the most prestigious ballet schools in the world, Ariel Martinez joined Washington Ballet in 2018 after four years at the National Ballet of Cuba. “Washington is a very inspiring city,” Martinez says. “It’s a beautiful city.”
How did you start ballet?
I was six years old when my grandmother took me to ballet. At that age, you don’t know what you want to do. For the first few years, training was after school. I was less serious about it. In Cuba, you start professional training at age 10. It’s eight years, but only after my third year did I start really loving ballet.
Your repertoire includes major ballets like “Swan Lake,” and “Don Quixote.” How do you approach each one?
I first have to prepare my brain and my body. I also have to learn the story of the ballet: when it was created, why the choreographer made it and about the music and the composer. This way, when I get to the studio, I am ready to become the role. If I am the bad guy, I have to know why he’s a bad guy in the story. If I’m the best friend of the prince, I have to know what that looks like. And then when I’m on stage, I open my soul and boom, I forget about everything and perform.
Is it hard to keep multiple choreographies in your body?
We have a saying in ballet: What you learn well, you will never forget. Even if you’ve not done something for many years, as soon as you hear the music, your body will start doing the choreography.
What about The Washington Ballet’s season opener, the Shakespeare-inspired “Such Sweet Thunder”?
We started creating the show at the end of last season. Working with [choreographer] Silas Farley, I have no words except “incredible.” He creates so fast. He already had everything in his mind but still asks, “What do you think? Are you comfortable with this?” That’s very important. The program is also challenging because I will dance two different Romeos in two different choreographies — Farley’s and the balcony scene [by Sir Kenneth MacMillan]. I’m so grateful to The Washington Ballet for the opportunity.
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