© Julien Benhamou / OnP
Born in 1969 in Cartagena, Spain, José Martinez began his dance training in his home town and then joined the Rosella Hightower Center in Cannes, in the class of José Ferran. In 1987 he won a Prix de Lausanne scholarship which opened him the doors of the Paris Opera Ballet School. The following year, he joined the Paris Opera Corps de Ballet where he became “Sujet” in 1990. He won the “Public Award” in 1991 and then, in 1992, the Gold medal of the Varna International Ballet Competition as well as the Cercle Carpeaux Prize, and was named “Premier dancer” the same year. He was chosen by Mats Ek to dance Hilarion in his Giselle. On May 31, 1997, at the end of a performance of La Sylphide, he was named “Danseur Étoile”.
Martinez portrayed luminous prince roles as well as darker monarchs, such as Jean-Claude Gallotta’s Nosferatu or Yury Grigorovich’s terrible Ivan. He caught the attention of guest choreographers, especially contemporary ones, and created at the Paris Opera William Forsythe’s Pas./parts (1999) and Mats Ek’s Appartement (2000). Pina Bausch chose him dans perform Orpheus in her danced opera: Orphée et Eurydice (2008).
His repertoire includes: Giselle (based on Jean Coralli and Jules Perrot), La Sylphide and Paquita (Pierre Lacotte’s versions), Les Sylphides (Mikhail Fokine), Till Eulenspiegel (based on Vaslav Nijinski), La Symphonie fantastique, Parade and Le Tricorne (Léonide Massine), Rudolf Nureyev’s productions (Swan Lake, The Sleeping Beauty, The Nutcracker, Raymonda, Don Quixote, Cinderella, Romeo and Juliet, La Bayadère), Suite en blanc (Serge Lifar), Études (Harald Lander), Grand Pas classique (Victor Gsovsky), Soir de fête (Léo Staats), George Balanchine’s works (Le Palais de cristal, Sylvia-pas de deux, Theme and Variations, The Four Temperaments, Agon, Jewels, Tschaikovsky-pas de deux), Maurice Béjart’s choreographies (XI Symphonie, Webern op.V, Le Concours, Boléro), and those of John Neumeier (A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Vaslaw, Magnificat, Sylvia, The Lady of the Camellias), The Messenger in The Song of the Earth and Lescaut in Manon (Kenneth MacMillan), Frollo in Notre-Dame de Paris, Don José in Carmen and Passacaille (Roland Petit), Rhapsody (Frederick Ashton), Temptations of the Moon (Martha Graham), Aureole (Paul Taylor), In The Middle, Somewhat Elevated, Pas./parts and Woundwork 1 (William Forsythe), Stepping Stones (Jirí Kylián), Giselle, A sort of… and Appartement (Mats Ek), Les Variations d’Ulysse (Jean-Claude Gallotta), Le Rire de la lyre (Montalvo-Hervieu), Coppélia (Patrice Bart), Scheherazade (Blanca Li), Onegin (John Cranko).
As a dancer, José Martinez won the Danza & Danza Prize (1998), the Léonide Massine-Positano Prize for his performance of L. Massine’s Tricorne, the Premio Nacional de Danza (Spain, 1999), the France/China Prize (2004) and the Premio de las Artes Escenicas (Spain, 2005). He is Commandeur des Arts et des Lettres.
Apart from his activities at the Paris Opera, José Martinez danced for the greatest companies in the world. He also founded the "José Martinez en Compagnie" group which performed regularly for several years in Europe (particularly in Spain) and in the United States.
As choreographer, his first creation was Mi Favorita in 2002, which he revived and readapted on the Palais Garnier’s stage for the performances “Young Dancers” in 2003. Set to Gaetano Donizetti’s music, he drew from his dance training to create a “classical” ballet while taking liberties and distancing himself from the repertoire, which he featured or diverted with humour and fantasy. The same year he choreographed a pas de deux called Delibes Suite, also revived for the Opera Young Dancers performance in 2006 and which entered in the San Francisco Ballet’s repertoire in 2007. In 2005 he created a piece for the Paris Opera Ballet School’s students, Scaramouche, in which he revived the pantomime tradition of the commedia dell'arte artform. The same year, he created in Japan Parenthèse 1, a solo for Laëtitia Pujol and, in 2006, Soli-ter, for the “Incidence Chorégraphique” performances and then Favoritita for the CNSMDP Junior Ballet dancers. In 2007 he created a new piece at the Picasso Museum in Malaga, Spain: El Olor de la Ausencia (The Scent of Absence) a duet against a backdrop of the Spanish Civil War. In October 2008, he choreographed for the Paris Opera Ballet Les Enfants du Paradis, based on the French cinema masterpiece by Marcel Carné and Jacques Prévert, and for which he received in 2009 the Prix Benois de la Danse. He continued his collaboration with the CNSMDP with Ouverture en deux mouvements (2009). In 2010, he created for the Shanghai Ballet Marco Polo, the last mission and, in 2014, he staged for the Boston Ballet a piece called Resonance.
José Martinez was the artistic director of the Spanish National Dance Company from 2011 to 2019. During these years, he managed to give the Company a new identity, creating a balance between a new classical repertoire and contemporary creation. To do so, he worked with choreographers such as Mats Ek, Ohad Naharin, Angelin Preljocaj, Jirí Kylián, Johan Inger, William Forsythe, Itzik Galili, Sharon Fridman, Annabelle Lopez Ochoa, Andonis Foniadakis and Nacho Duato. He also gave a central place to classical and neoclassical ballet, introducing works of George Balanchine, Jerome Robbins, Uwe Scholz, Ben Stevenson, Roland Petit, Marius Petipa or August Bournonville. But he also forged a strong identity for the Company with creations by young Spanish choreographers, such as Ivan Perez, Alejandro Cerrudo, Iraxte Ansa, Cayetano Soto, Marcos Morau & La Veronal, Mario Bermudez, Goyo Montero, Juanjo Arques, Altea Nuñez, Arantxa Sagardoy… His eclectic programming included historical works such as Leonid Massine's Le Tricorne, revived to celebrate the centenary of the ballet's creation, as well as Jérôme Bel's Show Must Go On (a work that includes non-dancers who specially joined the Company for the project). During this time, Martinez created Sonatas (2012), Raymonda Divertimento (2013), Don Quixote (2015) and The Nutcracker (2018) for the Company.
José Martinez kept on supporting and accompanying the creative talents of his own dancers, helping them to blossom as choreographers. To do so, he organized artistic residencies within the Company and encouraged encounters and collaborations. Some of them, like Antonio de Rosa and Mattia Russo, have even created their own company, Korsia.
Since 2019, he has worked as an independent teacher and choreographer. In March 2020, he created his own version of the ballet Le Corsaire for the Rome Opera Ballet, which he restaged in a new version in Slovenia, with the Ljubljana Opera (2021). In the meantime, his two choreographies for the Vienna New Year's Concert in 2020 and 2021 were very successful. His last projects took him to the Croatian National Theatre in Zagreb, where he presented his version of Giselle in 2022.
José Martinez has been named Dance Director of the Paris Opera by Director Alexander Neef on October 28, 2022, and will officially take up the position on December 5, 2022. He thus succeeds Aurélie Dupont
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