Ballet Master in Chief, New York City Ballet
Danish-born Peter Martins began his association with New York City Ballet in 1967, when he was invited to dance the title role in George Balanchine’s Apollo during the Company’s appearance at the Edinburgh Festival. He then performed as a guest artist with NYCB for three years before joining the Company as a Principal Dancer in 1970. Prior to retiring from dance in 1983, Mr. Martins danced a tremendous variety of roles with this Company, and as a guest artist with companies throughout the world, and was lauded for his outstanding partnering skills and noble stage presence.
In 1981, Mr. Martins was named Ballet Master for the New York City Ballet, a title he shared with George Balanchine, Jerome Robbins, and John Taras. From 1983, following the death of Mr. Balanchine, Mr. Martins served as Co-Ballet Master in Chief with Jerome Robbins, assuming sole artistic directorship of the Company in 1989. In addition, Mr. Martins is the Artistic Director and Chairman of Faculty of the School of American Ballet, the official school of NYCB.
Mr. Martins began his career as a choreographer in 1977 with Calcium Light Night, set to several pieces of music by Charles Ives. He has since created more than 80 ballets — primarily for NYCB, ranging from pas de deux to large-scale pieces, (including full-length productions of The Sleeping Beauty, Swan Lake and Romeo+Juliet), set to music by composers as diverse as Beethoven, Strauss and Tschaikovsky and Bernstein, Michael Torke and Stravinsky. Mr. Martins has also commissioned a number of scores from such composers as John Adams, Wynton Marsalis, Christopher Rouse and Charles Wuorinen.
During his tenure as Ballet Master in Chief, Mr. Martins has directed several important festivals and anniversary celebrations. In 1988 to celebrate the Company’s 40th anniversary, he conceived the American Music Festival, a three-week celebration of American music, art, and dance. In 1993, on the occasion of the tenth anniversary of Balanchine’s death, Mr. Martins planned the Company’s historic Balanchine Celebration, which featured a season-long retrospective of Balanchine’s work performed in chronological order. In 1998, Mr. Martins planned the 50th Anniversary Season, a year-long celebration featuring an unprecedented performance schedule of more than 100 ballets during the Company’s winter and spring seasons. For the Company’s 2003-04 season, to commemorate the 100th Anniversary of the birth of George Balanchine, Mr. Martins conceived Balanchine 100: The Centennial Celebration as a year-long exhibition-style approach to Balanchine’s life and work. Most recently, in 2008, the Company presented the Robbins Celebration, honoring the 90th anniversary of the birth of Jerome Robbins. The Company presented thirty-three of the co-founding choreographer's work during its spring season.
In 1992, Mr. Martins conceived the Diamond Project to give choreographers the opportunity to create new works within the vocabulary of classical ballet. Through 2006, 55 ballets by 31 different choreographers have been commissioned for NYCB through the Diamond Project. In September 2000, Mr. Martins and Irene Diamond, the principal benefactor of the Diamond Project, launched the New York Choreographic Institute. Each year the Institute provides selected choreographers with the opportunity to work with NYCB dancers and students from the School of American Ballet in the Company’s rehearsal studios at Lincoln Center. These sessions give choreographers a rare opportunity to explore and experiment, without the pressures of preparing for a public performance. To date, 64 choreographers have participated in the 16 sessions of the Institute, and now each spring the choreographers have the added opportunity to collaborate with composers from the Juilliard School.
Mr. Martins’ autobiography, Far From Denmark, was published by Little, Brown in 1982. In addition to having received numerous other awards, Mr. Martins was made a Knight of The First Order of Dannebrog by Queen Margrethe II of Denmark in September of 1983.