Chicago choreographer Stephanie Martinez is much in demand—many people have said her "star is on the rise," including Dance Magazine. For Dance Kaleidoscope's performances of Dance is a Contact Sport (June 1-4 at IRT), Stephanie has created a marvelous dance/theater piece that has taken both her and the DK dancers out of their comfort zones.
In ten words or less, how would you describe your new piece?
A look into the sports world told through an abstract point of view.
Where did the idea for your new piece come from?
The idea came from my first time in Indy when I was creating on the company. I was walking around downtown before my premier and was struck by the passion and enthusiasm the fans had for their sports teams. I feel that way about dance and thought what a great opportunity it would be to merge them both together.
Did you and your assistants work on the piece before traveling to Indianapolis?
Yes, my assistants and I did quite a bit of pre-prep and research before we came to DK. This is not an ordinary ballet. It took months to conceptualize a clear idea and the music design was a whole other beast to tackle. The movement vocabulary also needed to be created beforehand.
How much did your vision for the piece change once you were in the DK studio?
As far as the work and my vision, I really allow for any new creation to take true shape in the room. We plan but allow things to unfold. That’s the magic of process. The work actually evolved and exceeded my expectations.
How would you describe the DK dancers?
The DK dancers are incredible people and artists. They truly can take ideas, material, and concepts and bring them to life. This was not an easy subject because it could have been perceived as literal and perhaps a bit corny. I really wanted the dancers to amplify the love of sports through a fans eye and they embraced the challenge, evolving in front of my eyes.
What was most surprising from your time in the studio, creating this piece on DK?
The most surprising thing that came out of this process was finding out how much personality the dancers have individually and as a group. They were incredibly open to new ideas, unafraid to make mistakes, and able to laugh at themselves when beautiful mistakes did happen. The fun and energetic ballet you are about to see is a direct result of the willingness and playfulness they had with me in the room.
What’s next for you?
I will be spending time at home in Chicago preparing for my upcoming commisions for Ballet Memphis, Cincinnati Ballet, Dallas Black Dance Theater, Charlotte Ballet, and a world-premier for the Joffrey Ballet.
Black and white photos by Chris Crawl, color photos by Freddie Kelvin.