by Manu SharmaMar 24, 2022
Ballet is a performing art that teaches life-skills like perseverance, dedication, motivation, work ethic, stamina, and strength. Ballet is hardwork and it is worth every minute spent perfecting the skills as it’s a meditative performance for the viewer’s eyes. This time ballet excitingly collaborates with visual art at Boston Ballet’s ChoreograpHER. Artistic Director Mikko Nissinen announced the female-led program celebrating innovative women across creative fields including choreography, music, design, and visual art. The program ChoreograpHER features five world premieres by New York City Ballet Principal Dancer and choreographer, Tiler Peck, choreographer Claudia Schreier, visual artist Shantell Martin, Boston Ballet Principal Dancer and choreographer Lia Cirio and choreographer Melissa Toogood.
Martin, an internationally acclaimed visual artist, intuitive philosopher, cultural facilitator, teacher, choreographer, songwriter, performer, is bringing her magic to the world of Boston Ballet with Kites. She translated the line into movement with this bold approach to ballet through collaborative meditations on identity, movement work exploring how words and emotions inspire movement in the body, and conversations about our conceptions of time and space. Kites represents the entire company of dancers, each with unique talents, voices, and life experience and how they come together - creating new landscapes of time, emotion and lines.
Martin, known for her landscape of lines and existential questions through her art, creates her first choreographic work. Her line has constantly evolved from fashion and celebrity collaborations to adjunct professor positions at MIT Media Lab, NYU Tisch, ITP and Columbia University’s Brown Institute. Creating her first-choreographic work with Boston Ballet, the multi-talented artist brings a playful approach to the stage and inspires audiences to tap into their creativity. Her new work Kites pulls inspiration from the idea that a kite can represent a life that’s travelled and its string is the memory between the past and the future.
“Kites is a celebration and exploration of memory, movement, creativity and of collaboration. It is a journey from dark to light, from unknowing to knowing, from the ground to the air. It draws from the object that is the kite, both metaphorically and physically speaking (getting us from the ground to the air and back again),” says Martin.
“It has been an absolute pleasure working with Boston Ballet, especially when you are venturing into the unknown as I was coming from a visual artist’s perspective into movement. It was really important and fulfilling for me to be able to do this with the support and talent of everyone from the dancers to Mikko Nissinen who trusted me and gave me the confidence to create,” states Martin. As a London-born, New York based artist, her collaboration with the Boston Ballet for their 2022 season certainly paves an unknown, yet exciting way for her captivating lines.
Constantly exploring themes such as intersectionality, identity, and play, Martin has carved a path for herself that is as much intellectual as a producer and visual artist. At the Brown Institute for Media Innovation, she created a large-scale wall installation and worked with the Institute’s research group to explore how visual and computerised storytelling might influence media and technology innovation. According to the artist, she increasingly incorporates meditative intuition into her artistic practice, and hopes to teach others how to find their lines to inevitably find their path. Her distinctive style is one of confidence. It is a confidence that has grown over time. People could look at her lines and say, "Well, I can do that" and she would reply, "Yes, you can." Knowing the many benefits of creativity on mental health and personal growth and how those benefits radiate out into all spheres of one's life and the world. Martin has made a line distinctively hers. Now, Martin uses her art practice not just as a passive way to create objects to admire but as an active way to teach others how to create a line that is recognisably their own.
A leader in its field, Boston Ballet is internationally renowned for performances of classical, neo-classical, and contemporary ballet, combined with a dedicated approach to world-class dance education and community initiatives. “This boundary-breaking program is sure to excite our audiences, with five world premieres by five incredible film artmakers,” states the Artistic Director, Mikko Nissinen. “Boston Ballet launched the ChoreograpHER initiative in 2018 to amplify female voices. While this mainstage program is the culmination of the work over the past four years, it is also just the start of the Boston Ballet highlighting innovative female artists.”
The ChoreograpHER runs from March 3-13 at the Citizens Bank Opera House. Additionally, it will be filmed live at the Citizens Bank Opera House and available to stream March 17-27 as part of the Boston Ballet’s virtual season. With strong female voices supporting ChoreograpHER, Boston Ballet’s initiative establishes a model for female dance students and professional dancers to evolve their choreographic skills and invests in new, innovative works by female artists. Martin’s quest for identity through her work has got her enormous collaborations with the world’s biggest brands and creatives including Kendrick Lamar for Art Basel Miami, Kelly Wearstler, Max Mara and Tiffany & Co.
(Text by Vatsala Sethi, Asst. Editorial Coordinator (Arts))