Danish-born Peter Martins has spent more than 30 years with the New York City Ballet as a dancer, choreographer and Ballet Master. Martins' association with the Company began in 1967, when he was invited to dance the title role in George Balanchine's Apollo during its appearance at the Edinburgh Festival. He performed as a guest artist with the New York City Ballet for three years before joining as a Principal Dancer in 1970. During his career as a dancer, from which he retired in 1983, Martins danced a tremendous variety of roles, ranging in style from Balanchine and Alexandra Danilova's version of the 19th-century classic Coppelia, to Balanchine's Serenade, Stravinsky Violin concerto and Robert Schuhmann´s Davidsbündlertänze as well as Jerome Robbins' Dances at a Gathering, Afternoon of a Faun and Other Dances.
In 1981, Martins assumed the position of Ballet Master, a title he shared with George Balanchine, Jerome Robbins and John Taras. From 1983 to 1989 Martins and Robbins served as Co-Ballet Masters in Chief of New York City Ballet, sharing the responsibility of overseeing the smooth operation of the Company numbering approximately 90 dancers. The Company counts more than 150 works by Balanchine, Robbins, Martins and others in its active repertory. In 1990, following Robbins' decision to leave New York City Ballet to pursue other projects, Mr. Martins assumed sole directorship of the Company.
Martins choreographed his first ballet, Calcium Light Night, set to several pieces by Charles Ives, in 1977. He has since created more than 75 ballets, primarily for the New York City Ballet, ranging from pas de deux to large scale pieces, set to music by composers as diverse as Tschaikovsky and Stravinsky, George Gershwin and Michael Torke.
To celebrate the New York City Ballet's 40th Anniversary in 1988, Martins conceived and planned the American Music Festival, a three-week celebration of American music, art and dance. Works by choreographers such as Lar Lubovitch, Laura Dean, Eliot Feld, William Forsythe and Paul Taylor shared the stage with ballets by Balanchine and Robbins. The festival also included the world premieres of more than 20 pieces during this exploration of the diversity of the American imagination. Martins' contribution included nine ballets: BARBER VIOLIN CONCERTO, BLACK & WHITE, THE CHAIRMAN DANCES, A FOOL FOR YOU, FRED AND GEORGE, SOPHISTICATED LADY, TANZSPIEL, TEA-ROSE and THE WALTZ PROJECT. Since the American Music Festival, Mr. Martins has choreographed ADAMS VIOLIN CONCERTO to a co-commissioned score by John Adams, ASH, BEETHOVEN ROMANCE, CONCERTI ARMONICI, DELIGHT OF THE MUSES, ECHO, FEARFUL SYMMETRIES, JAZZ (SIX SYNCOPATED MOVEMENTS), in collaboration with Wynton Marsalis, Artistic Director of "Jazz at Lincoln Center," JEU DE CARTES, MOZART PIANO CONCERTO, MOZART SERENADE, A MUSICAL OFFERING, PAPILLONS, RELIQUARY, RIVER OF LIGHT, SINFONIA, THE SLEEPING BEAUTY, STABAT MATER, SYMPHONIC DANCES, TSCHAIKOVSKY PAS DE QUATRE, WALTON CELLO CONCERTO and ZAKOUSKI.
A number of Martins' works have been taped for broadcast by the PBS "Dance in America" series, including EIGHT EASY PIECES, PIANO-RAG MUSIC, THE MAGIC FLUTE, CONCERTO FOR TWO SOLO PIANOS and a new ballet, TANGO, created especially for the taping. THE MAGIC FLUTE aired as a separate telecast, while the others were shown as "A Choreographer's Notebook: Stravinsky Piano Ballets by Peter Martins." In January of 1991, "Dance in America" presented a program entitled "Ballerinas: Dances by Peter Martins" which included SOPHISTICATED LADY, the pas de deux section from ECSTATIC ORANGE, BEETHOVEN ROMANCE, BARBER VIOLIN CONCERTO and VALSE TRISTE. One of Mr. Martins' projects away from the New York City Ballet was the choreography of the "Dance" portion of Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical "Song and Dance," which opened on Broadway in 1985. Peter Martins' ballet A FOOL FOR YOU, featuring music written and performed by Ray Charles, was telecast on "Live from Lincoln Center" in 1989. Martins' pas de deux NOT MY GIRL was taped for the 20th anniversary broadcast of the PBS series "Great Performances" which aired in October of 1992.
Peter Martins' autobiography Far From Denmark was published by Little, Brown in 1982. Martins was made a Knight of The Order of Dannebrog by Queen Margrethe II of Denmark in September of 1983.