POSTED ON MARCH 27, 2013:
The Final Turn
Ballet star Alfonso Martin shifts gears
In many ways, Alfonso Martin has been the face of Tulsa Ballet Theatre for more than a decade. As a principal for the incredible company that graces our town, he's played Dracula, he's shouldered the burden of shows by Val Caniparoli and Nacho Duato, and in general, kicked a lot of balletic ass in Tulsa and across the globe.
Not bad for a guy who started ballet because he wanted to be hang out with his big sister.
"My sister stared taking ballet classes," he said. "I was very close to my sister, and I was always asking my mom, 'What is ballet? What is ballet?' She finally said, 'You can take a class if you want.' And I did, and I loved it."
By the time he was 21, he was on a plane to Tulsa, more than a little unsure about what was coming.
"I was working with Ballet Monterrey in Mexico, and the company closed," Martin said. "I didn't have a job, and a friend of mine contacted Marcello [Angelini, Tulsa Ballet Theatre's artistic director]. He sent me a video, and I sent him a video, and they sent me a contract the next day."
Just like that -- out of work one day, literally under contract the next. Isn't it nice when things work out?
"I didn't even know where Tulsa was," he said. "Or even Oklahoma. I didn't speak English, either. So I closed my eyes and bought a plane ticket, and so I was here."
Obviously, and thankfully, he made it, starting as a demisoloist in 1998. Within three years, he had ascended to his current role as principal soloist, but Martin said it wasn't due to just being awesome or standing around looking good.
"I worked up to it. I worked hard," he said. "It takes passion and practice and persistence. I just keep thinking, 'Don't ever give up.'"
That principal role made him a star, but it took its toll, as well.
"When you are doing a principal role, you have the entire show on your shoulders. Physically, it's very hard," he said. "If you do it every night, your performance quality is not the same as if you're well rested."
Martin commented on the fact that for some shows at Tulsa Ballet Theatre, there are two different casts, so that if you go on Friday night, and then again on Saturday, you get to see a new set of dancers. You might be tempted to think that a principal like Martin might hate to relinquish the spotlight, no matter how much he might feel the need to rest.
"Some shows, I have to do every single show," he said. "But sometimes, I'm happy to let someone else get the chance to do it. The company is like a football team. It's a team, and we work with each other."
Sometimes a break is necessary.
"There have been shows where I've felt like I had to crawl off the stage afterward," he said. "But the audience is right in front of me, and they have to see 100 percent. I don't want them to say, 'He's getting tired,' or 'He's getting old.'"
When he came to town, he was just happy to have a job. Martin said he has felt very lucky that he ended up here, as it's been a great fit, even though he did take a year in the middle of the last decade to sow a few oats.
"Tulsa gave me what I needed as a dancer. Challenges, and new works, and you hope you get to dance this role or that role," he said. "I moved one year to Boston because I needed to try a big company and something new, but I didn't like it. So I spent 2005-2006 season there. It was a decision that I made for myself. I needed to leave here to see what was out there. I think a lot of our audience was surprised, because I didn't really explain why I left. But I went there, and it wasn't all that impressive, so I came back."
Lucky for us, to be sure.
"That made me realize why I wanted to be in Tulsa and why I wanted to dance with this company," Martin explained. "I met my wife here, and we're happy here. And I get to work with different directors and different choreographers. It was a helpful experience at the time, and a little traumatic, but I don't regret that I left the company at all. I needed to."
But after all this time, and the Boston jaunt, and the retirement of his wife, former Tulsa Ballet Theatre star Ashley Blade-Martin, it's time for him to step down.
"I am very ready to retire," he said, though not because he's sick of Tulsa or tired of ballet. "Body-wise, I've been in a lot of pain the last few years, and everything takes longer as I get older. I don't think I'm going to miss the physicality of it. I had a knee injury that makes it harder. But everything has a time period, and it's time for me to move on now."
And so he will do just that, though he's not leaving Tulsa.
"I've been named ballet master of the company and artistic manager of the second company. So I have a double job," Martin said.
In his role with Tulsa Ballet II, which is Tulsa Ballet Theatre's official pre-professional ensemble, Martin will act as a mentor and help to keep the entire organization moving forward.
"My job now is to recruit the next generation of TBT and show them what the company is about," he said. "And as ballet master, my job is to teach classes and help with rehearsal and keep things in proper shape."
Is that more than he planned for his post-dancing life? A little.
"I got more job than I asked for," he said. "But I'm happy to stay here in Tulsa. My wife is graduating from nursing school in May and will be an RN. So we'll be here for some time. We're going to stick around."
In looking back, he has no regrets.
"I love every single ballet that I've danced," he said. "I danced Swan Lake and Giselle, Midsummer Night's Dream, The Great Gatsby, Three Musketeers, the list goes on and on."
He swears he doesn't have a favorite.
"I was always very focused on what we were doing at the moment. I think for me to be 100 percent committed to the work, that has to be my favorite at that time," he said. "It's always like I want to live in the moment, and assume that I'll never get to do those ballets again."
Martin leaves his role as principal soloist able to say something not many can -- that he's left nothing undone.
"I'm so happy with my dancing career," he said. "I have no regrets. I've done everything I wanted to do. I've gotten to do ballets I did a few years ago and improve on them, but there's not a single ballet that I wanted to do that I didn't get to do."
And he leaves the stage hoping that TBT's success continues.
"I hope people keep coming to see the company even though I'm not there," he said. "I'll be doing other stuff like they want me to do. It's not a goodbye, just a see you later, I guess."
Send all comments and feedback regarding Arts to email@example.com.
URL for this story: http://www.urbantulsa.comhttp://www.urbantulsa.com/gyrobase/Content?oid=oid%3A58156