Jan Martens

© Luis Xertu

Jan Martens (° 1984, Belgium) studied at the Fontys Dance Academy in Tilburg and graduated in 2006 from the dance department of the Artesis Royal Conservatoire of Antwerp. Since 2010 he has been making his own choreographic work which, over the years, has been performed with increasing regularity before a national and international audience.

The work of Martens is nurtured by the belief that each body can communicate, that each body has something to say. That direct communication expresses itself in transparent forms. His work is a sanctuary in which the notion of time becomes tangible again and in which there is room for observation and emotion as well as reflection. To achieve this result he creates not so much a movement language of his own, but shapes and reuses existing idioms in a different context so that new ideas emerge. In each new work he tries to redraw the relation between public and performer.

Martens’ first production I CAN RIDE A HORSE WHILST JUGGLING SO MARRY ME (2010) was a portrait of a generation of young women in a society dominated by social networks. It was followed by two love duets that he made at Frascati Amsterdam. A SMALL GUIDE ON HOW TO TREAT YOUR LIFETIME COMPANION (2011) was selected for Aerowaves 2011 and SWEAT BABY SWEAT (2011) for the Dutch Dance Festival 2012 and Circuit X 2013. He then created three shows about unconventional beauty, with performers whose bodies you do not expect in the context of contemporary dance: BIS (2012) for the then 62-year-old Truus Bronkhorst, LA BETE (2013) for the young actress Joke Emmers, and VICTOR (2013), a duet for a boy and a grown man that Martens created with director Peter Seynaeve.

In 2014 Martens focused attention on the jump as movement in the group performance THE DOG DAYS ARE OVER (2014). The production was selected for the Flanders Theatre Festival and is still touring, just like Martens’ solo ODE TO THE ATTEMPT (2014) and the project THE COMMON PEOPLE (2016), a performance, social experiment and workshop in one, created in collaboration with film director Lukas Dhont. Martens’ show RULE OF THREE (2017) was a collaboration with the American sound artist NAH, and had its premiere at deSingel in Antwerp where Martens started his trajectory as creative associate in 2017. The performance got nominated for a Zwaan (Swan) in the category ‘most impressive dance production 2018.’ De Zwanen are seen as the most prestigious dance prize within the Dutch performing arts field.

In the 18/19 season, Martens engaged in three collaborations. Together with 13 youths and fABULEUS, he created PASSING THE BECHDEL TEST, a theatrical production in which the voices of the youths are interwoven with the voices of famous and less famous women from the present and the past. He also revised the successful 2011 production A SMALL GUIDE ON HOW TO TREAT YOUR LIFETIME COMPANION with two new dancers under the title PAULINE THOMAS as commissioned by CDCN Le Gymnase in Roubaix. In January 2019, Martens himself took the stage again in the solo lostmovements, in which he plunges into the universe of choreographer and friend Marc Vanrunxt (Kunst/Werk). In 19/20 Martens’ focus is on the premiere of any attempt will end in crushed bodies and shattered bones. A work for seventeen dancers between the ages of 17 and 70. The premiere – scheduled for April 24, 2020 at DE SINGEL (Antwerp, BE) was postponed due to the corona crisis and took in the end place on July 18 at Festival d’Avignon. On July 12, 2021 ELISABETH GETS HER WAY premiered at Julidans (Amsterdam, NL). This solo created and performed by Jan Martens is a danced portrait of the Polish-born Elisabeth Chojnacka (1939–2017), an exceptionally talented and passionate musician who contributed to the revival of harpsichord music in the middle of the twentieth century.

Martens is currently working towards the premiere of FUTUR PROCHE – a collaboration with Opera Ballet Vlaanderen – on July 19 2022 at the prestgious Cour d’honneur of Festival d’Avignon. Martens will combine his role as co-artistic director with GRIP with that of associate choreographer with Opera Ballet Vlaanderen in the coming seasons. He is associated artist at DE SINGEL (Antwerp, BE). The choreographic platform GRIP – founded by Jan Martens & business manager Klaartje Oerlemans – is supported by the Flemish Government.

In 2014 Jan Martens founded, together with business manager Klaartje Oerlemans, the choreographic platform GRIP in Antwerp / Rotterdam, from where they jointly produce and distribute his work as well as support the work of Cherish Menzo, Steven Michel and – from 2023 on – Femke Gyselinck.

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