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 (selected for Het TheaterFestival in Belgium), followed by the 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 DE SINGEL in Antwerp, kicking off a 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 their voices are interwoven with those 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. Both any attempt… and ELISABETH GETS HER WAY were selected for Het TheaterFestival (BE).

Martens regularly creates guest performances such as The world is burning but I keep on turning (2016) for Ballet de Lorraine, MAN MADE (2017) for Dance On Ensemble and Period Piece (2020), a short solo for Kristina Bentz, dancer at Ballet de l’Opéra de Lyon, as part of the Danser Encore solo series. He also coaches young creators in their own creations. In the coming seasons, Martens will combine his role as co-artistic director with GRIP with that of associate choreographer with Opera Ballet Vlaanderen. In FUTUR PROCHE (2022), together with fifteen dancers from OBV, two children, and harpsichordist Goska Isphording, he built a performance about the imminent future. After two previous successful productions, Martens again finds inspiration in a surprising, contemporary repertoire for the centuries-old harpsichord. The performance had its world premiere on July 19, 2022 at the Cour d’honneur of the prestigious Festival d’Avignon. Martens was awarded the Prins Bernhard Cultuurfonds prize for North Brabant (2014) and the prestigious Charlotte Köhler Prize (2015) for his work. He is associated artist at DE SINGEL (Antwerp, BE) and at La Comédie de Clermont-Ferrand (FR).

In 2014, Jan Martens founded the choreographic platform GRIP with business director Klaartje Oerlemans, in Antwerp / Rotterdam. From 2023 on, GRIP will be an organisation with shared artistic leadership. Femke Gyselinck, Jan Martens, Cherish Menzo and Steven Michel are at the helm of the organisation, together with business manager Klaartje Oerlemans and supported by artistic coordinator Rudi Meulemans.

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