Neoclassical ballet

Exploring visual artist Shantell Martin’s line in the world of Boston Ballet through kites

Ballet is a performing art that teaches life skills such as perseverance, dedication, motivation, work ethic, endurance and strength. Ballet is hard work and every minute spent honing the skills is worth it, as it is a meditative performance for the eyes of the beholder. This time, ballet collaborates in an exciting way with the visual arts at Boston Ballet’s ChoreograpHER. Artistic Director Mikko Nissinen announced the female-led program celebrating innovative women in all creative fields including choreography, music, design and visual arts. The ChoreograpHER program includes five world premieres from 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 the choreographer Melissa Toogood.

Martin, an internationally acclaimed visual artist, intuitive philosopher, cultural facilitator, teacher, choreographer, composer, performer, brings her magic to the world of Boston Ballet with kites. She translated the line into motion 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 line.

Line drawing work on canvas by Shantell Martin for the Boston Ballet Image: Michelle Mosqueda

Martin, known for her landscape of lines and her existential questions through her art, creates her first choreographic work. His line has steadily evolved from fashion and celebrity collaborations to adjunct professorships at MIT Media Lab, NYU Tisch, ITP, and Columbia University’s Brown Institute. Creating his first choreographic work with the Boston Ballet, the multi-talented artist brings a playful approach to the stage and inspires audiences to tap into his creativity. His new job kites is inspired by the idea that a kite can represent a life traveled and that its string is the memory between the past and the future.

kites is a celebration and exploration of memory, movement, creativity and collaboration. It is a journey from darkness to light, from ignorance to knowledge, from ground to air. It is inspired by the object that is the kite, both metaphorically and physically (taking us from the ground to the air and vice-versa)”, explains Martin.

Ballet dancers performing with the work of Shantell Martin in the background |  STIRworld
Ballet dancers performing with the work of Shantell Martin in the background Image: Rosalie O Connor, courtesy of Boston Ballet

“It was an absolute pleasure to work with Boston Ballet, especially when you venture into the unknown, as I came from a visual artist perspective in movement. It was really important and rewarding 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,” says Martin. As a London-born, New York-based artist, her collaboration with the Boston Ballet for their 2022 season certainly blazes an unfamiliar but exciting path for her captivating lines.

Boston Ballet Kite Show 2022 |  STIRworld
boston ballet kites performance 2022 Image: Rosalie O Connor, courtesy of Boston Ballet

Constantly exploring themes such as intersectionality, identity and play, Martin has carved out a path that is as much intellectual as it is productive and visual artist. At the Brown Institute for Media Innovation, she created a large-scale mural installation and worked with the Institute’s research group to explore how visual and computerized storytelling could influence innovation in media and technology. According to the artist, she increasingly incorporates meditative intuition into her artistic practice, and hopes to teach others to find their lines to inevitably find their way. His distinctive style is one of confidence. It is a trust that has developed over time. People might look at her lines and say, “Well, I can do that” and she would say, “Yeah, you can.” Know the many benefits of creativity on mental health and personal growth and how these benefits radiate into all spheres of one’s life and the world. Martin made a line distinctly his own. Now Martin uses his 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 recognizable to them.

Artist Shantell Martin |  STIRworld
Artist Shantell Martin Image: Michelle Mosqueda

A leader in its field, Boston Ballet is internationally recognized for its classical, neoclassical and contemporary ballet performances, combined with a dedicated approach to world-class dance education and community initiatives. “This groundbreaking program is sure to excite our audiences, with five world premieres by five incredible filmmakers,” says Artistic Director, Mikko Nissinen. “Boston Ballet launched the ChoreograpHER initiative in 2018 to amplify female voices. While this main program is the culmination of the work of the past four years, it is also only the beginning of Boston Ballet spotlighting innovative female artists.

watch the minutes

Visual artist Shantell Martin creates her first choreographic work for Boston Ballet |  STIRworld

Visual artist Shantell Martin creates her first choreographic work for Boston Ballet Video: Courtesy of Boston Ballet

Le Chorégraphe runs from March 3 to 13 at the Citizens Bank Opera House. Additionally, it will be filmed live at Citizens Bank Opera House and available to stream March 17-27 as part of Boston Ballet’s virtual season. With strong female voices supporting ChoreograpHER, Boston Ballet’s initiative sets a model for female dance students and professional dancers to evolve their choreographic skills and invest in innovative new works by female artists. Martin’s quest for identity through his work has earned him huge collaborations with the world’s biggest brands and designers, including Kendrick Lamar for Art Basel Miami, Kelly Wearstler, Max Mara and Tiffany & Co.

(Text by Vatsala Sethi, Deputy Editorial Coordinator (Arts))