José Martinez Named Director of Dance at Paris Opéra Ballet

November 4, 2022

When Aurélie Dupont unexpectedly resigned as the Paris Opéra Ballet’s director of dance last June, the company and fans alike were left wondering who would be next to steer the 154-member troupe. The POB opened its season in September without a director of dance, and now, the long-awaited announcement has arrived that José Martinez will take up the role on December 5.    

The Spanish-born dancer is no stranger to Paris. He arrived in the French capital on a scholarship from the Prix de Lausanne in 1987. After only a year in the advanced division of the POB’s school, he was offered a contract in the corps de ballet and quickly climbed the company’s ranks, all while earning a gold medal at Varna and catching the eye of guest choreographer Mats Ek. Martinez was promoted to danseur étoile in 1997 following his performance of James in La Sylphide. He excelled at a diverse repertory, including works by Pina Bausch, William Forsythe and Paul Taylor.

Since retiring from the POB in 2011, Martinez has been busy honing his choreographic and managerial talents, returning home to Spain to lead the Compañía Nacional de Danza for eight years. The 53-year-old is credited with having restored a balance between the contemporary and classical repertory at the Madrid-based company, a factor that likely impressed the POB search committee given the opera house’s own varied and sometimes controversial repertoire.

The search committee, led by Paris Opéra general director Alexander Neef, was composed of French dance personalities familiar with the inner workings of the POB, including Angelin Preljocaj. After the committee evaluated multiple candidates and interviewed eight of them, Martinez’s accomplished career as both a dancer and director, as well as his “sensitivity to mediation and inclusion will guarantee the stability, influence and excellence of the Paris Opera Ballet,” said Neef in a statement.  

“Stability” is a key word, as the POB seeks to calm the rapid turnover it has experienced since Benjamin Millepied’s short-lived tenure from 2014 to 2016. His successor, Dupont—a former étoile who once performed alongside Martinez—did not stay in the position much longer and received mixed reviews for her leadership. She stated that her reason for leaving was to pursue other creative projects. Due to the director of dance’s demanding artistic and administrative tasks, Martinez has agreed to put aside his successful career as a choreographer, focusing solely on directing the POB, with the exception of two previously scheduled engagements where he will lead revivals of prior works.

Expressing his joy at returning to the POB, Martinez announced his commitment to uniting artists and staff of the opera house in service to a “model ballet in its artistic, human and social commitments.”