Oregon Ballet Theatre principal Kathi Martuza, whose regal stature and seemingly effortless technique riveted audiences and colleagues alike, has stepped down from the stage. Long admired for her exquisite line and deeply expressive face, she was moving and exhilarating in Val Caniparoli’s Lambarena in June, her final performance.
Born in Boston, Martuza trained at Maryland Youth Ballet and began her professional career with San Francisco Ballet. In 2003, she joined OBT at the invitation of artistic director and former SFB dancer Christopher Stowell. “An extremely talented, brave, and ambitious young dancer when I invited her to join me on my move to Portland, Kathi blossomed into one of OBT’s most distinctive ballerinas,” says Stowell.
Martuza attracted national notice when Dance Magazine named her one of its “25 to Watch” in 2005, and again in 2007 when she appeared on Pointe’s cover in James Kudelka’s Almost Mozart, one of her signature roles. Her chiseled limbs made her a standout in neoclassic ballets such as Stowell’s Adin and Forsythe’s The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude. She transcended technique with beautifully nuanced interpretations of Odette/Odile and Aurora.
Offstage, Martuza’s empathy and sense of humor made her a natural role model for younger dancers. Her own struggle with an eating disorder as a teenager sparked her commitment to mentoring and education, leading her to study health and wellness coaching. Now 33, married to former dancer Kester Cotton and with a 1-year-old son, Martuza counsels private clients while also keeping a foot in the studio as a ballet teacher at Portland’s Da Vinci Arts Middle School.
Martuza in Stowell’s
Opus 50. Photo by Blaine Covert, Courtesy OBT.
The Royal Danish Ballet may have lost a star, but it gained a leader for the future this fall. Thomas Lund, who joined the company from the school in 1993 and was promoted to principal in 2000, retired at 38 to take over from Niels Balle as director of the Royal Danish Ballet School. The very Danish double bill of Flemming Flindt’s The Lesson and Bournonville’s La Sylphide he chose for his farewell was a fitting end to a remarkable career. When director Nikolaj Hübbe asked the entire theater to bow to him during the curtain calls, the emotion and respect of both audience and company were palpable.
Lund is famous as a Bournonville stylist of the highest order. While his rise to the rank of principal wasn’t without obstacles in a decade, the 1990s, that was a troubled one for the RDB, he was soon recognized as one of the jewels in the Danish crown and played a leading role in the 2005 Bournonville Festival. A born character dancer, he also mastered a varied repertoire that included princely and abstract roles and created parts for choreographers from Kylián to Ratmansky.
Lund has long worked on the side as teacher, choreographer, and director, so when Hübbe suggested he take the helm of the RDB School, he decided it was the right time to retire. “If I look at my CV and see what I have accomplished over my career, I feel very fulfilled,” he says. Drawing on his experience, he plans to introduce Bournonville steps earlier in the school syllabus and to work on cohesion across all levels.
Like many Danish stars before him, Lund’s good-bye to the stage is likely to be only temporary. “Right now I want to focus on the school, but I would like to be back in character roles in the future,” he says. “I love to create characters onstage, and I want the children to see that I’m still a part of that line. —Laura Cappelle
High spirits at Lund’s farewell. Photo courtesy RDB.
With a faint and knowing smile, principal dancer Arantxa Ochoa floated through the last moments of Giselle with Pennsylvania Ballet. Her character, though tragic, evoked calmness and assurance as she said good-bye to Albrecht and melted into the wings. After this final performance on October 28, Ochoa stood center stage, nearly eclipsed by a hefty bouquet of white roses. Deafening applause, shouts of affection, and a cascade of red flowers overwhelmed the ballerina.
“The audience loves her,” says artistic director Roy Kaiser. “They certainly appreciate her talent, what she does technically, and how she develops a character, but her personality has really impacted her artistic identity. That’s why she resonates so well with our public.”
Ochoa’s Sugar Plum Fairy was gracious and warm; her Juliet simply heartbreaking. In Balanchine’s Agon pas de deux, she took pleasure in the extremes, pushing her already high extensions and attacking the movement with energy and zeal. As Lise in La Fille Mal Gardée, her comedic timing impressed critics such as John Rockwell of The New York Times. He wrote: “Ms. Ochoa beamed like Audrey Hepburn. She danced the part with complete command, but if anything her miming was even better: a complete performance.”
A native of Spain, Ochoa studied with Victor Ullate before moving to the School of American Ballet. She danced for three years with Hartford Ballet and then for 16 years at PAB. Ochoa, known for her sweet demeanor and staunch work ethic, admits, “I’m going to miss the day-to-day rehearsal process, trying things over and over to achieve that perfection that doesn’t exist.” This discipline serves her well as the new principal instructor of the School of Pennsylvania Ballet. Ochoa’s presence will continue to grace the studios at PAB, just as her last performance of Giselle will linger in the memories of her adoring fans. —Julie Diana
Ochoa’s last bow. Photo by Alexander Iziliaev, Courtesy PAB.
New York City Ballet principal and Twitter czarina Ashley Bouder married Matthew Dibble, former member of The Royal Ballet and recently of Twyla Tharp’s Come Fly Away, just off Sanibel Island in Fort Myers, FL, in October.
Photo of Bouder and Dibble by Life Point Photography.