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Stephanie Martinez Shakes Up the Joffrey

The South Loop–based choreographer’s Bliss! examines Stravinsky through the prism of hip-hop.

Photo: Courtesy of Stephanie Martinez

Stephanie Martinez, 52, joins a short list of Chicagoans (four), a shorter list of women of color (two), and the shortest list of Chicago women of color (one) to have an original dance performed by Joffrey Ballet’s main company. As part of The Times Are Racing, a mixed-repertory show running February 12 to 23 at the Auditorium Theatre, Martinez’s Bliss! will offer her idiosyncratic take on classical ballet, informed by a decade of working with various jazz, modern, ballet, and hip-hop companies.

On Stravinsky and pop music

“When I really started listening to Stravinsky’s Dumbarton Oaks, it shared a structure with some of the music I was listening to, like Bruno Mars, Vince Staples, and Anderson .Paak. For Bliss!, I used hip-hop dance to come at Dumbarton Oaks from a current point of view. I’m trying to honor both past and present, connecting Old World music to movement that has a little swag.”

On the dance’s demands

Bliss! is only around 15 minutes, but it’s highly physical. Ballet tends to be really precious, but these performers are skilled thoroughbreds who can do anything you give them.”

On being a female choreographer

“I’m in the studio like everyone else; I just happen to be a woman. There are a lot of talented local female choreographers I admire, like Nejla Yatkin and Molly Shanahan, who need to have their work presented with the same resources that male choreographers get. But there’s progress being made.”

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