Nusha Martynuk, Choreographer


Ever since her father taught her his beloved Ukrainian folk dances, Nusha Martynuk has had a passion for dance. Building on her childhood sense of rhythm and form, Martynuk developed a daring style of choreography and a unique way of moving that has brought her national recognition as a choreographer, dancer and teacher. Since 1988, when she came to teach in Oberlin College’s remarkable theater and dance program, the world of modern dance in Ohio has been enriched by her energetic presence and breathtaking talent, which have earned her a National Endowment for the Arts Choreographic Fellowship and three Ohio Arts Council Choreographic Fellowships (to mention but a few of Martynuk’s honors and awards). Oberlin College promoted her to the rank of professor in 1998.

Martynuk earned her master’s degree in 1976 from Temple University, where she found powerful inspiration in her mentor and teacher, Hellmut Gottschild (a disciple of German modern dance pioneer Mary Wigman). Under Gottschild’s direction, she danced with the acclaimed Zero Moving Company in Philadelphia. Moving to New York, Martynuk was an independent solo choreographer and dancer with the federally funded Artists’ Project. She also toured internationally with the Nikolais Dance Theatre. In 1982, as artist-in-residence at Trinity College, she forged a professional partnership with Carter McAdams by forming a modern dance company called Partners: Martynuk/McAdams Dance. They also married.

Martynuk’s riveting performance qualities and her interest in collaboration have been widely recognized. While applauding her contributions as a dancer, this award honors Martynuk’s startling and powerful work as a choreographer. Two recent examples come to mind: Requiem, a deeply moving solo in which she literally defied gravity. Using an ingenious apparatus to suspend herself above the stage, she created vivid physical and emotional images of loss and remembrance. The Great Lalulá, an ensemble work recently performed at Cain Park by the Repertory Project, Cleveland’s professional modern dance repertory company, displayed Martynuk’s mastery of her craft, her impeccable use of spatial dynamics, and her creativity and imagination in making dances that are physically daring and emotionally challenging.

As is true of all Nusha Martynuk’s choreography, the intense visual and visceral impact of these two dances lingers long after the curtain falls.

—Kathryn Karipides

Cleveland Arts Prize
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