(b Copenhagen, 27 Oct. 1946)
Danish dancer, choreographer, and ballet director. Balanchine's successor at New York City Ballet. He studied at the Royal Danish Ballet School (1953–65) and joined the Royal Danish Ballet in 1965, appointed its youngest principal in 1967. After several seasons guesting in New York, he joined New York City Ballet as a principal in 1970, and went on to forge an outstanding partnership with Suzanne Farrell. (Upon the latter's retirement in 1988 he choreographed a work specially for her, Sophisticated Lady (mus. Ellington) ). He created roles in many Balanchine ballets, among them Violin Concerto (1972), Duo concertant (1972), Chaconne (1976), Union Jack (1976), Vienna Waltzes (1977), and Davidsbündlertänze (1980). He also excelled in the earlier Balanchine repertoire and, with his handsome build was considered by many to be the greatest Apollo of his generation. He also created leading roles in Robbins's In the Night (1970), The Goldberg Variations (1971), and Piano Concerto in G (1975) and in Taras's Daphnis and Chloe (1975). Although Martins performed the 19th-century classics with other companies, his preference was always the modern repertory. He retired as a dancer in 1984 but made his debut as a choreographer in 1977, with Calcium Light Night (mus. Ives) for his own pick-up company; in 1978 he began choreographing for New York City Ballet and has since made over 80 ballets, most of them for the company. Following Balanchine's death in 1983 he was appointed ballet master in chief of NYCB, a post he shared with Robbins. In 1990, following Robbins's departure, Martins assumed sole directorship. Some of his policies attracted criticism but he was determined to prevent the company from becoming a museum, bringing in new works to the repertory, many of them commissioned through the Diamond Project that he instituted in 1992. He was also responsible for appointing Christopher Wheeldon as the company's resident choreographer between 2001 and 2007. A list of Martins's own works includes Eight Easy Pieces (mus. Stravinsky, 1980), The Magic Flute (mus. Drigo, 1981), A Schubertiad (mus. Schubert, 1984), Poulenc Sonata (mus. Poulenc, 1985), Eight More (mus. Stravinsky, 1985), Songs of Auvergne (1986), Ecstatic Orange (mus. Michael Torke, 1987), Les Gentilhommes (mus. Handel, 1987), Barber Violin Concerto (mus. Barber, 1988), Tea Rose (mus. Gershwin, 1988), The Chairman Dances (mus. John Adams, 1988), Fearful Symmetries (mus. Adams, 1990), Delight of the Muses (mus. Charles Wuorinen, 1992), Jeu de cartes (mus. Stravinsky, 1992), River of Light (mus. Wuorinen, 1998), Thou Swell (mus. Rodgers, 2002), and the full-length Romeo and Juliet (2007). He also staged The Sleeping Beauty for New York City Ballet in 1991, trimming it to a two-act production. In 1996 he staged a new version of Swan Lake for the Royal Danish Ballet, which came into the repertory of NYCB in 1999. He has also choreographed for musicals, including On Your Toes (1982), Song and Dance (1985), and Carousel (1986). Author of the autobiography Far from Denmark (Boston, 1982). Knight of the Order of Dannebrog (1983). His son, Nilas Martins, joined New York City Ballet in 1986.