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Meet Trailblazer MarieElena Martingano

Today we’d like to introduce you to MarieElena Martingano.

Thanks for sharing your story with us MarieElena. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
I was born and raised in Staten Island, New York. While listening to my story it might sound like your typical New York family sitcom like The Sopranos, but I assure you everybody’s story is different. Even though Sunday never passed by without us gathering around the kitchen table or solving our problems with cups of coffee and a fresh box of cookies from Moretti Bakery, something about my household was special. When I reflect upon my upbringing, the memories are vibrant and detailed because growing up in a family of seven – mom, dad, four older brothers, and myself – there was never a dull moment. From a very young age, it was apparent to me and to my family that I was born to be a performer. This realization took shape in my life in the form of dance. Dance spoke to me in a way that no other art practice could. Dance has always been my escape, my comfort, and my passion. My family’s influence and support has always fueled me to pursue my dreams no matter how wild.

I began dancing at local studios in Staten Island in order to get some formal training. Approaching high school my father encouraged me to audition for Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School in Manhattan. Before I knew it, I was commuting to school on the Staten Island Ferry each and every morning to attend one of the most well-known art schools in New York. I received training in Classical Ballet and Modern Dance techniques. Towards the end of my high school career, I was introduced to the California Institute of the Arts through the dance program. After auditioning and being accepted, CalArts became my next home.

Arriving at CalArts in 2014, I was an eager dancer moving out of New York for the first time. During my college career, I was able to study under prestigious faculty members and amongst incredibly creative peers. It was here that my interest and curiosity was piqued in many avenues of dance. I was able to train my eye for shape and design as well as identify who I am as a dance artist. I fell in love with collaboration and grew fond of combining mixed media i.e. film, photography, and projections with dance.

Upon graduating in May 2018, I decided to move to Los Angeles and fully immerse myself in the dance scene here. Post-graduation has been a truly exciting time for me. It has been filled with moments of research, self-discovery, and navigation. Currently, I am working as a freelance dance artist dancing with a few contemporary dance companies and independent choreographers based in LA.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc. – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
Not every part of the journey can be a smooth road ahead, life is funny like that. One day you feel like you are on top of the world and the next day you could feel like you’ve hit rock bottom. Embarking on becoming a freelance dance artist is an ongoing initiation process and a bumpy road to stay upon. You have to be okay with instability. It took me quite a bit of courage and a leap of faith in order to make this choice in my life. It is challenging for me to be away from home and from a family where I am comfortable. Dance is demanding and I often miss out on many events or significant day to day interactions, but ultimately I know that it is only by living my truth and striving to do what I love that I will find satisfaction and success.

My advice to all young women who are just starting their journeys would be to allow the struggles or adversities along the way to empower you. Use your failures or shortcomings to fuel your drive and hunger to achieve what you know that you are capable of. It can be hard to accept or forgive a misstep, but in these times of error and chaos, some of the most meaningful work is created. You deserve greatness and what is meant for you will come to fruition if you work hard and stay true to yourself. Trust in the process by treating it with kindness and try not to be too hard on yourself during your evolution.

What do you do, what do you specialize in, what are you known for, etc. What are you most proud of? What sets you apart from others?
I truly admire those who write about dance because for me this is such a challenging task. Being able to take such a visceral experience and translate it into text is sometimes beyond me. To make this process easier for myself as a dance artist a place that I can start from and something that I am always inspired by is thinking about time. A lot of the work that I create circulates around this idea. I constantly question, how do we measure time? How can we defy time? How can time be limiting or liberating? The list goes on and on. Most of these thoughts began permeating my work when I created a piece entitled ‘The Disintegration of Memory’ in 2016 inspired by Salvador DalÍ’s melting clocks. This theme of time also transcends into other concepts such as layering. I love layering within my work because I enjoy how it creates texture and depth. Layering takes place not only within the choreographic process but typically this is where I like to add in mixed media.

The most recent work that I’ve shown at the Roy and Edna Disney/CalArts REDCAT Theater entitled ‘Overlay’ included live dance performance as well as a projection series of photography. The photographs would appear on-screen at first behind the dancers with the most minimal form of the image and slowly over time fade up to the most heavily layered version of itself. From the beginning to the end of each projected series the audience was able to see the layers of one complete swift movement. During the creation of this piece, I had experienced an aha moment because in a way I was able to make movement ephemeral. The one qualm I have about dance, in general, is that it is extremely difficult to replicate the same feeling of watching a live performance. By capturing these images of time and movement through photographs one layer at a time, it had allowed me to forever have a tangible step-by-step action that can be repeated countless times.

Do you recommend any apps, books or podcasts that have been helpful to you?
Those of us who have been to or live in Los Angeles know how daunting LA traffic can be. To lighten up this daily experience, I love listening to podcasts on the go. My go-to podcast to play while in the car or at home is the Ted Radio Hour NPR podcast. This podcast is not only informative, but it gives the audience multiples perspectives on a given topic. Each episode features multiple guest speakers giving their opinion about the conversation at hand based on their expertise. The Ted Radio Hour is extremely relatable and tackles topics that are current and intriguing. My personal favorite Ted Radio Hour episode is called ‘Shifting Time’ with guests Cesar Kuriyama, Rives, Dan Gilbert, Laura Cartensen and Sean Carroll.

When it’s time to finally slow down, another outlet that I tune-in to is an app called Headspace. Headspace is a metatative application that allows me to take time out of my day, even if it’s just for a few minutes when I wake up or before bed, to focus on myself. Headspace walks you through some simple breathwork and meditation which helps stabilize my mental health in order for me to reconnect, ground myself, and perform at my highest level. The guidance that Headspace gives the audience is calming and rejuvenating. I highly recommend this app during high times of stress or anxiety. It can be a great practice to add to your daily routine or even serve as an occasional check-in with how you are feeling.

As far as reading material goes I truly love magazines whether it be an online blog or a paperback copy. I enjoy having a visual to go along with what I am reading, so for me, magazines are the perfect combination. Some of my favorite magazines include Dazed & Confused, Sicky Mag, DIY Dancer Mag, Nylon Mag, OK Mag, etc. I draw a lot of inspiration from the articles and images within. I reference magazines when I want to relax and stay up-to-date on the latest news and trends in art, politics, or fashion.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
MarieElena Martingano / @me__movement
Savanah Leaf / @savanahleaf
Daniel Nicolaevsky Maria / @nicolaevsky
Alex Linares / @infocusbyalex
Rafael Hernández / @2071photo
Natalie Alvarado / @hey.nat

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