Teachers’ Tools: Up Close With Liz Martineau

Martineau trains students to excel in competition.

Teachers share the philosophies and materials that make them successful in their careers and classes.

It would be hard to find someone more suited to her job directing a competition team than Liz Martineau. She recently retired from her own performing career—with Odyssey Dance Theatre—and dancers at Creative Arts Academy in Bountiful, Utah, consider her a friend as much as a mentor. (Students often visit her at home to talk through problems or baby-sit her two young children.) She follows the popular dance scene, inviting a roster of guest artists that includes Adrian Lee, Lauren Adams, Chelsea Thedinga and Chantel Aguirre. Plus, she has an appetite to win. Her students go up against some of the country’s top studios at competitions and conventions that visit Salt Lake City. They travel for Nationals like The Dance Awards in Las Vegas.

While she trains students to excel in competition, she also keeps her eye on how to best prepare them for the working world. “Sometimes competition dancers are just clean,” she says. “I want them to be artistic. We try hard to make our pieces out-of-the-box.”

But her job is to coach the dancers in work set by guest choreographers, so while Martineau encourages dancers’ artistry, she must also maintain the dancemaker’s original vision. Recently, while polishing a routine by Jason Parsons, she had dancers watch a video of one of her favorite companies—Nederlands Dans Theater—for inspiration. “We look at movement quality, where they’re focusing their eyes, the lifts, where their hands are, how they are getting out of lifts,” she says. “Then we do the same thing with the choreography [we’re working on]. We go really slowly saying, ‘How can we make this artistic and keep it Jason-ified?’” DT

Favorite classwear: Martineau likes dancewear that is stylish and comfortable.

Hobby outside the studio: “Golf with my husband. I love that it challenges me in a different way.”

Essential gadget: Martineau uses her iPad to film dancers in class and rehearsal and to show students inspirational videos of professional companies in action.

Must-read: Wooden: A Coach’s Life, biography of college basketball coach John Wooden. Martineau says it inspired her approach to teaching and shaped the way she motivates dancers.

Always on hand: Tiger Balm for muscle soreness

Photo (top) courtesy of Liz Martineau; Thinkstock (2)

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