With enormous technical sophistication, Young dominates the stage with eloquent yet somehow private phrases—personalized—unique to this woman and this moment. Nothing else on the program matched Young’s “Jazz Improvisations” for a genuine dance reflection of something heard, felt, or remembered.
~ Lewis Segal, Los Angeles Times, 1985
L. Martina Young choreographed [to Ray Pizzi’s compositions] as if she had studied every twist and turn and phrase in Pizzi’s writing. This was indeed poetry in motion, the best integration of dance and jazz performance I’ve seen in years.
~ Leonard Feather, Los Angeles Times, 1986
L. Martina Young danced Donald McKayle's imperishable solo “Angelitos Negros," [with] noble vulnerability.
~ Chris Pasles, Los Angeles Times, 1995
It is thrilling to see Young’s sublime artistry on display ~
~ Jack Neal, Nevada Events, 2001
The unsung hero of the stage [is] L. Martina Young, who performs as The Mute in The Fantasticks—though in Young’s case, [she] really should be called The Muse. Sometimes Young interprets the music with her body, adding depth and intensity. [Other] times she is a participant—and often an instigator. Her movements are gorgeous or hilarious as needed, and always combined with a face so expressive that words are never necessary.
~ Adrienne Rice, Reno News & Review, 2002
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2020 Professional Community Comments ~
The Swan performance with the Reno Philharmonic Orchestra
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Stunning! You fully and holistically embodied every second of that piece. Not one empty gesture could be found. So special to witness such deep whole-person engagement. I loved the backward walking in entrance and loved the single arm bird-like arm gestures of the exit. I thought that using just the one arm made it mysteriously more impactful, like your swan-ness was emerging out of your humanness. I enjoyed what you said about the "in-between" times as it resonated with how that theme is honored in Celtic Shamanism as "threshold time" and also the "acknowledgment of loss is an important aspect of Chinese Medicine associated with the metal element. So many beautiful multicultural associations here. May art continue to nourish us all. Thank you for sharing this beautiful work with the world — Joanna Cashman, Movement Specialist, https://www.joannacashman.com
Martina, your performance was lovely! Thank you for continuing to share your dance, your writing, your voice!—Lula Washington, Artistic Director, Lula Washington Dance Theater, https://www.lulawashington.org
HOMAGE from your HEART & SOUL.....you ARE INSIDE the MUSIC; so Beautifully.... Blessed to have you SHARE it with ME....&....You GOT ME MOVING with YOU; there's MORE to SEE from YOU — Michael Podwal, Pilates Professional Teacher, https://www.fletcherpilates.com/faculty/michael-podwal/
Perfection!!! -- Mary Lee Fulkerson, Weaver, http://maryleefulkerson.com
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It was perfection and I could’ve watched for an hour mesmerized; [she] moves like liquid gold — Susan Boskoff, Former Executive Director, Nevada Arts Council, https://www.linkedin.com/in/susan-boskoff-216b36a
Her dancing is amazing and poetic! — David Tscheekar, Visual Artist, https://www.linkedin.com/in/david-tscheekar-a9b76558
So beautiful; a magnificent artist -- Mary Miller, Flutist, Reno Philharmonic Orchestra, https://www.rgj.com/story/life/arts/2014/10/14/scott-faulkner-many-talents-flutist-mary-miller/17271155/
Exquisite in every way!!! Just an EPIC performance [with] Martina and The Phil! — Kathleen Kimmel, Opera Artist, https://www.linkedin.com/in/kathy-kimmel-6a07691a
An exquisite performance: delicte, nuanced, the embodiment of a swan. — Nancy Kamalaya Hart, Co-Creator and Board Member, Boundless Freedom Project, https://www.boundlessfreedom.org/?fbclid=IwAR1BDzTMb3gqcJ--zAVLk8Be_5PAUOUrNd1Wl-KSkXBgCdL0wHDfvK_lZmI
[A]bsolutely exquisite. The fluidity of her arms are amazing !!! [She] captures my own moment of solitude ❤️ — Leslie Sisson, Dance Educator
Excellent performance! — Jeffrey A. Leep, Bassonist, Reno Philharmonic Orchestra, https://www.linkedin.com/in/jeffrey-leep-19406311
Martina: your performance [with] the Reno Philharmonic Orchestra was lovely. Your composition, your entrance backwards, like swans often seem to be flowing with whatever direction the current may carry them, and then your exit facing forward but leaving the audience with the powerful wings beating towards another destiny perhaps? [And] your moments of dramatic stillness and expressive emotions of your face, quite captivating. — Cheryl Banks-Smith, Dance Artist-Educator, https://www.sarahswensondance.com/cheryl-banks-smith.html
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“Swan is a mythopoetic image that appears in many cultures over history,” said Young. “As an image, it came to me, and as an artist, I responded. I was able to see in my mind’s eye the breadth and depth of entering into engagement with the image and how it happens to resonate with this time of life for me as I approach my 59th birthday. I began investigating the image from many different points of view—from mythological sources, poets, painters, dancers and artists.”
The glorious gift of being a human being is what Martina so exquisitely, reverently, and generously has to share. If you've not had the opportunity of experiencing one of her performances, next weekend will be an event you'll want to partake in and share with your loved ones.
-Patricia Fenkell, Steiner Educator, 2013
“[Witnessing] the first rehearsal of L. Martina Young’s upcoming performance event, SWAN: a poetical inquiry in dance, text & memoir, I am compelled to share my experience.
I have been privy to Martina’s work for over 25 years and am familiar with her body of work. Swan, (her first full-length performance in 3 years since her bilateral hip replacements), reveals the further deepening and renewed creative imagining of a mature artist who now revels in her ongoing work.
Her subtle and deceptively simple movement material gently suggests rebirth, renewal, and the continuing exploration that is essential to a fully lived life. Martina’s [work], so grounded in her own deep knowing, is profound in its ability to engage and fully translate a human depth, such that I was moved to tears. [It] is the universal sense of hope that is deeply rooted in our own notions of re-awakening and re-awakening that this dance so beautifully realizes. [With] an ability to make visible what is invisible, another invited viewer remarked: “It is magical.”
- Diane Rugg, Dance Educator on SWAN (rehearsal), 2013
"Poetry in motion, music, and setting was brought together by L. Martina Young and her collaborators in SWAN 'rubedo'. Entering the studio, I was immediately drawn into a world where new life, bloody and vital, was emerging. As the spare, exploratory, sounds emerged and this tremulous, tentative, powerful, and curious creature explored the environment, I saw the world with new eyes, and shared in the wonder and excitement of new beginnings. It has been magical to be a part of this journey; thank you for your artistry."
Tim Young, CEO and Artistic Director of the Reno Philharmonic Orchestra
Several days following the SWAN 'rubedo' performance, one audience member--an ophthalmologist by profession and a movement therapy client of mine, shared a wonderment and wanted to ask: "How is it that you were able to not blink throughout the entire performance? Normal dryness of the eyes--a part of our autonomic nervous system--instinctually cause our eyes to blink, yet you did not blink, not once! How did you do that?"
I found this to be a perceptive and delightful question, and one that I readily confessed was an aesthetically important and conscious aspect in my performance approach. First I admitted that I have no real knowledge, that is, scientific knowledge about it, but that I imagine that I exercise the same kind of control capacity that suppresses normal bio-neural response mechanisms in the body the same way we read about yogis suppressing pain responses while lying on a bed of nails. The capacity for certain control mechanisms of normal autonomic body functions are, I imagine, the same.
I further offered that, as an artist, I am particularly sensitive to this "blinking" thing when I watch actors for example--film and theater. I find myself responding to and thereafter noting that the aesthetic power of the moment is broken when they unwittingly blink their eyes, catapulting me out of the transportive mode of the work.
It is when one is completely and wholly absorbed by the intent of the poetic gesture and the experience at hand, that the dissolution of borders and boundaries occurs. Here the ethic, desire, and consequence of the aesthetic experience abides. No blinking till it is time to journey back from the cosmos.
By Jessica Santina
They say things happen in threes. For L. Martina Young, that’s particularly true. As the dancer/choreographer/educator celebrates 20 years of living and working in Reno, she celebrates three triumphs: her recently completed Ph.D. from Pacifica Graduate Institute; the release of her performance DVD, Grace at River’s Edge; and her 2008 Governor’s Arts Award for Excellence in the Arts.
“It’s been a stellar year, and this award is just the crowning glory,” says Young. “This recognition is deeply felt and comes at a very significant time for me.”
To meet Young is to be inspired. Of course, her professional and academic accomplishments are many, but the genuine warmth in her eyes and brilliant smile somehow exude a sense of life’s endless possibilities.
Originally from Los Angeles, Young hails from a family of artists: her father a painter, her mother an opera singer and her brother a gifted composer. She began dancing at age 3. She was admitted into a national touring dance company under the auspices of the National Endowment for the Arts at just 17. Later, she joined Israel’s internationally renowned Batsheva Dance Company.
In her early 20s, she returned to the United States and completed, on full scholarship, her Bachelor of Fine Arts at the California Institute of the Arts. She later earned two master’s degrees, from Arizona State and Pacifica Graduate Institute. She subsequently taught dance for a number of higher education institutions in California, as well as the College of William and Mary and, from 1987 through 1994, at the University of Nevada, Reno.
“I had been offered a one-year interim directorship over their dance program. One year sounded just right because I was doing a lot of traveling,” she says, laughing. “But I ended up staying there and getting tenure!” She resigned shortly afterward to continue performing and to care for her ailing father.
As a child, Young knew she would earn her doctorate. So, following the loss of her father in 2000, Young returned to Pacifica to embark upon a Ph.D. program in comparative mythology and depth psychology. Young explains that her studies, which focused specifically on “the poetics of the body,” greatly inform her performance work.
“The work involves actually using mythology and psychology to locate ways in which human culture, over millennia, has considered the experience of, and relation to, the physical body,” she says.
Thus Dr. Young’s dance performances in recent years—most of which are now improvised in the ancient Greek tradition—have evolved considerably. They now involve a sort of verbal and physical dialogue with the audience, as she invites questions and commentary about what they’re seeing. One such performance, Grace at River’s Edge, is now available on DVD.
Specifically, Grace deals with the mythological Three Graces, who, as Young explained in a recent reading of the accompanying text at Sundance Bookstore, appear at the moments “in between” and signify the tension, or dance, between anticipation and arrival. “They are the celebrants of change, evolution and transformation,” Young writes.
Her forthcoming book, an art book that further explores the Three Graces, will be published by Black Rock Press this fall, and performances celebrating her 20th year in Nevada are in the works.
With so much accomplished and more to come, it seems Young’s career is, in every sense of the word, graced.
Originally printed in Reno News & Review.