Throughout the year, we are highlighting notable women in our community. We want to spotlight those who are shaping where we live and giving back to our neighborhood. This month, we were thrilled to connect with Martha Connerton, a dancer, choreographer, teacher, and the Founding Director of Kinetic Works.
Even some of our long-time clients may not realize that Genevieve studied ballet throughout her entire childhood. While Genevieve may have hung up her ballet slippers, our entire office loves and appreciates all of the amazing work creators like Martha bring to our community. Martha’s passion for innovative dance and choreography is inspiring and she was kind enough to give us a glimpse into her world this month…
Tell us a little bit about your background and how Martha Connerton/Kinetic Works came to be.
I was a natural athlete as a child, as were my three older brothers, but I became enthralled with dancing and particularly ballet when I was about 7 or 8. I studied ballet intensively in New Jersey and Minneapolis during my elementary and high school years. I left for New York at 18 to pursue auditions and study, got my first job in Seattle at 19 with Pacific Northwest Ballet, moved to Louisville Ballet for 6 years, began choreographing while in Seattle and Louisville. I moved back to New York to work as an independent dancer/choreographer for 11 years, then moved here to Charlotte to direct the school for NC Dance Theater (now Charlotte Ballet). After three years, I started my own company, Kinetic Works. Martha Connerton/Kinetic Works was a name I was already using while in New York to represent my independent choreographic work. When I incorporated as a non-profit here in NC I kept that name as it already had some identity with me.
What makes Kinetic Works so unique?
What makes Kinetic Works unique is our dual focus on arts education and cutting-edge choreographic work. I have developed ground-breaking programs for schools that teach math, science, language arts, and world cultures through dance and choreography. At the same time, I have continued to explore my choreographic work that stems from both a deep tradition with ballet and my ongoing openness to modern and contemporary techniques.
Every project we do is completely unique, ranging from the family-friendly Seasons Ballet that we produced at the Halton Theater, to socially conscious works such as Moving Stories that followed the life journeys of formerly incarcerated women, to partnerships with The Mint Museum and Bechtler Museum of Modern Art, Harvey B. Gantt Center, Discovery Place, Opera Carolina, Children’s Theatre of Charlotte, and BOOM Festival where, in 2019, we premiered a work paying homage to a Sufi spiritual singer who was assassinated in Pakistan.
My appetite for choreographic exploration is voracious and is supported by my range of training and experience as a dancer.
How can local residents support or get involved with Martha Connerton/Kinetic Works?
There are numerous ways to support or get involved with Kinetic Works. Most simply, you can donate to our programs at mckineticworks.org. You can sign up for our email list at the website. Secondly, you can attend our next event at Open Door Studios, September 17-19. If you want to volunteer at an upcoming event to help sell tickets at the door or work on PR/Marketing, or tech crew, we are happy to have your help. You can become a Board Member to work with me on mission adherence, budget oversight, and long-term planning. Our contact info and Board Member profiles are on our website.
What is the best part of your job?
I live for the hours and times that I get to be in a studio or theater working with dancers and collaborators. It is the only place I feel completely at home with myself and that I am using all of my abilities as well as connecting to my spirit.
What are some of your favorite things to do outside of the office?
I am a great cook, bordering on “chefdom”. I create fabulous custom-designed cakes for weddings and other special events. I do small-scale catering mostly in people’s homes or for small businesses (receptions, dinner parties, office parties). marthathedancingchef.com is a sister website to mckineticworks.org. All proceeds go directly to support Kinetic Works, a non-profit organization. So that is actually another way you can support the company, hire me to make a cake or cater a small event.
I have been practicing guitar a lot over the past couple of years. I’ve gotten to a pretty good place with it but probably need to seek some guidance as to where I can take it next. I love to sing and play by myself, or for a few friends for family members.
Long walks have become an important part of my daily life. Not being a very socially adept person, I enjoy meeting with close friends in small groups or individually. I am very uncomfortable at parties and group gatherings that don’t have a specific focus. Chit-chat and networking are not my strong suit. I can’t remember names or faces, even of people I’ve met numerous times, which can be very embarrassing. However, I am a very good public speaker and have no nervousness or insecurity about that.
What are some of the things you enjoy most about Charlotte’s arts scene?
It has been inspiring to see the depth and breadth of the arts scene grow since I moved here in 1993. There is so much to see and do now. I do feel that Charlotteans in general could be more appreciative and pro-active about exploring off-beat options.
If you had an extra hour in your day, how would you spend it?
Napping, I’m a big-time napper.
What is next for you and Martha Connerton/Kinetic Works?
“Coming Up For Air” dancers responding to a year of isolation, demonstrations and affirmations. It is an immersive event including virtual/video and live performances, visual art installations and audience engagement.
The event is September 17 (7:30pm) and September 18 (7:30pm), and September 19 (2:30pm) at Open Door Studios in Eastway Crossing Shopping Center.
It will be a masked and socially distant event for performers and audiences. Check out the details on our website, mckineticworks.org, get involved, or just bring friends.
What is one piece of advice or lesson you have learned that you can share with other aspiring female leaders in our community?
Hang in there and just hang around long enough to make something work, and be ready when a door opens. Don’t sweat the closed doors or walls, just find a way around them, or find a crack in the surface where no one else is, and move into it. Make your own box if you don’t fit into anyone else’s, then invite people in. Time changes a lot, things or people that are road blocks or adversaries at one time can actually become allies in unexpected ways, or often they just disappear. Just do what you do and do it REALLY well.
Thanks again to Martha for being our Notable Woman this month. Kinetic Works is doing some incredible things here in Charlotte and we can’t wait to catch “Coming Up For Air” in September. Hope to see you there!
Do you know someone you think we should feature as our next Notable Woman? Let us know in the comments below!