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University of Iowa News Release

June 13, 2003

UI's Martinet Receives Lifetime Achievement Award In Ballet Education

Francoise Martinet, emeritus faculty member of the University of Iowa Dance Department, is the 2003 winner of the Lifetime Achievement Award from Corps de Ballet International, the global professional organization of ballet teachers in higher education.

Martinet will accept the award at a June 25 reception during the organization's International Conference in New York City.

Martinet, former principal dancer with the Joffrey Ballet and the New York City Opera Ballet, is an internationally acclaimed teacher and adjudicator. Before her retirement she served on the faculty of the UI dance department for 20 years, including several years as department chair.

Born in Morocco, then a French protectorate, Martinet studied in Casablanca before coming to the United States in 1949. After further training in Paris, she joined the Joffrey Ballet in its second season, becoming a mainstay of the company. She taught at the Joffrey School in New York before joining the faculty of the UI in 1978.

During her years at the UI, the dance department could claim more graduates on the rosters of professional ballet companies than any other American college dance department.

At the time of Martinet's retirement, many alumni of the UI dance department sent letters of tribute. Laura Gates wrote, "Francoise didn't just give us combinations in class. With every movement she gave a piece of herself. She gave life to movement because she cared so deeply about what she was doing."

When Martinet was once asked her secret, she replied, "If there's anything special about my teaching, it's probably that I love to do it. There's something innate, the desire to pass on your knowledge. You accumulate the knowledge of your teachers, then you add some of your own, and voila! Every class is a discovery and is exciting."

Mark Wuest came to the UI with a background in gymnastics and swimming, but he had never taken a dance class until Martinet recruited him. "An advantage I had was starting with a really quality teacher," Wuest has explained. "Lots of people, even if they started young, have to be retrained because their training wasn't so solid, but with Francoise I had absolute quality professional training from day one." Shortly after he graduated from the UI, Wuest successfully auditioned for the Joffrey Ballet, with which he performed for several seasons, and he is now a freelance dancer and choreographer in Europe.

Judith Moessner, a UI dance alumna who is now director of marketing for the UI Division of Performing Arts, danced professionally in New York before returning to Iowa. "While I was in New York I took classes at a number of respected studios," she says. "But I never found a teacher in New York who could compare to Francoise."

The respect that Martinet commands in the ballet world was illustrated when the Balanchine Board of Trustees granted permission for her to set George Balanchine's technically demanding "Stars and Stripes" on her UI students for the UI Dance Company's 1995 Dance Gala -- the first time that a university dance company had been allowed to perform the work by the legendary director of the New York City Ballet.

A sampling of Martinet's other Iowa students includes Deanne Brown of the Joffrey Ballet; former Dayton Ballet dancer Er-Dong Hu, who now teaches at Bucknell University; Michael Kruzich, a freelance artist who danced in the Boston Ballet, Ballet West and the Washington Ballet; Kim Marsh, long-time soloist of the Milwaukee Ballet; Elizabeth Menninger, former soloist of the Washington Ballet; Kristin Mitchell, formerly of the Omaha Ballet and now in the Luna Negra Dance Company; Kameron Spears, who danced with the Ballet Chicago; and Clifton Brown, who has danced with many companies in Europe and is now a faculty member at Hope College in Michigan.

Corps de Ballet International is a professional organization dedicated to the development, exploration and advancement of ballet in higher education. The Lifetime Achievement Award recognizes the combination of excellence in both performance and teaching.

Previous winners of the organization's Lifetime Achievement Award were William F. Christensen, co-founder of the San Francisco Ballet and founder of Ballet West; Violette Verdy, former principal dancer of the New York City Ballet and a faculty member at Indiana University; and Russian dancer and teacher George Zoritch, who entered professional ballet in Ballets Russes under Leonide Massine, danced in 18 film musicals and taught for 14 years at the University of Arizona.

For UI arts information and calendar updates, visit To receive UI arts news by e-mail,

The dance department is a unit of the Division of Performing Arts in the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa Arts Center Relations, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 351, Iowa City, IA 52242-2500.

MEDIA CONTACT: Winston Barclay, 319-384-0073,

Contacts for Corps de Ballet International:

Patty Graham,
President, CORPS de Ballet International
Columbia College
(803) 786-3668

Tauna Hunter,
Public Relations
Mercyhurst College
(814) 824-2587

Francoise Martinet can be reached by phone at 760-375-5793, until she departs for New York.

Corps de Ballet Website -

PHOTOS are available at