5 Questions with Out on a Limb Dance Company's Kim Martinez

Kim Martinez is a busy bee as she prepares the choreography, story development, staging, and musical score for the upcoming production of Annie. As co-founder, artistic director, and board president of Out on a Limb Dance Company and School in St. Paul, she has her hands full, and she loves every minute of it. Inspired by her mother’s creativity and devotion to dance and children, Martinez helped found Out on a Limb with a mission, much like her mother’s, to provide a healthy, supportive, and inclusive atmosphere for young dancers.

How is Out on a Limb different than other dance and theater companies/schools?

Out on a Limb is different in a myriad of ways. We are a non-profit arts organization, and we do not participate in dance competitions because we choose to spend our time and resources on developing dance through characterizations in theatrics.

Our productions utilize ballet, musical theater, jazz, tap, acrobatics, and even hip-hop. This way, dancers are encouraged to train in multiple genres of dance, and more importantly, audiences are exposed to the variety of dance that’s available.

Our outreach to the community through our productions is another way that we differentiate ourselves from other dance schools and dance companies. We invite school children from disadvantaged families to attend our shows at the O’Shaughnessy for free, and if any of those children are inspired to dance, our scholarship program will make sure that they have the opportunity to do so.

How did you get started in the arts and entertainment industry?

I was literally born into it. My grandmother did a stint in vaudeville and taught ballroom dance, and my mother started me in dance when I was eighteen months old. She eventually got discouraged over the quality of dance schools back then and decided to start her own school in Richfield, Minnesota. The Rudman School of Dance had about 400 students and was in the basement of my childhood home. When I was young, just like some kids had to work the family farm, my three sisters and I helped the family dance school. We performed everywhere from nursing homes to mental institutions and county fairs.

Why do your productions have such large casts, and how do you make the logistics work?

I will cast all kids who audition and make a place for them to experience the joy of performing in a professionally developed production. I utilize the dancers that I have and maximize their natural talent. The result is that our casts are really large – nearly 80 in Annie—but done skillfully, it all works because everyone is being utilized appropriately. By having a very diverse group of talent in the company, I am able to orchestrate a collaborative group effort of choreography.

What emotions are you hoping to evoke from the audience during the performance of Annie? And how does dance help you achieve this?

We want to evoke just about every emotion under the sun. Annie, however, is really about hope, tenacity, and flexibility. In life, you might not get exactly what you dreamt of, you just might end up with something far more meaningful and wonderful.

Dance communicates emotions extremely efficiently, especially when you utilize different mediums of movement. Acting through movement pulls the storyline through rather than dialogue.

When selecting the artistic aspects (music, choreography etc.) of a production where does your inspiration come from?

For inspiration on what shows to do that are already well-known titles, like Annie, I am often inspired by what’s going on in the world, and who I have available for cast, choreography, and of course is it something that we can technically achieve without breaking the bank. Compiling and creating the musical scores for these shows is much more laborious than one might think because we don’t have the luxury of dialogue, so the majority of the story has to be woven by adding music from other sources other than the original soundtracks. That music has to mesh with the better-known music in the show, so it needs to match the genre of dance, the emotion of the scene, and be within the era of the show that we’re doing.

The company members are also a huge inspiration for me. They really carry a wide variety of skill sets, and they have a genuinely great time bantering back and forth and feeding off of each other just like actors do in a scene. It is, without a doubt, the best inspiration of all.

Tickets to Out on a Limb’s production of Annie, opening Friday, Feb. 27, available at outonalimbdance.org.