Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Remembering Martin Allen

Posted By on Tue, Jul 21, 2009 at 2:52 PM

It’s fitting to take a break from writing about politics and so forth to honor Martin Allen, a former Creative Loafing contributor who died Saturday. From the late 1980s through the '90s, and maybe for a couple of years after that (sorry, my memory is a sieve), Martin wrote previews and reviews of dance performances in Charlotte for both CL and the former Break magazine.

Martin was a dance enthusiast, and that may be the biggest understatement you’ll read this year. He was a dancer in his youth, and even performed in West Side Story on Broadway. The role he cherished the most, however, was that of the original lead Eagle Dancer in the outdoor drama Unto These Hills, beginning in the early 1950s. To me, however Martin was more than a “used to be ...” performer, or even, as he called himself, “A New York Jew who found Jesus,” or, for that matter, a writer. I’ll always remember him as a witty, sophisticated man with a knowing, wry smile and hearty, ever-ready laugh — who also happened to be one of the most enthusiastic supporters of the performing arts I’ve ever known.

He would arrive at the CL offices, practically glowing with his personal brand of guileless enthusiasm, to announce that he just had to preview the XYZ dance performance that was coming to town in a few weeks. He would throw in a few mischievous jokes, laugh out loud at any retorts, and deliver perceptive comments about the state of the performing arts in Charlotte. A week or so later, he would hand in his preview, always before deadline.

Martin had a big, expansive, gregarious and generous personality, and the CL staff at that time had a special fondness for him. He was a pioneer for the performing arts in Charlotte, a man who was always, as he said, “out in front of the parade, beating the drum for dance,” back in the days when quality performances here were few and far between.

He was also someone who, I feel, probably deserved more recognition than he received for that pioneering role. He didn’t let such things bother him, as far as I could tell. With Martin, it was always a wink, a smile and a nice turn of phrase; he was the embodiment of the French term joie de vivre, someone who derived joy from life itself. For everything he contributed to CL, and for a lesson or two I learned from Martin about “keeping on keeping on,” thanks a lot.

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