José Carlos Martínez began his ballet studies in Cartagena, under Pilar Molina, continuing in 1984 at the Centre de Danse International Rosella Hightower in Cannes. In 1987, he won the Lausanne Prize and joined the Paris Opera Ballet School. In 1988, he was personally selected by Rudolf Nureyev to join the Ballet Company of the Paris Opera as a corps de ballet dancer. In 1992, he was promoted to Principal Dancer and won the Gold Medal in the International Competition of Varna. On 27th May 1997, he was appointed Etoile of Paris Opera Ballet, the highest category a dancer can rise to.
During his career José Carlos Martínez was awarded numerous prizes, including: the Prix de l ‘AROP; the Prix Carpeaux; the Premio Danza & Danza; the Prix Léonide Massine-Positano; the Spanish National Dance Prize; the Gold Medal of the City of Cartagena; the Prize Elegance et Talent France/Chine; Scenic Arts Prize for the best dancer (Valencia); Benois de la Danse for his choreography Les Enfants du Paradis and the Prize Dansa València. He is Commandeur de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres (France).
Jose Carlos Martinez's repertoire as a dancer is characterized by his famous choreographies of classical and neo-classical ballet. Apart from that he has worked with most of the important choreographers of the 20th Century such as Maurice Bejart, Pina Bausch, Mats Ek, William Forsythe, some of whom created pieces specially for him. On invitation, he has also featured as guest performer with many of the world's most prestigious ballet companies.
Mr. Martínez has been celebrated for his choreography. For students of the Paris Opera Ballet School he created Mi Favorita (2002), Delibes-Suite (2003) and Scaramouche (2005). For the Paris Opera Ballet itself he created Paréntesis 1 (2005), Soli-Ter (2006), El Olor de la Ausencia (2007) and Les Enfants du Paradis.
For the Shanghai Ballet he created Ouverture en Deux mouvements and Scarlatti pas de deux (2009), Marco Polo and The Last Mission (2010).
For Compañía Nacional de Danza de España he has created Sonatas (2012), Raymonda Variations, Giselle pas de deux (2013) and Don Quixotte Suite (2015). He also created Resonance (2014) for the Boston Ballet. He is also behind the CND's first full-length classical ballet for 20 years: his own version of Don Quixote, which will be premiered at Teatro de la Zarzuela Madrid, on December 16th 2015.
José Carlos Martínez has been the Artistic Director of Spain's Compañía Nacional de Danza de España since September 2011.