Tamara Rojo launches English National Ballet’s new season

English National Ballet launched its new season at an event last week in its home at Markova House. It was a reprise of the press conference at the Corinthia Hotel held two weeks earlier. Except this time, there was no press, no photographers; just Friends.

Tamara Rojo, English National Ballet’s new Artistic Director, was a picture of fiery passion in a red dress and high heels, her dancerly Degas stance setting her apart in the crowd. She took the microphone and admitted that before the press conference, she’d never given a speech. I found that hard to believe as Rojo came across very confidently. Sounding distinctively Spanish despite having worked in the UK for many years, Rojo spoke with a delightful blend of grit and charm.

Photo by Anabelle Moeller, taken at English National Ballet’s Official New Season press launch, 24 September

Her ambitions to transform English National Ballet into the nation’s “most creative and most loved” company are hugely admirable and she looks toward a renewal and reinvention of ballet itself. While acknowledging the irreplaceable role of the classics – the Company will perform The Sleeping Beauty, The Nutcrackerand Swan Lake this year – Rojo aims to “encourage and commission brave new work” alongside them, invigorating and nourishing the Company and its collaborators.

She announced two mixed bills which will grace the Coliseum stage in London;Ecstasy and Death and A Tribute to Rudolf Nureyev. These performances will include a Company premiere of Jiri Kylian’s Petite Mort which features a dozen dancers and six fencing foils. Paris Opera Ballet’s Nicholas le Riche – Rojo names him one of the best interpreters of the title role in Roland Petit’s Le Jeune Homme et la Mort – will make a guest appearance with the Company in the spring.

It is apparent that Rojo seeks to forge a unique identity for English National Ballet, stating that she would not choose to stage full-length works that are closely associated with other ballet companies. The Company will strive to overhaul ballet’s elitist image reaching new, younger audiences via its learning and outreach programmes. Newly appointed Artistic Associate George Williamson will create My First Cinderella on English National Ballet School students and also work with various arts organisations in places the Company tours to on innovative collaborative projects.

Rojo calls herself the most “bloody minded” of dancers and there is no doubt she will bring that determination into her Directorship. She is one to push the boundaries; therefore I am certain her ambition will always exceed her resources. Acknowledging the challenges of her role in the present economic climate, Rojo remained positive, saying “We know [the arts] sustains us, inspires us, challenges us to think about our lives… It is exactly at times like this when, for some people, hope in the future is lost, that the arts can help, lift spirits and waken ambition.”

Germaine Cheng