Tamara Rojo is at the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow as one of the judges for this year’s Benois de la danse, the ballet Oscars. Maria Sidelnikova from Kommersant took the opportunity to talk to her.
She asked Rojo why she’d left the Royal Ballet.
I’ve reached a point in my career, when I think it is important for me to express my own opinions. Of course, I respect the views of the management, but when I’m out on stage, the audience are judging me, not the people who sit in the office. The possibility of self-expression, through yourself and others, is possible as an artistic director. This position allows you to give artists the freedom to experiment and show what they are capable of. Art is changing thanks to great people who were not afraid to take risks: Pavlova and Karsavina and Guillem. I always wanted to be an artistic director… but Covent Garden is too big and unwieldy a structure and too oriented to the past for me. Perhaps it will be right for me, when I’m very old.
How did she get the job heading the English National Ballet?
In the UK anyone can apply for a vacancy. The competition is open and they choose the best candidate. I applied for the job myself, and got what I’d always dreamed of.
So now what’s the plan?
I want to give the English National Ballet its own identity, so in our repertoire will be productions created specifically for the company. I will actively work with the artists to create our own stars who have come up through the company, and find some new names. I want to change public opinion about the theatre so the audience see the English National Ballet as a young, creative and challenging company.
What does Rojo feel are the requisites for a modern artistic director?
It is important to know what is happening in ballet, not only in your own country but around the world; to know the trends, the choreographers, keep track of the new names and performances. Another quality is the ability to communicate with the artists; once you could just tell dancers what to do, but today dialogue is required. An artistic director must also have a vision, but not just limited to the world of ballet, but relating to artists, designers and musicians, and even those people who have never worked with the ballet before.
And her own dance career?
A ballet company isn’t easy to manage, but there are great examples of combining the two, like Rudolf Nureyev. In addition, a director who also dances should inspire the company.
So will you be competing with Covent Garden?
It will be a friendly competition. It’s great when in a city like London, there are two companies who want to succeed. It keeps us on our toes, and gives the audiences a choice.
And you want to put sex back into ballet?
That’s not quite true. I just want to show that ballet is not just little girls in beautiful tutus, something which you come to see at Christmas. Ballet is an art, telling a serious story; it’s a great sensation with strong emotions.
Photo: Liam Scarlett’s Asphodel Meadows with Bennet Gartside and Tamara Rojo – © Elliott Franks