“I believe I have something to say!”
The news has just been officially announced that Tamara Rojo is to be the new Artistic Director of English National Ballet. One of the world’s finest dancers, Tamara spoke to me a couple of days ago about a life changing move…
Q: Why on earth do you want to be a director? – it’s just one problem after another and few agree with the decisions you make!
First I want to give back to the artform what I have received from the artform – which is lots of years of wisdom, passed to me by very generous people, be they directors, teachers or coaches. They have given me this huge amount of knowledge that I feel responsible for. And one of the ways you can deliver back is directing a company where you can help dancers develop and reach whatever dreams they have. And I want to bring more of the public to the artform and see the enjoyment it brings. I suppose I believe I have something to say!
How will the “I have something to say” crystallise out?
Well it’s not possible for me to be very specific just now; there is still work to do and anyway the beginning of my season is mostly decided anyway.
But the big picture: Dance is a serious artform but it is also entertainment – it is there to be enjoyed. I go a lot to theatre, I go a lot to movies, I go a lot to concerts and I get moved and I feel joy from my non-sophisticated point of view – as an ordinary member of the public I’m able to enjoy it. Sometimes we expect our dance public to be extremely sophisticated, extremely knowledgeable… and they really have the right just to enjoy the evening – they have paid a lot of money and don’t need to be indoctrinated! But I also want to take risks artistically in commissioning choreographers that are not so famous or well known in the UK.
But one of the main characteristics of ENB is that it’s a place where artists grow. Most join straight from school and this is the perfect place where they become the stars they ought to be. Because they dance a lot and you have the chance to really own a role. And then you can really do something with them. You can only ever take risks when you own a role rather than just rehearsing it because this is only your third Swan Lake in 5 years. If it’s your 12th Swan Lake this season it’s a completely different state of mind.
Talking about dancing… Will you stop dancing?
Not yet! I think I still have a lot to give as a dancer. It would be crazy for me to waste my talent. It’s only a positive thing doing both roles and will bring box office too. But I have also worked for directors who dance and it’s so refreshing – they are one of you. They have not yet forgotten or are isolated somewhere.
So you will be in the studio a lot!
I will be in the studio a lot – I will be there a lot, full stop! And if I make wrong decisions they are going to affect me too as a dancer.
Will you do anything more at the Royal Ballet after the end of this season?
Possibly not – we are still discussing that. There is is the possibility of some farewell performance, which would be lovely. But I will be mainly dancing with ENB – it’s my absolute focus for the next 5 years.
How have you prepared for directing?
I did a degree in Spain in the performing arts, went on the DanceEast Rural Retreats programme for future leaders of dance, and following that I shadowed Karen Kain in Canada (Artistic Director of National Ballet of Canada). But wherever I have been in the world I was curious and have looked to learn how organisations work when I guest somewhere. Would I do it the same way? Are the dancers happy? Is the public engaged? Over the last 3 or 4 years it’s not just been about me dancing but looking at the big picture and how it’s affecting the artform.
You have already touched on it but what really attracts you to ENB?
Well I have a common past – I was there for over 3 years. I have very fond memories of that. The fact that it is a very tight unit – really a family. The touring does that and you have to stand up for each other, protect each other, care for each other, work for each other, fight for each other. The bonds are really strong. And it’s also a place where artists flourish – you see them grow very quickly. And the thing that pleases me is that they are the one company that takes ballet to the nation – everywhere – a supermarket, a car park if needed! Just to make sure that the artform goes further and further. It’s the most democratic company in the UK. ENB is extremely creative in doing new and different things. Not just the content but also the format. They do classics really well and then they do Gershwin, Albert Hall things really well. They know how to do masses of people and are very versatile. I’m very attracted to all that.
What do you say to the people who don’t want to see change and wanted to keep Wayne Eagling?
Not for me to talk about Wayne directly. But change is scary. It’s scary for me – I’m about to do a big change and I’m scared! I’m giving up a lot – a huge career, fantastic salary – in a way it’s proof of my commitment to this and my belief that I really can do something very positive for ballet and that is bigger than just me.
What’s happening about replacing Craig Hassall – the former MD of English National Ballet?
I think they were waiting to see who they wanted as Artistic Director. The position will be announced shortly. I will need all the support I can get for sure!
Lots of Artistic Directors do their own productions of the classics – have you any plans along those lines?
Not at the beginning. We have many wonderful productions already. Wayne Eagling’s Nutcracker is beautiful. Kenneth MacMillan’s Sleeping Beauty is exquisite. And a wonderful Coppélia, and the Nureyev Romeo… So there is no rush for me to do anything really.
ENB haven’t announced their 2012/13 season yet – What are you planning?
Don’t really want to talk a lot about it because I haven’t had time yet to properly talk with the creatives involved. But in the beginning it’s already planned as Sleeping Beauty and Nutcracker – which takes us through to Christmas/New Year. And I’ve already had a few interesting calls – watch this space!