Since her high-profile move from The Royal Ballet to English National Ballet in 2013, Romanian star Alina Cojocaru has been quietly forging her own path. In addition to creating major roles at ENB, including in Akram Khan's Giselle, the beloved 38-year-old ballerina now divides her time between London and Hamburg, where she enjoys a close creative relationship with John Neumeier. This month, she curates and headlines a new program at Sadler's Wells Theatre, which will include premieres by the likes of Tim Rushton.
For Alina at Sadler's Wells, you've opted to commission all-new works alongside Ashton's Marguerite and Armand. How did you select them?
I have produced a few things, but I want to make this one a bit more personal. To me, the journey of working with choreographers is fascinating. We'll have one new work by Tim Rushton that we actually started about 12 years ago. We wanted to do it for galas, and we had almost half of it all ready, but we never finished it. This time I thought: Right, we have a theater, so we have to make it!
You will perform it with your longtime offstage partner Johan Kobborg. How has your relationship evolved since he stopped performing full-time to direct and choreograph?
I was so nervous when I worked with him as a choreographer last summer, for his new Romeo and Juliet in Verona. I see his journey and I want to support it, because he's done the same with me. He's never made me feel that I shouldn't do something because it's not with him. Somehow, I no longer see him as the only person I love to dance with onstage; it just becomes very special when I do.
There is such a lightness to your way of moving onstage. Do you find it difficult to be more grounded?
Sometimes I'd say no, but Akram Khan would say yes! [laughs] We work so much to make things easy and light, to dance on top of the floor. But I do a lot of weight lifting in my cross-training, so if I have to connect with the ground, I have the strength and the power to enjoy that as well.
John Neumeier just created a leading role for you in his new ballet inspired by Tennessee Williams, The Glass Menagerie. What is he like in the studio?
I feel like every day I have a master class in creating a role, in discovering a language for the character. He gives so much information—about Tennessee Williams, the play, other plays. It's a full immersion.
Did the birth of your daughter change your approach to dancing?
It helped me to start trusting it more. Sometimes while training, we want to physically push to make things happen. When I was pregnant, my body did everything, and I realized that if I just let go of some things, by now it has a certain knowledge and coordination: It can make things happen for me, so I can actually enjoy it. When I'm tired now, I think, How can I use this? Maybe this role today could do with a bit of heaviness.
Which accomplishment are you most proud of so far in your life?
It would have to be the relationship I have with Johan. There were so many stages where life could have led us to drift apart: from dancing together to dancing apart, working apart… And instead, we discovered new sides of ourselves. That for me has been fascinating—to fall in love with the same person at least three times anew in my life.