Celebrating Dance Magazine Award Honoree Tamara Rojo
A former star of The Royal Ballet, Spanish ballerina Tamara Rojo is known for her spotless technique and impassioned performances that are—to quote a review by dance critic Judith Mackrell—”etched in raw emotion.” Despite her magnificent performance career, however, it is as a leadership figure that Rojo has had the most influence on the ballet world. Since 2012, she has straddled stage and office in the dual role of artistic director and lead principal of English National Ballet.
Under Rojo’s leadership, ENB has shed its reputation as a lesser cousin to The Royal Ballet. Instead, it has become the epitome of an innovative, forward-thinking ballet company equipped for the 21st century. Based in a new award-winning, state-of-the-art home, Rojo’s ENB presents classical repertoire alongside premieres by contemporary choreographers, and now digital creations via the company’s bespoke streaming platform.
Some of Rojo’s boldest moves over the past 10 years have included commissioning a reimagining of Giselle by celebrated British-Bangladeshi choreographer Akram Khan and staging surprising pieces of repertoire, such as Pina Bausch’s inimitable Le Sacre du printemps. She’s also brought in international ballet stars—such as lead principals Isaac Hernández and Jeffrey Cirio—and brought back Maria Kochetkova, making the company a major player on the global dance scene.
Throughout her tenure, Rojo has been a staunch advocate of female choreographers. Motivated by the shocking fact that she never danced in a work by a woman during her 20-year performance career prior to joining ENB, Rojo has now commissioned more than 40 works by women across the company’s programming. One of the most outstanding is Broken Wings, created by Annabelle Lopez Ochoa in 2016. With Rojo in the lead role, the ballet brought to life the colorful, surreal narratives of Frida Kahlo’s paintings, alongside emotional scenes depicting her struggles with debilitating health conditions.
Rojo has also been instrumental in shifting how female narratives are presented onstage. The lack of depth in many classical female roles recently motivated her to restage Petipa’s Raymonda, which will be her choreographic and directorial debut. Set to premiere in January 2022, Rojo’s version will depict a heroine in charge of her own destiny, recasting Raymonda as a nurse who runs away to support the Crimean War.
It’s no wonder that Rojo holds Spain’s three highest honors and a CBE, from the Order of the British Empire. Yet despite a career in the spotlight, Rojo is now preoccupied with shining it on others: She’s in the process of setting up a new ENB pipeline project aiming to help young dancers from underrepresented communities get professional ballet training, and is encouraging female artists to apply for ENB’s Dance Leaders of the Future program. “Enabling other dancers and artists to reach their potential is the most beautiful thing I could have chosen to do with my life,” she says.
Join Dance Magazine in celebrating Tamara Rojo at the December 6 Dance Magazine Awards ceremony. Tickets are now available here.