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Rojo’s plans for English National Ballet

Posted on September 25, 2012

rojo square

rojo-squareTamara Rojo (pictured), English National Ballet’s new artistic director, has announced plans for her first season. They include the company premiere of Jirí Kylián’s Petite Mort, an anniversary programme celebrating Rudolf Nureyev and news of Rojo’s artistic team. Rojo said: “I want to transform English National Ballet into England’s most creative and most loved ballet company, embracing and commissioning brave new works while keeping the classics relevant.”


The new season opens with autumn performances of The Sleeping Beauty and a Christmas run of The Nutcracker. In spring, the company dance a programme called Ecstasy and Death, designed to show off the company’s stylistic versatility. It opens with the company premiere of Kylián’s Petite Mort, in which six men and six women dance with fencing foils, to slow movements from Mozart’s piano concertos in A major and C major. In La Jeune Homme et la Mort, first staged as part of the company’s Roland Petit evening in 2011, the role of the young man will be danced by English National Ballet’s Yonah Acosta and by guest star Nicholas le Riche, étoile of the Paris Opéra Ballet. The programme ends with Harald Lander’s Etudes, and will run at the London Coliseum from April 18 to 21.

From July 25 to 27, the company dance A Tribute to Rudolf Nureyev, marking the 75th anniversary of Nureyev’s birth, and the 20th of his death. It includes Mikhail Fokine’s Petrushka, which Nureyev first danced in 1963, and Maurice Béjart’s Song of a Wayfarer, created especially for Nureyev. The evening ends with the company premiere of Nureyev’s celebrated staging of Raymonda Act III.

The company will also stage the latest in its “My first…” series for younger audiences. George Williamson’s My First Cinderella, following Matthew Hart’s My First Sleeping Beauty, is aimed at children aged three and over. The production will run at London’s Peacock Theatre from March 28 to May 26, and will again feature final year students from English National Ballet School.

Williamson will also artistically direct the final for the company’s Emerging Dancer Award for 2013, to be held in March. Supported by Talbot Hughes MacKillop, the awards recognise the talent of the company’s up-and-coming dancers.

While directing the company, Rojo will continue to dance. She will appear as Aurora, partnered by Vadim Muntagirov, in the autumn tour of The Sleeping Beauty. They will dance the opening night of the season, in Milton Keynes on October 17, with Daria Klimentová as the Lilac Fairy. Bridgette Zehr and Ksenia Ovsyanick will make their debuts as both Aurora and the Lilac Fairy this season. Rojo will also appear as the Sugar Plum Fairy during the run of The Nutcracker. Klimentová and Muntagirov will dance the opening performance.

Rojo has also appointed new artistic staff. Cuban ballerina Loipa Araujo, whom Rojo describes as “one of the most inspiring coaches I have ever worked with,” joins the company as associate artistic director. José Martin, who danced regularly with Rojo at The Royal Ballet, joins English National Ballet as principal repetiteur. Hua Fang Zhang joins as ballet mistress. Rojo, who first met Zhang in China, said: “She was working for the National Ballet of China, where she made the corps de ballet into one of the most impressive I have ever seen.”

George Williamson, who choreographed a new Firebird for English National Ballet last year, becomes associate artist. “In this new role, he will explore collaborations with young artists, nuture choreographers within the company and help us deepen our engagement with the cities we visit,” said Rojo, “working with local artists, musicians and students in venues not normally associated with ballet.”

Araujo, Martin, Zhang and Williamson will join repetiteur Antony Dowson and artistic coordinator Jane Haworth to make up the new artistic team.


Photograph: Johan Persson

Zoë was born in Edinburgh, and saw her first dance performances at the Festival there. She is the dance critic of The Independent, and has also written for The Independent on Sunday, The Scotsman and Dancing Times. In 2002, she received her doctorate from the University of York for a thesis on “Nationhood and epic romance: Ariosto, Sidney, Spenser”. She is the author of The Royal Ballet: 75 Years and The Ballet Lover’s Companion.

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