Former glory of the Royal Ballet of London, director for ten years of her little brother, the English National Ballet (ENB), which she has profoundly transformed, the Spaniard was appointed in January director of the San Francisco Ballet.
“It was about time! I’ve been ready for a while,” she told AFP of her “retirement” as a dancer at the age of 48.
At the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées, as part of the “TransenDanses” program, she bows out from Wednesday with a ballet dear to her heart, “Giselle” – not the romantic work created in Paris in the 19th century but a contemporary version she commissioned from Akram Khan in 2016.
“Giselle was the first ballet I danced, it was a constant in my career,” she recalls. “But I will say that Akram Khan’s Giselle is the embodiment of what my mission at ENB has been: to draw inspiration from traditions while opening the art of ballet to new voices”.
– “The courage of change” –
In this successful “remake”, Giselle is no longer the young ingenue deceived by Albrecht, a noble disguised as a peasant, but a migrant worker in a camp next to a factory. Exit the tutus and the ethereal dance, make way for a mixture of kathak (a type of Indian dance), contemporary dance, with bodies that contract, which undulate (the dancers remain on pointe).
Accustomed to risk-taking, Tamara Rojo defends the idea of recreating the classics, but also of cohabitation with the “traditionalist” camp.
“We have to have the courage to make changes to our repertoire. Then there are people recreating it as close to what they think is the original; there should be room for both,” says -she.
Tamara Rojo, who herself recreated this year a great academic ballet, “Raymonda”, had called on many female choreographers and has become one of the many directors to head companies over the past ten years.
Change has also been instilled in her leadership style, after an explosive 2018 article by The Times newspaper, which quoted anonymous dancers complaining of a “hostile and abusive work climate” and reported related tensions. to Tamara Rojo’s romantic relationship with a principal dancer of the troupe, the Mexican Isaac Hernandez (who would also join the San Francisco Ballet).
If she has always maintained that her now husband was a star before meeting her, Tamara Rojo says she has established more communication within the company, as well as training in personnel management.
Committed, she launched workshops for children, people with Alzheimer’s and the elderly, as well as a digital dance platform during the Covid pandemic.
She obtained millions of pounds sterling to provide the company with new premises in London, where dancers have a fitness center, and reinforced the medical team.
She is still the hard worker she was at age nine, when she began training at the Victor Ullate school in Madrid, one of the most renowned in Spain.
“I was very lucky too. We ballet dancers in Madrid had a very vague future. Even today, dancers in Spain do not have a clear future”, regrets the dancer, who has often accused the Spanish government of not providing good funding for the arts.
Aware of the generational change, with dancers more present on social networks, she finds it “great” that they are more connected but warns that “the information they receive from social networks remains superficial and not representative of the reality of work.