San Francisco Ballet appoints Tamara Rojo as Art Director

Tamara Rojo, the charismatic spanish ballerina who leads the British National Ballet, will become the artistic director of the San Francisco Ballet when its longtime director, Helgi Tomasson, step down in late 2022, the company announced on Tuesday.

Rojo will be the first woman and fifth director to lead the troupe, the oldest professional ballet company in the United States, founded in 1933. Her appointment came a year later. looking for a successor to Tomasson, who led the San Francisco Ballet for 37 years.

“I think it’s the most innovative company in North America,” Rojo, 47, said in a video interview, adding that her vision for it combined with her interest in keeping “our art form relevant to young audiences sometimes has new values ​​and principles.”

Rojo has transform image of English National Ballet in London since becoming artistic director in 2012. Founded in 1950 (as the London Festival Ballet) with the goal of bringing ballet to the provinces, the company has long struggled in the shadow of the Royal Ballet and its opera house. .

Rojo, who was a principal dancer for the Royal Ballet and remained a ballerina for the British National Ballet for most of his tenure, has given the English National Ballet a new international appeal through the program. creative process and risk taking commission, like Akram Khan’s “Giselle. ” Her own production of “Raymonda”, still keeping the traditional 19th century choreography but set the story in the Crimean War, will open on January 18.

She also led a $49 million fundraising campaign to build spacious headquarters for the company – the new building opened in east London in 2019 – and established a partnership with Sadler’s Wells Theatre, which has given the British National Ballet Theater a regular show in London.

“She basically turned that ship around,” said Alistair Spalding, artistic director and chief executive officer of Sadler’s Wells. “She led from the front, as a dancer and a director, very bold in programming, taking risks and making very good choices.

“Most importantly,” Spalding added, “she had the foresight, saying, ‘This is what I want’ and finding ways to make it happen.”

Rojo’s appointment was a big change for the San Francisco Ballet, which was established in 1933 was part of the San Francisco Opera, becoming an independent company in 1942. First directed by Willam Christensen, then it was run by his brother Lew Christensen, who shared worked with Michael Smuin from 1973 to 1984. Since Tomasson’s arrival in 1985, the company has ordered approximately 195 new ballets, and has built an international reputation for stylistic versatility and sculptural technique. training.

“Helgi has brought a sophisticated taste, an adventurous spirit, a willingness to take risks and an ability to solve problems, to the San Francisco Ballet,” said Sunnie Evers, Fran Streets co-chair on the search committee. and co-chairman of the company’s board of directors. “Finding someone to replace his shoes is a difficult prospect.”

Evers said that the committee was committed to conducting a global search “that includes both ethnicity and gender, and who are not necessarily standard candidates”. More than 200 candidates were contacted when they began the process in February, she said, with the list narrowing to eight by July. “We had three people of color and three women in that circle,” she said. “There’s been a lot of talk about ballet being dominated by white men, so I’m glad we didn’t.”

In a video interview, Tomasson said he has no say in choosing a successor but hopes that person will continue to “build a great company and try new things”. Rojo, he says, “was able to elevate the British National Ballet to a much higher international level, which is what I was asked to do when I arrived in San Francisco. She absorbed the new choreography and respected the classics. So there’s a little comparison. ”

Rojo has been cautious about her performance plans for the San Francisco Ballet, saying it is too early to commit to specifics and that she will spend the next year learning more about the company and its operations. (Tomasson will program the 2022-23 season, including a festival of new choreography.)

“I am close to Europe and will bring back a taste of the 25 years I spent in London,” she said. “And I will continue to focus on female choreographers and bring in new vocals to interpret the classics.” She added, “I love the way UK theater takes the traditional classics, like Shakespeare, and turns it upside down. That prompted me to invite Akram Khan to do ‘Giselle’ and I want to do more such works.”

Rojo notes that the consequence of Covid-19 is the explosion of digital dance. “I think the San Francisco Ballet has a real opportunity to lead in this area,” she said. “San Francisco is close to Los Angeles, there are a lot of filmmakers and media companies. So far, we’re just reacting to one situation, but I think the likelihood is very high.”

Rojo’s husband, Isaac Hernandez, a principal at the English National Ballet, recently rejoined the San Francisco Ballet, where he had danced earlier in his career.

Rojo said she will bring a “system of checks and balances” developed at the English National – involving the broader artistic team in evaluating actors and actresses – to the San Francisco Ballet. She added, “I like transparency in leadership. I think it’s important for dancers to understand how to make decisions.” (She also said that in addition to a few commitments this year, she will be retiring from the stage.)

Evers said that the search committee asked Rojo tough questions about how she would handle the selection of Hernandez and also about articles in the British press in 2018 described complaints about management at the English National Ballet.

“Tamara is not afraid to admit mistakes and find solutions,” says Evers.

For her part, Rojo said she doesn’t “come from a long-standing traditional ballet school with a legacy to protect or preserve”.

“I am an outsider,” she continued, “and I am interested in inviting outsiders to join the art form, and create a future with them – whatever it may be. ” San Francisco Ballet appoints Tamara Rojo as Art Director

Fry Electronics Team

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