English National Ballet’s artistic director and lead principal dancer Tamara Rojo talks to Georgina Butler about why the company’s new double bill has the potential to change your life…

 

Tamara Rojo is in no doubt that we need the arts in our lives – that is why she has devoted herself to the business of ballet dancing.

The Spanish ballerina danced with Scottish Ballet and English National Ballet early in her career, before moving to The Royal Ballet for twelve glittering years. Dedicated, ambitious and articulate, Tamara dreamt of not only dancing with a world-class company but also running one. This dream came true when she was appointed in the dual role of artistic director and lead principal dancer of English National Ballet in 2012. Upon starting the top management job, she initiated a rebranding process to sharpen the company’s identity as a distinctive troupe of incredibly versatile ballet dancers with something to say.

Five years later and the touring company, which endeavours to bring ballet of the highest quality to the widest possible audience, has found lots to say under Tamara’s leadership. It has developed collaborative relationships with exciting choreographers; confidently crossed into the realms of contemporary dance; staged new versions of old classics and made history as the first ever ballet company to perform on the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury.

English National Ballet returns to Milton Keynes Theatre with a brand new double bill from Tuesday – and Tamara will perform a lead principal role. Unsurprisingly, keeping on top of her duties as artistic director and the demands made on her as a dancer keep Tamara extremely busy.

Happily, she still managed to find time for a chat…

 

 

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English National Ballet is to make a much-anticipated return to Milton Keynes Theatre with an exciting new double bill next week.

When the dancers tour to the venue for their annual autumn visit, they will perform Sir Kenneth MacMillan’s masterpiece Song of the Earth alongside Frank Andersen’s faithful recreation of La Sylphide. Both works are recent additions to English National Ballet’s repertoire so audiences in Milton Keynes will be among the very first dance lovers to see them performed by the company.

 

 

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Happy World Ballet Day!

 

Today, Thursday 5th October 2017, is World Ballet Day.

As someone who has never known life without ballet, I would be lost without it. Ballet class has always been my favourite place to be. Moreover, my professional life revolves around watching ballet, learning about ballet, writing about ballet and teaching ballet. Essentially, most of my days are ballet days!

Still, today is an extra special day. It is all about celebrating what makes ballet important to us, sharing our love of ballet with those who have the same passion and encouraging everyone else to discover ballet for themselves.

This year’s World Ballet Day is the fourth edition and the format of the international online event remains the same. Five of the world’s top ballet companies are livestreaming footage from their studios today to give us an insight into the day-to-day athleticism and dedication that life as a professional ballet dancer requires. Throughout an incredible 22 hours of live filming, viewers will see some of the most talented dancers on the planet take their daily ballet class, rehearse for upcoming performances and work with esteemed choreographers. We’ll also be treated to interviews with company directors, dancers and teachers – and be urged to get involved in discussions ourselves by joining the ballet buzz on social media.

 

 

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Dance is what inspires me in everything I do. Blissful serendipity meant I was given the opportunity to start ballet classes as a tiny tot and I will forever be grateful to the universe for that. Ultimately, I have become the person I am today because of my desire to always have dance in my life. Participating in dance classes, watching dance, writing about dance and teaching dance – dancing gives me purpose and makes me feel alive!

In fact, you might say that there is “ballet in my soul”. This nifty sentiment comes from an amazing woman named Eva Maze, who has titled her memoir With Ballet in My Soul: Adventures of a Globetrotting Impresario. An engrossing and educational read, I devoured the book in one afternoon and wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone who has an interest in dance, theatre, history, travel or the pioneering achievements of extraordinary individuals.

Eva Maze (nee Feldstein) was born in Bucharest, Romania, on a summer day in 1922. Both her parents spoke Russian (her father was from Kiev and her mother was from Bessarabia) so Eva was bilingual in Russian and Romanian at an early age. Jewish by birth, she attended a Catholic school where the nuns taught the students in German and French and she was also tutored privately in English. She believes this early immersion in languages made her interested in the world outside Romania and later learned two additional languages – Spanish and Portuguese – which aided her in her career as an impresario (a theatrical tour manager or promoter). Without a doubt, Eva’s vibrant and fulfilling life will be envied by anyone with even a sprinkling of wanderlust as her personal and professional passions and endeavours have taken her all over the globe.

 

 

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Northern Ballet’s dancers are in fine form this year. Following the success of the world première tour of Casanova, they are currently on the road with The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas – a new full-length narrative ballet based on John Boyne’s 2006 Holocaust novel.

The Irish writer’s international bestseller tells the heart-wrenching tale of a friendship between two nine-year-old boys living a strange parallel existence during the Second World War. Bruno is a German boy; the son of a Nazi officer promoted to the position of Commandant at a fictionalised Auschwitz concentration camp. Cossetted by his family, Bruno is oblivious to the appalling cruelties being inflicted on the people of Europe by his country. All he knows is that he has been relocated from his familiar home in Berlin to a lonely house in the middle of nowhere in Poland. Here, there is nothing to do and no one to play with. At least, there isn’t until Bruno befriends Shmuel, a Jewish boy imprisoned at Auschwitz, through the barbed wire fence of the camp. As Bruno and Shmuel’s unlikely friendship flourishes, the full implications of Bruno’s father’s job as Commandant are exposed. Familial discord inevitably ensues before the harrowing conclusion reveals how, through misadventure, Bruno ends up dying with Shmuel in the gas chamber.

Although the premise of Boyne’s story is emotive and engaging, both the book and the subsequent 2008 film by Mark Herman received mixed reviews. This is due to the implausibility that any concentration camp prisoner could ever have engaged in a friendship with an outsider. Furthermore, the reality is that children below working age were typically murdered immediately upon their arrival at Auschwitz. Nonetheless, The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas is an affecting account of wartime turmoil as seen through a child’s eyes. Significantly, Northern Ballet’s production, devised and choreographed by Artistic Associate Daniel de Andrade, stays true to the book, confidently using dance to capture the drama of forbidden friendship and family conflict.

 

 

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