San Francisco Ballet Appoints Tamara Rojo to Artistic Director


Tamara Rojo, the charismatic Spanish ballerina who leads the English National Ballet, will develop into the creative director of San Francisco Ballet when its longtime director, Helgi Tomasson, steps down on the finish of 2022, the corporate introduced on Tuesday.

Rojo would be the first girl, the primary non-American and solely the fourth director to lead the troupe, the oldest skilled ballet firm within the United States, based in 1933. Her appointment comes after a yearlong seek for a successor to Tomasson, who has led San Francisco Ballet for 37 years.

“I think it is the most creative company in North America,” Rojo, 47, mentioned in a video interview, including that her imaginative and prescient for it incorporates her in curiosity in maintaining “our art form relevant to a younger audience that sometimes has new values and principles.”

Rojo has reworked the picture of English National Ballet in London since changing into its creative director in 2012. Founded in 1950 (as London Festival Ballet) with the intention of taking ballet to the provinces, the corporate has lengthy struggled within the shadow of the Royal Ballet and its opera home house.

Rojo, who had been a principal dancer with the Royal Ballet and remained a marquee ballerina for English National Ballet for many of her tenure, gave English National Ballet a brand new, worldwide attract via progressive programming and risk-taking commissions, like Akram Khan’s “Giselle.” Her personal manufacturing of “Raymonda,” which retains the normal Nineteenth-century choreography however units the story throughout the Crimean War, is to open on Jan. 18.

She additionally spearheaded a $49 million fund-raising marketing campaign to construct intensive headquarters for the corporate — the brand new constructing opened in east London in 2019 — and established a partnership with Sadler’s Wells Theater that gave English National Ballet a daily London efficiency house.

“She basically turned that ship around,” mentioned Alistair Spalding, the creative director and chief government of Sadler’s Wells. “She has led from the front, as a dancer and a director, been bold about programming, taken risks and made very good choices.

“Most important,” Spalding added, “she had a vision, said, ‘This is what I want,’ and found ways to make it happen.”

Rojo’s appointment is a sea change for the San Francisco Ballet, which was based in 1933 as a part of the San Francisco Opera, changing into an impartial firm in 1942. First directed by Willam Christensen, it was later run by his brother Lew Christensen, who shared the job with Michael Smuin from 1973 to 1984. Since Tomasson’s arrival in 1985, the corporate has commissioned round 195 new ballets, and established a global repute for stylistic versatility and technical aplomb.

“Helgi brought exquisite taste, an adventurous spirit, a willingness to take risks and an ability to solve problems of all kinds, to San Francisco Ballet,” mentioned Sunnie Evers, the co-chair with Fran Streets of the search committee, and the co-chair of the corporate’s board. “Finding someone to fill his shoes was a daunting prospect.”

Evers mentioned that the committee had been dedicated to a worldwide search that was “inclusive in terms of ethnicity and gender, and people who weren’t necessarily standard candidates.” Over 200 candidates had been contacted after they started the method in February, she mentioned, with the record narrowed to eight by July. “We had three people of color and three women in that round,” she mentioned. “There is a lot of talk about ballet being dominated by white men, so I am thrilled we were not.”

In a video interview, Tomasson mentioned he had no voice within the number of his successor however had hoped that the particular person would proceed “building a major company and trying new things.” Rojo, he mentioned, “has been able to elevate English National Ballet to a much higher level internationally, which was what I was asked to do when I came to San Francisco. She has acquired new choreography and respected the classics. So there is a little bit of a comparison.”

Rojo was circumspect about her repertory plans for San Francisco Ballet, saying that it was too early to commit to specifics, and that she would spend the following 12 months studying extra in regards to the firm and its workings. (Tomasson will program the 2022-23 season, together with a pageant of latest choreography.)

“I am close to Europe and will bring some of the flavor of the 25 years I have spent in London,” she mentioned. “And I will continue to focus on female choreographers and to bringing new voices to interpret the classics.” She added, “I love how theater in the U.K. works with the traditional canon, like Shakespeare, and turns it upside down. That inspired me to invite Akram Khan to do ‘Giselle’ and I want to do more works like that.”

Rojo famous {that a} consequence of Covid-19 had been the explosion of digital dance. “I think San Francisco Ballet has a real opportunity to lead in this area,” she mentioned. “San Francisco is close to Los Angeles, to a huge number of filmmakers and media companies. So far, we’ve just been reacting to a situation, but I think the possibilities are huge.”

Rojo’s husband, Isaac Hernandez, a principal at English National Ballet, just lately rejoined San Francisco Ballet, the place he danced earlier in his profession.

Rojo mentioned she would deliver a “system of checks and balances” developed at English National — involving the broader creative crew in casting and dancer evaluations — to San Francisco Ballet. She added, “I like transparency in leadership. I think it’s important for dancers to understand how decisions are made.” (She additionally mentioned that aside from a couple of commitments this 12 months, she was retiring from the stage.)

Evers mentioned that the search committee had requested Rojo troublesome questions on how she would deal with casting Hernandez and likewise about articles within the British press in 2018 that described complaints about administration at English National Ballet.

“Tamara was not afraid to admit mistakes and find solutions,” Evers mentioned.

For her half, Rojo mentioned she didn’t “come from an established, traditional ballet school with a legacy to protect or preserve.”

“I am an outsider,” she continued, “and I am interested in inviting outsiders into the art form, and creating the future with them — whatever it may be.”