Lessons learned from Tamara Rojo

In Five Brahms Waltzes, by the Royal Ballet, 2004 - Picture Alastair Muir via the Telegraph
In Five Brahms Waltzes, by the Royal Ballet, 2004 – Photo by Alastair Muir for the Telegraph

To celebrate the centenary of the establishment of Anna Pavlova at Ivy House, in North London, many events have been organised this year. In March, the Ensemble Group organised the Anna Pavlova Gala, which was artistically directed by Wayne Eagling. Other dance events were also organised by the Royal Opera House such as “An Intimate Evening with Anna Pavlova“.

To date, Anna Pavlova is known for her expressiveness and passion with which she used to play her roles. Furthermore, the dancer was also a business woman. She founded her own company, created roles for herself and was the first dancer to tour the world with her own troupe.

On June 24, the London Jewish Cultural Centre, based at Ivy House, organised the Pavlova Day. In the morning, practical demonstrations of the Cecchetti method were made. In the afternoon, Royal Ballet principal dancer Tamara Rojo and dance critic Gerald Dowler gave a talk on arts and expression in dance. Before a selected audience, they showed extracts of old films, from which the topics were being developed.

Tamara holds a master degree in scenic arts and is a bachelors of dance from the University Rey Juan Carlos. In 2000, she was appointed principal dancer with the Royal Ballet. However, as of September this year she leaves Company to take over the artistic direction of the English National Ballet. The good news is that in addition to increasing the artistic qualities of the ENB, Tamara will continue to dance, no longer at the  Royal Opera House, but at the Coliseum,  where regular ballet goers will welcome her with open arms, for sure.

Recognising the importance of dance as an art form, Tamara is the real embodiment of the twenty-first century dancer. She knows how to take the classics to modern audiences, and knows well the challenges of her work environment. Tamara is long known for having one of the most insightful minds on dance and the arts in general. She answered all the questions with  undoubting confidence and showed an extraordinary sense of elegance.

© Dee Cooper

Tamara emphasised the importance of expressiveness and creativity while building a role. As for Giselle, such an old ballet, she seeks inspiration in earlier  interpretations and makes a thorough research on the character’s identity. But most importantly is to plunge into character’s world  and discover the nuances of personality that composes it.  It is also important to keep a distance between the dancer and the character, so that the artist can print his hallmark and gain the credibility of the public. In which case, the technique, physical conditions and the ballet classes discipline must serve the artistry of the dancer. Although la Sylphide are Giselle are portrayed as pure and ethereal beings, it is still possible to create characters with the values and conflicts of a twenty-first century person.

Scenes of Ondine with Margot Fonteyn and Michael Somes were also displayed. Tamara said that the interpretation capabilities were one of her greatest skills and her intelligence made Margot on of the greatest dancers of the twentieth century.

Beyond that, Tamara told us about her studio work with Lynn Seymour. The learning process was intense and painful at times, but crucial to her growth and development as an artist.

Working with Mats Ek was also one of her greatest pleasures. The choreographer breaks all classical ballet rules and revisits some of the well-known classics, where he incorporates elements of violence, madness and brutality. With modern techniques such as of Martha Graham’s, he can explore the limits of expressivity of the dancers, which makes him one of the most sought-after choreographers these days.

The joy of working with Kenneth MacMillan is that the choreographer had enough sensitivity to understand the human feelings complexities . So Macmillan shows the contradictions of th human soul through his characters without any subterfuge. While Manon was a courtesan, she could also have genuine feelings, such as love. So the more the artist is capable of humanising a character, there more the public will identify with him.

In a highly digitised society like ours, Tamara hopes to be able to give the ENB dancers the opportunity to put their feelings in their character, so  they can grow as artists and share their emotions with the public.

In the end, Tamara performed the Five Brahms Waltzes in the Manner of Isadora Duncan played on the piano Philip Gammon. This piece was choreographed by Sir Frederick Ashton on Lynn Seymoor, and was inspired by Isadora Duncan, one of the greatest symbols of freedom of expression in dance of the twentieth century. Needless to say that people left the room in amazement and the flashes would not stop clicking trying to capture all the ballerina’s movements.

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