After 10 years, English National Ballet’s Tamara Rojo quits to become first woman to lead San Francisco Ballet

12 January 2022, 13:03 | Updated: 12 January 2022, 13:15

Tamara Rojo has been Artistic Director at the English National Ballet for almost 10 years
Tamara Rojo has been Artistic Director at the English National Ballet for almost 10 years. Picture: Alamy

By Sophia Alexandra Hall

Tamara Rojo will join the San Francisco Ballet later this year after 10 years as artistic director for the English National Ballet.

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Spanish ballet dancer, Tamara Rojo CBE, is set to become the first female artistic director of the San Francisco Ballet in late 2022.

Her prolific 30-year long career has ranged from being principal dancer at the Royal Ballet, to the English National Ballet (ENB), and in 2012, she became the artistic director and lead principal dancer of the ENB at age 37.

Rojo will be only the fifth director to lead the San Francisco Ballet, the oldest professional ballet company in the United States, founded in 1933.

“I’m excited to join SF Ballet”, said Rojo,“to add to the innovative spirit of the company as we reassess what the future of ballet can and should look like, opening the best of what our art form can offer to the widest possible audience.”

Read more: Businesswoman who leads Beyoncé’s empire to head up leading US ballet company

Tamara Rojo and Roberto Bolle in Romeo and Juliet
Tamara Rojo and Roberto Bolle in Romeo and Juliet. Picture: Alamy

In 2016, Rojo was awarded a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) for services to ballet. Alongside her dancing, her impressive academic prowess led to a bachelor of dance, master of scenic arts and a PhD in performing arts.

She has also received Spain’s three highest honours: the Gold Medal of Fine Arts (2002), Prince of Asturias Arts Award (2005), Encomienda de Número Queen de Isabel La Católica (2011).

Other famous award recipients of Spain’s Gold Medal include singer, Plácido Domingo, and conductor, Gustavo Dudamel.

Rojo collects her CBE from Prince Charles
Rojo collects her CBE from Prince Charles. Picture: Alamy

Rojo will move to San Francisco with her husband, Isaac Hernández, later this year. Her husband is also a multi-award-winning dancer, who was recently appointed a principal dancer at San Francisco Ballet, after having appeared with the company as a soloist.

The co-chair of the search committee for San Francisco’s next artistic director, Sunnie Evers told the New York Times that the committee had been committed to a global search that was “inclusive in terms of ethnicity and gender, and people who weren’t necessarily standard candidates.”

In their shortlist of eight candidates for the role, three were people of colour and three were women.

Evers added, “There is a lot of talk about ballet being dominated by white men, so I am thrilled we were not.”

This sentiment is echoed in Rojo’s own commitment to championing female choreographers. While at the English National Ballet, Rojo created She Said, a triple bill which featured new pieces created by ‘world-class female choreographers’.

Her tenure at the ENB also included recontextualising classic ballets, so they directly addressed pertinent social issues, such as Rojo’s Raymonda, set during the Crimean War, and the 2017 reimagining of Giselle by Bangladeshi choreographer Akram Khan which focused on class inequality and won “Best Classical Choreography” at the National Dance Awards.

Rojo’s Raymonda is being performed at the London Coliseum from 18 to 23 January 2022.