The Curation of Marguerite and Armand

The Curation of Marguerite and Armand

Tamara Rojo Shares her Insights on this Iconic British Masterpiece

SAN FRANCISCO BALLET: Tell us about your curation of the British Icons program.

TAMARA ROJO: I wanted to bring what I consider to be some of the best works of the two most iconic choreographers of the British Ballet School, Sir Frederick Ashton and Sir Kenneth Macmillan. Together, they really defined the English ballet style. Sir Frederick Ashton and Sir Kenneth Macmillan were both fundamental in the creation and consolidation of the Royal Ballet where I danced for 12 years. So, I had the pleasure to perform these two works. And I first was moved as an audience member and then was transformed as an artist.

I thought that as an Artistic Director, that is what I was supposed to do: bring works that can move the audience and bring them into new vocabularies and introduce new artists that they might not know so well. And at the same time, [choosing works] that challenge and develop the artists of the company. It has been wonderful seeing them do exactly that in rehearsals. It's been a joy to see them take all the information from the Rehearsal Directors and just blossom.

Yuan Yuan Tan and Ricardo Bustamante rehearsing Ashton's Marguerite and Armand // © San Francisco Ballet, photo by Lindsey Rallo

SFB: What is Sir Frederick Ashton known for?

ROJO: Ashton created most of the initial repertoire of the Royal Ballet, and he also recreated many of the classics. He's a great choreographer, with a huge portfolio of works from very traditional ballets like Sleeping Beauty to quite groundbreaking pieces.

What is most fundamental to him is his musicality. He had an incredible understanding of the music, and he was also able to tell clear narrative while using the music. So specifically, Marguerite and Armand is a piece that in just over 40 minutes tells the whole story. It feels perfect and despite the music, not being composed for it, Ashton, from the moment he heard the music, knew how it would work to tell this story. So he's really, I think, the first fundamental British choreographer.

SFB: Why did you choose to bring Marguerite and Armand to San Francisco this Season?

ROJO: Marguerite and Armand is one of those iconic ballets that every classical dancer wants to perform. It was created for the most iconic couple: Margot Fonteyn and Rudolf Nureyev. It is one of those pieces that kind of creates a catharsis when you finish. You've been spent physically and emotionally. Every artist wishes to do things like this...I'm very excited by how the dancers have loved being in the studio, how they embraced it, how they brought everything to every rehearsal. It's been really wonderful to see that.

Yuan Yuan Tan and Aaron Robison rehearsing Ashton's Marguerite and Armand // © San Francisco Ballet, photo by Lindsey Rallo

Marguerite and Armand is onstage in British Icons February 9–15