News: Alina Cojocaru joins English National Ballet

Monday 15 July 2013 by Graham Watts

Alina Cojocaru. Photo: Charlotte Macmillan for Dance Gazette

Just over one month after the surprise announcement that Royal Ballet Principals, Johan Kobborg and Alina Cojocaru would leave the company at the end of the season, London ballet audiences will be delighted to learn that Cojocaru is to remain based in the capital, shifting her classes and employer from Covent Garden to Kensington. It was announced today that she is to become a Lead Principal with English National Ballet for the 2013/14 season. She said: “I am very excited to be joining English National Ballet next season. I am attracted by the opportunities the repertoire offers, the combination of the classics and the chance to work with choreographers I really admire. I have always enjoyed dancing and performing in the UK and am delighted that English National Ballet will give me the chance to reach new audiences outside London. Not shy of challenges, I look forward to what the future might bring. Sharing Tamara’s passion for the art form and for artistry, I am excited about what lies ahead.”

Cojocaru will open the new season on 17 October in Milton Keynes, dancing the role of Medora (almost certainly alongside recent Benois de la Danse winner, Vadim Muntagirov) in the Company’s restaging of Anna-Marie Holmes’ production of Le Corsaire. It will not only be the first time that Milton Keynes will have seen Cojocaru dance and the first time two Benois de la Danse winners have danced together with English National Ballet.

Cojocaru will also dance in Wayne Eagling’s production of The Nutcracker at Christmas and in the programme of new works scheduled for the Barbican in April 2014, to be choreographed by Liam Scarlett, Russell Maliphant and Akram Khan, inspired by the 100th anniversary of the First World War (under the collective title Lest We Forget). Cojocaru will also make her debut in ENB’s annual “in-the-round” performances next summer at the Royal Albert Hall, as Juliet in Derek Deane’s interpretation of Romeo and Juliet.

Now aged 32 and in the prime of her career, Cojocaru joined The Royal Ballet in 1999, after a brief spell as a principal dancer at Kiev Ballet, and was promoted to principal at Covent Garden in 2001. She has been a distinguished guest artist in several companies and will continue to dance as such with American Ballet Theatre and Hamburg Ballet. It was in the lead role as Julie in John Neumeier’s Liliom that Cojocaru won her second Benois de la Danse.

This appointment marks another major achievement for English National Ballet’s Artistic Director, Tamara Rojo, a long-time colleague and friend of both Cojocaru and her life partner, Kobborg, at The Royal Ballet. “I am so happy to welcome Alina to the Company”, she says. “She is one of the dancers I most admire. Her exquisite technique, dramatic qualities and artistry have been a constant inspiration to many, including me. I know that the dancers in the Company will be thrilled to have an artist of her stature join us and I am sure that we can give Alina the artistic challenges and opportunities she seeks.”

It is a natural move for Cojocaru, as her home (with Kobborg) is here in London and the ENB role will give Alina the space to continue to guest elsewhere and the freedom to have new work made on her, which has been lacking in her time at The Royal Ballet.

The problem that Rojo now faces is that her company now has three world-class ballerinas (Cojocaru, Daria Klimentová and Rojo herself) for Muntagirov to partner (and it seems that he may partner at least two of these three dancers in Le Corsaire). As with The Royal Ballet itself, there is a dearth of elite male talent at ENB and we must be looking forward to some announcement of new recruits to both companies before the new season starts. Ivan Putrov – still living in London – has to be another possible Royal Ballet émigré to find his way on a more permanent basis to Jay Mews.

With English National Ballet grabbing attention in recent months through Rojo’s exciting new artistic direction, impressive commercial deals (such as the recent partnership with Lexus Europe) and artistic collaborations (Vivienne Westwood and Julien MacDonald), competition success (Lauretta Summerscales’ Gold Medal in Beijing last week) not to mention dancing for the Queen at last week’s Coronation Festival, The Royal Ballet is looking increasingly as if it is treading water. The acquisition of Natalia Osipova for the Royal Ballet’s new season was big news but she alone cannot offset the loss of four major principal dancers (Cojocaru, Kobborg, Mara Galeazzi and Leanne Benjamin). As things stand, the big, bold, ballet moves in London seem to be coming from England’s national company.

Graham Watts writes for, Dance Tabs, Dancing Times and other magazines and websites in Europe, Japan and the USA. He is Chairman of the Dance Section of the Critics’ Circle in the UK.

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