English National Ballet announces Aaron S. Watkin as new Artistic Director

English National Ballet announces Aaron S. Watkin as new Artistic Director

English National Ballet has announced Aaron S. Watkin has been appointed as its new Artistic Director. He will take up the position in August 2023.

Aaron comes to English National Ballet from the Semperoper Ballett in Dresden, Germany, where he has served as Artistic Director since 2006. During his tenure, he has built an internationally respected reputation for the company, known for the diversity of its artists and repertoire. He has presented works by some of the world’s most renowned choreographers, from George Balanchine to Pina Bausch, William Forsythe to Martha Graham.

Aaron’s appointment as Artistic Director sees him return to English National Ballet having previously danced with the Company thirty years ago. Born in Canada, his stage career also saw him dance with National Ballet of Canada, Dutch National Ballet and Ballett Frankfurt, before becoming a Choreographic Assistant to William Forsythe, staging his works throughout the world.

Of his appointment, Aaron S. Watkin said: “I am delighted to be returning to English National Ballet to lead the company forward as Artistic Director. I have a great appreciation for all of Tamara’s achievements in developing and diversifying the company over the past 10 years. ENB has established itself as a creative force and it is an honour to be entrusted to continue to build on this.

“It is my ambition to further develop the Company’s unique identity at the forefront of dance: embracing tradition and forging innovation. I want to lead a truly open and inclusive organisation that continues its founding principle to bring world class dance to the widest possible audience.

Patrick Harrison, Executive Director of English National Ballet said: “I am thrilled that Aaron will be joining English National Ballet as Artistic Director. With his extensive experience, passion for the artform and vision for the company, I look forward to working together as we enter our next chapter…”

Aaron’s appointment sees him become English National Ballet’s 11th Artistic Director. For over 70 years English National Ballet has been at the forefront of ballet’s growth and evolution. 2019 saw English National Ballet move into the Mulryan Centre for Dance, its purpose-built, state-of-the-art home in east London, bringing a renewed commitment to creativity, ambition, and connection to more people than ever before. The Company’s creative learning and engagement practice is renowned across the UK, alongside flagship talent development programmes such as Dance Leaders of the Future and Ballet Futures, a children’s training programme which aims to diversify the talent pipeline. This year saw English National Ballet win ‘Outstanding Company’ at the Critics Circle National Dance Awards.

The appointment follows January’s announcement that Tamara Rojo CBE will step down in late 2022, to take up the position of Artistic Director of San Francisco Ballet.

English National Ballet’s outgoing Artistic Director, Tamara Rojo commented: “I would like to congratulate Aaron on his appointment as Artistic Director. Leading English National Ballet for the last ten years has been a great honour. I am immensely proud of what we have achieved together, but my admiration and support do not end here. I will remain invested in the company’s continued success and look forward to seeing it continue to evolve and inspire audiences across the UK and around the world.”

Aaron’s appointment follows an extensive international search for the new Artistic Director. The process was overseen by the Search Committee of Trustees, chaired by English National Ballet’s Vice Chair, Sue Butcher, and supported by an Artistic Advisory Panel comprising leading sector figures including Baroness Deborah Bull, Sir Nicholas Hytner, Sir Alistair Spalding and Cate Canniffe, Director of Dance at Arts Council England.

Aaron S. Watkin will spend time with the Company, meeting regularly with dancers and staff before officially taking up the role of Artistic Director in August 2023. He succeeds Tamara Rojo CBE who remains in post until November 2022. The company will ensure a robust plan is in place to support the transition process. 

Visit ballet.org.uk to learn more about English National Ballet’s current season.

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