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

It’s a name that has not been high on lists of suggested possibles, but the new artistic director of English National Ballet is to be Aaron S. Watkin, who has led the Semperoper Ballett in Dresden, Germany since 2006. He will take up the position in August 2023.

Under his direction, the Semperoper Ballett has become known for its extremely wide-ranging repertory that runs from George Balanchine to Pina Bausch, William Forsythe to Martha Graham. Perhaps more interestingly, he has frequently programmed works by the likes of British choreographer David Dawson (whose choreography is so rarely seen in the UK), Alexander Ekman and Johan Inger. It will be interesting to see if these start to feature in ENB’s repertory. The current Semperoper season also includes Watkin’s own choreography in The Nutcracker and La Bayadere.

Watkin’s appointment as ENB’s 11th artistic director sees him return to the company, having previously danced with them thirty years ago. Born in Canada, his stage career also took him to the 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, Watkin says, “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.

“Over the last 17 years at Semperoper Ballett, I have built a creative, nurturing environment for all to thrive in, both on and off the stage. I look forward to continuing this with English National Ballet, working alongside the Company’s exceptional dancers, creatives and staff to create a vibrant future.”

Aaron S. Watkin will spend time with the company, meeting regularly with dancers and staff before officially taking over as artistic director next year. He succeeds Tamara Rojo who remains in post until November 2022.