I created Dust. I found it fascinating. I based it on women, which I tend to do
a lot these days. Tamara was one of my main characters.
What was it like working with her?
She’s highly intelligent. What was interesting was to transform her from a
literal way of being emotional to a more ambiguous way of being emotional.
In both classical Indian dance and ballet, we are trained to be extremely
clear emotionally. There are codes, for instance, a way of being to express
sadness, and I wanted to take it more toward the truth of being—not to be
literal or romantic about it. Tamara adapted so quickly. It was a great joy to
work with her.
What existing version of Giselle do you admire?
The best I’ve ever seen is Mats Ek’s version. He questions the essence and
then transforms it. It’s a masterpiece.
Didn’t he set it in an insane asylum? I think there’s a video of Ana Laguna as
Yes. She’s unbelievable. Like Tamara and Sylvie, these artists are unique. You
know what I love—to work with dancers who think. I don’t necessarily always
enjoy thinkers who dance.
Will you use the Adolphe Adam music?
Yes and no. The music is not my favorite—the second half I really like,
tampered with by Ben Frost. What I can’t figure out is, What makes it
Giselle Is it the story? Is it the music? What is it? Once I figure that out,
things will be easier.
The story deals with the physical world but also the spiritual realm.
I think that’s why Tamara approached me with Giselle. I started to realize
that it’s about spirituality in the second half. That’s something she felt I can
connect with, and I do.
In the traditional Giselle, when she’s a Wili, her spirituality is expressed by
lightness and airiness; she’s so light she hardly ever comes down from her
jumps. Is that something that you will try to do, or do you have another way
to express her spirituality?
I would like to use that, of course, because that is such a special illusion. It’s
just beautiful, that sense of floating. I have to see what I can do with it that
belongs to me, but at the same time using that quality of floating.
You’ve described how your process takes a long time: gathering material,
rehearsing, then whittling it down. Are you going to have the time you
need, working with ENB?
Yes, Tamara has organized it to be the most advantageous process for me. I
asked for five or six dancers to work with me to generate a lot of the research
and material on their bodies before I work with the whole company.
Ballet’s Tamara Rojo
and James Streeter
in Khan’s Dust
“In ballet, there are codes, for instance, a
way to express sadness. I wanted to take
it more toward the truth of being.”