For a dancer so famous for having a distinctly Spanish flair, it may seem ironic that it was her success at a Paris competition that led to recognition as a future ballet star. In 1994, Tamara Rojo—now doing double duty as both a principal dancer and artistic director of English National Ballet—received the gold medal and the Special Jury Prize at the Paris International Dance Competition, in which she performed the sensual piece “Arrayan Daraxa."
Choreographed by Victor Ullate (who also founded the school in Madrid where Rojo completed her pre-professional training), this solo combines technical feats with references to Spanish folklore, giving it an almost flamenco style. Clearly inspired by her native country and ethnic roots, Rojo radiates a stong, defiant personality, whether through her confident hand gestures or her quadruple pirouettes. Watch how she stares down the audience with the poise of a full-blown prima ballerina. From her cat-like entrance to her final pose, Rojo undoubtedly has her audience—and the judges—in the palm of her hand. Happy #ThowbackThursday!