Tamara Rojo, 38, principal dancer with the Royal Ballet from 2000 to 2012, is now artistic director and principal dancer with the English National Ballet.
What was your earliest ambition?
From five years old, I wanted to be a dancer. I wanted to be the best ballerina in the world.
Public school or state school? University or straight into work?
I depended very much on flexibility so I could do ballet, so a bit of both. I started with a private school and then I moved to a state school. I went straight into dancing when I was 16. Three years ago I went to Universidad Rey Juan Carlos in Madrid to study dance and choreography and did a degree. I loved it because I wanted to learn: it was something I chose to do. One thing I wish I’d had time in my life to do was the university crazy year thing. It sounds like a lot of fun.
Who was or still is your mentor?
I don’t have a mentor per se. Many, many different people have helped me throughout my career at different times – I can’t name one or I’d have to name them all.
How physically fit are you?
Very. I don’t think people realise the stamina and the amount of hours you have to practise every day. For me, the minimum is four-and-a-half, the maximum can be eight.
Ambition or talent: which matters more to success?
I see lots of very talented dancers, lots of very ambitious dancers – but the ones that make it are the ones with the strongest work ethic.
Have you ever taken an IQ test?
When I was at school. I was very average. The ability to understand other people is just as important as mathematical or problem-solving ability.
How politically committed are you?
I’m very politically aware, very politically interested and in certain issues that apply to the arts and culture I am quite committed.
Do you consider your carbon footprint?
I don’t have a car, I recycle, I do all the right things in theory to help a little. But I do travel across the world quite often. I’m aware that isn’t helping but I don’t have options.
Do you have more than one home?
I do, although the bank owns them.
What would you like to own that you don’t currently possess?
Leisure time. Time to waste and read and watch movies and chat.
What’s your biggest extravagance?
One holiday a year. I didn’t have any holidays when I was younger. For four years, I have made sure that I have at least one week where I travel somewhere I haven’t been before, stay in a nice hotel, and indulge. I need that week.
In what place are you happiest?
In the sun with a good book.
What ambitions do you still have?
To bring ballet to new audiences that are not yet aware of how wonderful it is and how much they’re going to love it.
What drives you on?
Hope for better things.
What is the greatest achievement of your life so far?
Without a doubt, becoming the artistic director of the English National Ballet.
What has been your greatest disappointment?
I didn’t make it in time to say goodbye to my grandmother. It’s something I regret every day.
If your 20-year-old self could see you now, what would she think?
First, “No way, I can’t believe this.” And then, “Well done you!”
If you lost everything tomorrow, what would you do?
Find another way to continue to do something worthwhile in dance. The good thing about dance, it’s a trade, it’s a skill, it’s something that no one can take away from me.
Do you believe in assisted suicide?
If you had to rate your satisfaction with your life so far, out of 10, what would you score?
Seven-and-a-half – good but not a 10. I still haven’t won the Lottery!
English National Ballet’s recent collaboration with fashion designer Vivienne Westwood features ENB dancers wearing couture garments specially selected from both Westwood’s archive and her Spring-Summer 2013 collections.
Art direction by The Beautiful Meme; photography by Guy Farrow; Choreography by George Williamson, associated artist, ENB