Erina Takahashi started dancing in her native Japan at the age of three, and began ballet classes at ten. It was immediately apparent that this was a girl with a lot of talent, and at 15 her parents sent her to this country to study at the English National Ballet School.

“Where I lived in Japan there was a very small ballet studio. It was really for girls who want to do ballet as a hobby, and I felt that there was a limit to what I could learn from my teacher there,” said Erina. “There wasn’t a big ballet school anywhere near, so I decided to come to England and go to a proper ballet school.”

Her parents were very supportive, but they stayed behind in Japan. Coming here alone must have been pretty frightening?

“It was lonely and scary, and I couldn’t speak much English at that time. But I’m sure my parents were more worried than me. Because I just loved dancing so much, although I was worried and scared, I just got on with it. I was homesick quite a lot, but I used to look forward every morning to going to the school. I was staying in the school hostel, but when I got to school I soon made friends even though my English wasn’t good. I was happy.”

The results of such enthusiasm and dedication are clear to see when you watch Erina dancing. She joined the company in 1996, and rose quickly through the ranks to join the elite as a senior principal dancer. Princess Aurora is a very demanding role which includes the daunting balances of the Rose Adage, when the young princess greets the four suitors for her hand. But Erina is completely in control of the technicalities, and is more concerned with the interpretation of a character that can be a bit of a cardboard cut-out.

“Aurora is a young girl at the start, but I want to make a clear change when I get to the third act, and we have the Grand pas de Deux after she has woken up. At this point I don’t want the audience to look at me as exactly the same Aurora, because now I am dancing as a serious ballerina. “I do like playing with making my roles different. The role is technically very difficult, but I like to put in a lot of detail. Now, as I am doing the role more and more, I am finding little new things which don’t necessarily mean that it’s becoming a lot different, but to me they are important, and I try to show the audience Aurora’s character emotionally and also by technique.”

On this tour Erina is dancing with a new partner, Yonah Acosta, nephew of the near-legendary Carlos. Yonah is very much a rising star. “I have never danced with Yonah before, and this has been interesting work for me because he’s such a talented dancer, but he’s obviously young (he’s 23) and hasn’t had a lot of experience in leading roles. But when I’m working with him I feel the energy of a young dancer, and at the same time I can give him more of my own experience, and I think this combination of energy and experience is making a different, interesting partnership. “In our company we change partners quite often, but I would like to work with him more and see how much we can grow as a partnership. “But I already have a good partnership with other leading dancers in the company, and when I dance with one of them it’s very easy to remember how we did things together before, so it’s a comfortable relationship.”

In addition to Aurora, Erina’s favourite role is Giselle.“I particularly like the production our company has by Mary Skeaping,” she said. “But I also love doing The Chosen One in The Rite of Spring, which is a completely different style of ballet. In the future I would love to do ballets like Kenneth Macmillan’s Mayerling and also work with a wider range of choreo-graphers. I would love to challenge myself.”

You can see Erina and Yonah Acosta on February 19 and 22 during the company’s week in Oxford.

New Theatre, February 19-22.

Box office: 0844 871 3020 (