Phillipa White grew up in Blewbury and attended Didcot Girls’ School. At the same time she was taking ballet classes four days a week at the local Tetlow-Huhme Ballet studio. That sounds like serious intent, but at that stage it wasn’t.

“I always thought it was just a hobby, it was just fun. But it never occurred to me to give up, I just kept going because I liked it. My teacher gave me very strong ballet technique, but it was never my dream to be a dancer; that happened later, when I was making university choices. I was trying to think of all the subjects that I could do, and none of them interested me enough, so a friend said “you’re quite good at dancing, why don’t you give that a go?” Phillipa applied to some of the vocational dance schools, and was accepted by one of the most prestigious of all — the London Contemporary Dance School.

“I had been introduced to contemporary dance by going to see Rambert a lot, because they always came to Oxford. “My teacher used to set up parties to go, and also often got guest contemporary dance teachers to come and give us one-off classes. For me contemporary dance can be more expressive than ballet, I can bring a bit more personality to it — you’re allowed to be yourself a bit more”.

On graduating, Phillipa joined Scottish Dance Theatre, where she stayed for five years before joining BalletLORENT, where she says she is very happy, and is now playing the lead in Rapunzel. The work is based on the brothers Grimm tale of a girl taken from her parents by a witch, and kept in a high tower without a staircase, so that entry is only possible by climbing her long hair which she lowers from a window. The scenario is by the Poet Laureate, Carol Ann Duffy.

“It does stick strongly to the original tale”, says Phillipa,“ but it is a very dark re-telling of the story. But there is always hope in the work as well; there’s longing, and there’s light at the end of the tunnel. She’s not a whimsy maiden in the tower by any stretch of the imagination, she’s very feral. By the time she’s lived in the tower for a few years, and her hair has grown to ridiculous lengths, she’s quite animal- like, because she’s had no contact with other human beings. “So I’m encouraged to be more animal, and twist the girl’s beauty up a bit, make it a little bit more ugly, but that in itself is also beautiful. “When the Prince climbs up, she goes from feral to curious, and then she grows up and falls in love. The movements become more mature, more sophisticated”.

The set, by Phil Eddols, looks terrific, but it’s less of a tower, more of a bird’s nest of twisted metal. This caused some difficulties at first.

“We made a lot of the choreography before we had the set, and we had an idea of the kind of things that we wanted to do, but as soon as we got on the set we realised we couldn’t do any of it. We had to try to keep the feeling that we wanted to create, but change all the moves completely. It’s been a real challenge to get comfortable in the tower; it’s metal, it’s hard, it’s heavy. If you whack it, it hurts. “As soon as I move my hair it gets trapped and wrapped around bits of the set, so I’ve had to work very intimately with it; it’s like a duet between me and the set. “It’s hard to make it work, and to make it not look like I’m just struggling with a wig. There’s a lot of climbing around the tower, and I do very little dancing on the floor. “Most of it’s on the walls, and there’s a tree in it as well, so it’s not dance as you know it. It takes a lot of upper body strength, a lot of core strength, it’s very physical.”

Oxford Playhouse Next Friday at 7pm, and Saturday at 2pm and 7pm Tickets: 01865 305305 or