The Wick - Erina Takahashi - © Karolina Kuras The Wick - Erina Takahashi - © Karolina Kuras
Monday Muse

Interview Ballerina Erina Takahashi 

Erina Takahashi
Karolina Kuras
01 May 2023
Erina Takahashi
Karolina Kuras
01 May 2023
This International Dance Day, we caught up with Erina Takahashi, the longest-serving principal dancer at the English National Ballet. Takahashi has been dancing with the English National Ballet for more than 20 years in major roles in productions of Giselle, The Sleeping Beauty and The Nutcracker.

In June, she will be taking on the title role in Christopher Wheeldon’s magical production of Cinderella in-the-round at the Royal Albert Hall. The classic fairy tale has been adapted for the iconic space with over 90 dancers, a live orchestra and impressive sets and projections.

Before opening night on June 15, you can read more about Takahashi’s preparations and inspirations here…

THE WICK:   Tell us about your typical Monday.

Erina Takahashi:   I start my day taking my son to school before heading to the Mulryan Centre for Dance, English National Ballet’s home in East London. I always try to arrive around 9:30am, which gives me at least 45 minutes to get ready for morning class. Then the day is in the studios taking class and rehearsing. I use my breaks to workout, depending on when I finish, I then leave earlier to pick up Archie from school. After that, I become a mother until he goes to bed. And when he’s asleep, I use the evenings to prepare for the next day of work, for example sewing my shoes, or washing etc.

TW:   What helps you to stay at the top of your game as the English National Ballet’s longest-serving principal dancer?

ET:   I love my job. So training is such a huge part of my life. On top of the daily ballet classes, you can always find me doing pilates or in the gym during breaks. I don’t really like to repeat the same exercises all the time, so I adapt my routine depending on what my body needs or feels, or to the ballets and performances we are doing.

TW:   How do you stay mentally strong as well as physically?

ET:   Work-life balance is really important. I try not to think about work too much when I’m home with my family. When I was younger, if something went wrong in a rehearsal, I was upset the whole day. But experience has taught me that it’s important to separate work from personal life. Having a husband who is also a dancer helps a lot, as he fully understands me and stops my overthinking in those moments.

But work is still a big part of myself – my life inspires my dance, and my dance inspires my life. They feed each other, through experiences and appreciation and it’s important to know you can enjoy both worlds!

TW:   What advice do you wish you were told when starting out as a dancer?

ET:   To never forget the love and joy I always have had for dance. Remember where that passion came from and dance from that special place.

“When I hear the English National Ballet Philharmonic Orchestra, I always feel so inspired to make my body move.”

TW:   Photographers, including Brad Wells, Shaun James Grant and Lorenzo Levrini, have long captured the English National Ballet. Who would be your dream artist or photographer to capture your work?

ET:   There are so many incredible photographers but one that springs to mind was Rick Guest. He did a wonderful book ‘What Lies Beneath’, capturing not only the beauty of dance but the beauty of the dancer. The longer I dance, the deeper I feel that dance is more than trying to make beautiful positions. It’s about feeling something, and how those feelings can shape movement. ‘What Lies Beneath’ highlights precisely that: you don’t see a pretty ballet position, you see the dancers’ personalities, their inner selves. That’s what I like about Rick’s work.

TW:   What piece of music could you not live without?

ET:   The music I listen to depends a lot on my mood or what I’m doing. When I’m getting ready for a show, I prefer to listen to calmer music. Uplifting music really helps me when I need to boost my energy levels. I always like to listen to classical music, even outside of the dance studio. There is nothing better than live music, I can listen to our orchestra (English National Ballet philharmonic) or a live jazz band all night. The way music can be explored and played in so differently by different artists gives me great joy and is a huge inspiration in how I feel and when performing how I move to it.

TW:   What’s your go-to fashion label when you aren’t performing?

ET:   I don’t have a particular favorite label. But I do love fashion and how it makes me feel, I have always felt it’s important to wear what makes me feel good whether it’s a fashion trend or not. I tend to be quite open and explore what’s in the stores, but I don’t stick with trends too much.

TW:   If you could have a culturally curious supper with anyone, who would it be?

ET:   Alicia Alonso. I had the pleasure to meet her when I danced for her in Cuba, and we briefly chatted about my performance. I would have loved to have the time to share a dinner with her and hear more about her life story. She overcame so many challenges in her brilliant career. I will never forget our meeting together.

TW:   Where is your go-to spot in London for inspiration?

ET:   I love to go to the theatre, or museums. London has so many wonderful theatres and talented artists! We are very lucky to live in a city where we are constantly surrounded by creativity and inspiration. My list of favourite museums is endless, the Natural History Museum, Science Museum, Victoria & Albert… I always get fascinated by the colours, shapes, designs and architecture I see in museums – they have the power to inspire me in so many ways.

TW:   If you could own any artwork, what would it be?

ET:   From the fellow Japanese Yayoi Kusama, who is one of the most famous contemporary artists of our time. She has a fascinating life and she shares so much of what she went through in her artwork. She didn’t have an easy life, and yet it’s amazing to see how she fights against her inner battles through art. I get really inspired by her way to express herself and show her feeling through her art. It brings me happiness to see her own vision.

TW:   Which book, song and artwork would you take to a desert island with you?

ET:   Book: The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. It was the first book I’ve read in English, and it was really remarkable. I went to the book shop to get more books from Coelho – I love to read his novels.

Song: Any Adele song. I love her voice, I could listen to her all the time. Our wedding song was one from Adele, so it’s a very special artist for me.

Artwork: A drawing from my son.

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