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English National Ballet

Tamara Rojo introduces Erina Takahashi & James Streeter

TUE 7 JULY 2020

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For 20 years, Grange Park Opera has presented dance in all shapes and sizes including hip-hop’s Boy Blue, the Ballet Boys and Royal Ballet prima ballerina Zenaida Yurowsky. 

Erina Takahashi & James Streeter

Erina is the lead principal and her first soloist husband, James, opened up about to the Times’ Hannah Evans about parenthood and the pain and perfection of their lives as dancers with English National Ballet

Erina

My mum says I was dancing from the age of three and that whenever music was on, I was moving, even if it was in the supermarket. I came to the UK from Japan to study at the English National Ballet School when I was 15. It was terrifying not being able to speak English and not knowing anyone, but ballet is an international language and so somehow you understand.

I had already been promoted to principal dancer at English National Ballet when James joined the corps de ballet. At the time, the hierarchy between dancers was quite strong, but I remember when I was in the ranks I found the older dancers rather scary and so I wanted to talk to everyone. James and I had a close friendship group and our relationship developed naturally. I remember always feeling so comfortable talking to him, he made me laugh and it was so easy.

I still get a little bit nervous sometimes, but then I remember that I love what I’m doing. I love dancing with James. Somehow when I’m with him I don’t need to think. It’s hard to pick a favourite performance, but dancing at Glastonbury [in 2014] was the most memorable, not just being on stage, but because we were doing it together. I remember looking forward and seeing all those tiny dots of people’s faces and thinking, wow. Then, when the show had finished, we didn’t hear any noise from the crowd. You could have heard a pin drop.

Being a professional ballet dancer is mentally and physically demanding, so you have to make sure you look after yourself. We have a physio, a medical director, sports scientists and nutritionists, so we’re very lucky. You’re trained [to be on pointe] from when you’re little, but when you come back from a break it can be painful, so during the last week of a holiday I’ll wear my pointe shoes around the house. It sounds ridiculous, but even a few hours can help my feet get used to them.

I’d imagined getting back into shape after Archie was born would be like coming back after a big injury, but it was much harder. You don’t feel any muscles in your core and your strength doesn’t return straight away either. It was almost as though I had to relearn my body.”’

Since having Archie, our time priorities have changed. When I’m at work I put in 100% and make sure I fit in every training session and class, then as soon as we’re home we put it aside and focus on family. We love unwinding as a three, and now Archie eats the same as us, dinnertime is special. When it’s just the two of us, I only talk to him in Japanese, and when I have more time I’d love to cook food from home so that he can experience the flavours.

Archie loves watching rehearsals from the wings and last year he came to see Nutcracker. Now he won’t stop marching around like the soldiers, which has made me realise that everyone, even tiny kids, can enjoy ballet.

Strange Habits

James on Erina Her folding skills are incredible. When you pull open a drawer to get out a T-shirt, it’s unbelievable

Erina on James He gets stressed about the little things

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Thai Duck Salad with Asparagus

2kg duck (not Barbary)
400g slim asparagus
150g mixed salad leaves
2in piece of cucumber
Fresh herb sprigs (e.g. coriander, basil, mint)
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Dressing
1-2 tsp sugar
1 clove garlic finely chopped
2 tblsp nam pla (thai fish sauce) (I use a little less)
Juice of 1 lime
2 red chillies deseeded and finely chopped
2 spring onions thinly sliced

 

Duck Salad

 

 

  • The night before, pour a kettle full of boiling water over the duck and put in fridge – patted dry and uncovered
  • Pre-heat oven to 230oC/ 450F, salt the duck inside and roast for 20 mins
  • Lower heat to 190o / 375F and rost for a further 1-1.5 hours
  • Meanwhile cook the asparagus (5 mins until just tender) cut into bits
  • Make the dressing by crushing the garlic with the sugar in a pestle and mortar
  • Work in the Nam pla and 2 tlsp each of lime juice and water
  • Stir in the chillies and spring onions (add more sugar or lime to taste)
  • Arrange salad leaves on a large serving plate
  • Pull off the duck skin and pull off the meat. Shred it.
  • Add the duck, asparagus, cucumber, herbs and some crispy duck skin to the salad leaves
  • Mix up and scatter over the herbs
  • Pour over the dressing and mix