2020 Asian Women of Achievement Awards Arts & Culture Winner, Erina Takahashi

For 21 years, the Asian Women of Achievement Awards has celebrated the immense accomplishments of Asian women working in the UK. The event, usually held at a star-studded ceremony at the London Hilton, was this year held virtually, presented by CNBC Anchor, Karen Tso. Thirteen women were selected as category winners by a judging panel chaired by Sir Nicholas Young, Former CEO, British Red Cross. Here we place the spotlight on Lead Principal Ballerina at English National Ballet, Erina Takahashi, the 2020 winner of the Arts & Culture Award.

A ballerina at the pinnacle of her career

Erina is Lead Principal dancer at English National Ballet. Originally from Japan, she left her family and moved to the UK with limited understanding of English, when she was just 15 years old. She joined the Company in 1996; becoming Principal Dancer in 2000 and Lead Principal in 2007 (the highest rank possible).

A true inspiration in her field, Erina has performed for English National Ballet for over 24 years and is still at the top of her game, having danced all the lead roles in over 35 different ballets from Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty and Romeo & Juliet to the Nutcracker and Cinderella.

Her work ethic, flawless performances, incredible technique, style and grace is marvelled all over the world and wows audiences on stage, but that is not all. Erina is committed to mentoring young ballerinas, and feels immense responsibility to pass on her knowledge to future generations, strengthening dance and ballet for the long-term. In the words of the Asian Women of Achievement judges, ‘Her kindness characterises her and she is an inspiration and a role model in the arts.’

Four quick questions with Erina

In the toughest of years, what has helped you stay positive?
There is no better time than to talk about this right now especially in this extremely uncertain time. It’s very worrying not knowing what will happen in the future but for me I have always tried to set myself personal goals. I tried keeping in the best possible fitness and work to find something new within myself, adapting to what is happening and the situations we find ourselves in. There are always struggles but I have always tried to look at ways to improve in myself through learning from them.

What advice would you give young aspiring ballerinas?

Follow your dreams, no matter how big you feel they might be. Listen, watch, and remain open minded. And most importantly when things get really tough never forget the reason you dance. A dancer will always be a dancer, you will carry that with you whatever you do. It’s really important to know yourself, to maintain your fitness and to look after your body.

What do you wish would change in your field? (Aside from COVID-19, of course.)
We are blessed with incredibly talented young dancers coming through, they have become more stronger technically than ever before, my hope is that they don’t lose that emotional side within dance, moving someone not only through movement alone but with pure emotion. I love watching when I can feel something from the dancer instead of just a choreography.

Your role demands incredible drive and commitment. How do you maintain your focus and some work–life balance?
I always have something to aim for, I am always striving for perfection, setting myself goals throughout life as a dancer and as a person. I always want to improve and to keep striving for something I put in my mind. I try to maximise every minute of the day when I am at work. I always try to achieve something no matter if it’s big or small. When I get home I get to spend my time with my beautiful son. Being a mother is so wonderful and sharing incredible moments and watching our son grow brings me so much joy. It has not only changed me as a person but as a dancer too. He is my inspiration.

To learn more about the 2020 winners of the Asian Women of Achievement Awards, click here to watch the 2020 virtual presentation.

Get involved with the Asian Women of Achievement Awards
The Asian Women of Achievement Awards, founded by Pinky Lilani CBE DL, celebrate multicultural Britain and the contribution of diverse cultures and talents to UK society. For over two decades, these awards have played a key role in redefining the contribution of Asian women and informing a new, positive, pro-diversity debate.

You can get involved with the Asian Women of Achievement Awards and the Women of the Future Programme at large, by nominating for the 2021 shortlist and engaging with the many networking and mentoring initiatives available. Nominations for the 2021 Awards will open in December.