Becoming Aurora

Q&A with Principal Artist Neneka Yoshida

We caught up with Neneka to discuss how she is preparing for her Principal debut as Aurora, the challenges she has encountered so far, and what she enjoys the most about Greg Horsman’s The Sleeping Beauty.

Becoming Aurora

How did you feel when you discovered Aurora would be your first role as a Principal Artist?

It was a dream come true. Aurora has been my dream role since I started ballet. I’ve watched so many of my ballet idols perform this role countless times. It is an absolute honour to perform as Aurora for my first major performance as a Principal Artist. 

Have you performed the role of Aurora before?

This is my first time performing the role of Aurora. When I was a Company Artist for Queensland Ballet in 2015, Greg Horsman gave me the opportunity to learn the role as an understudy. I was so grateful to have that experience, as I was able to shadow the Principal Artist as they were preparing the role. Six years later, it is so special to be performing as Aurora as a Principal Artist. 

How have rehearsals been so far? How have you been preparing for the role?

Rehearsals have been going really well. This production adheres to the more traditional and classical styles of ballet, so I have tried to really respect that during rehearsals. 

What is the most challenging part of the role of Aurora?

Greg, Mary and Li have really helped me learn The Sleeping Beauty style. The role of Aurora is very technically challenging. The steps are quite simple, but they strictly follow the traditional classical style. In Act 1, for example, there are so many controlled steps, and steps that require balance. From the moment Aurora appears on stage, she doesn't stop dancing until she falls asleep under Carabosse's spell. You need to have great stamina, but you also need to make those iconic steps look effortless and elegant. 

What do you love about The Sleeping Beauty?

Everything! I especially love the elegance and beauty of Aurora’s choreography. I also love Tchaikovsky’s score. Whenever I hear it, I can't stop smiling. The atmosphere of this ballet is so magical. 

Were you familiar with the story of Sleeping Beauty before rehearsing the ballet? 

Yes, when I was a little girl, I was a big fan of Disney. Then, when I was in primary school, Santa Claus gave me a DVD of the Royal Ballet's production of The Sleeping Beauty, with Alina Cojocaru performing as Aurora. Watching this DVD was one of the factors that inspired me to become a professional dancer.

Have you had a costume fitting yet? What was it like trying on the costume for the first time?

Yes! We have two costumes for Aurora, and for this production, the Wardrobe Department are creating new tutus. When I had my fitting, the tutus were very simple, just pink and white. Even though they weren’t finished it was still a special moment to see myself in the mirror wearing Aurora's costume. Something I have dreamt about for a very long time is finally becoming a reality! I can’t wait to be on stage as Aurora surrounded by beautiful costumes, sets, music, and characters! 

The Sleeping Beauty will run from the 4th until the 19th of June at QPAC.


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