She is only asoloist but Oleysa Novikova of the Kirov Ballet has already snatched the roles of an Emerald and a Ruby in George Balanchine's box-office ballet gem, Jewels.
Perhaps one day she might dance the principal role she covets? "No, I think not," she says wistfully, rolling soulful dark eyes like a child denied the most glittering trinket in the jewellery box. "I am too small to be a Brilliant," which is what the Russians call their diamonds.
Although known for his experimental approach to classical dance and as the founder of New York City Ballet, Balanchine created the Diamonds act of the full-length Jewels in homage to the Kirov's grand Imperial style.
It was, of course, a cool and regal elegance he was wholly familiar with, having been trained at the company's ballet school in St Petersburg before joining the Kirov in 1921 where he began to choreograph student works. Three years later he left with three other dancers on a short European tour, was head-hunted by Diaghilev for Ballets Russe and never went back.
Ironically, given its historical ties to Balanchine, the Kirov was one of the last ballet companies in the world to embrace his work. Yet it was also the first European company to stage Jewels in its entirety, performing all three acts in October 1999 at its decadent Mariinsky Theatre home.
Novikova is talking to me there, perched on one of the theatre's ornate velvet chairs in a dark green and white ante-room to the auditorium. Dark-haired, with a heart-shaped face, she talks animatedly of her love of dancing and of touring and of how much she is looking forward to her arrival in Birmingham on May 19.
It will be the Kirov Ballet's first visit to the city accompanied by its orchestra and the programme at the Birmingham Hippodrome, May 20-24, includes Jewels with Novikova as an Emerald. Balanchine described the Emeralds section as "the evocation of France; the France of elegance, comfort, dress, perfume."
Novikova, however, will not be drawn on whether she prefers the romantic Emeralds set to a Fauvre score to the dynamic Las Vegasbrashness of Rubies and Stravinsky. Balanchine gave his classical showpiece Diamonds the music of Tchaikovsky. What else?
"I just adore Balanchine; I'd like to do more of his work. Technically it's difficult and I am really exhausted after a performance but I like it very much," she exclaims. "I would also like to do more new repertoire in general - Jiri Kylian, William Forsythe, John Cranko, the more the better. But we consider ourselves to be the capital of classical ballet; we do not do so much contemporary choreography."
Like virtually every dancer with the Kirov Ballet, Novikova is a graduate of what is now the Vaganova Ballet Academy: "I started at the academy when I was 10 years old. I had tried to enter the school twice before but failed. I wasn't accepted because they said the length of my fingers and toes was not right. I thought I was not talented enough but my own dancing teachers encouraged me to try a third time and I got in.
"It was not easy being a student. The day started around 9am with two hours of classical ballet, followed by academic subjects like mathematics, and then classes such as folk dancing. We finished about 5.30pm but sometimes dance practice went on to 7pm. If you lived far away from the school there was a 90-minute journey to and from school. I was one of those children. It was exhausting."
Principal Andrian Fadeyev is one of Novikova's five dance partners, although they will not perform together on the two-week UK visit. He graduated from the academy in 1995 and was already a principal by the age of 20 two years later.
"The company's policy is to give the dancers an opportunity to show what they are capable of. If you have the skills and abilities and if you are reliable, look beautiful on stage and have a good line, you will find your way," he says of his meteoric rise from corps to principal.
He too enjoys Balanchine. "His ballets are said not to have plots but all Balanchine ballets have a special kind of touch and a colour - and he knew how to fuse music and classical choreography," he exlains.
"His choreography differs from the classical but the difference is not so profound. It was difficult when we started but then it comes into your body and begins to help with the classical style.
For instance, Balanchine requires very, very turned out feet and footwork that is clean and distinct and very fast. There are a lot of very small steps. This makes you stronger and faster in the rest of your work."
Blonde, with dreamy grey-blue eyes, Fadeyev's mother was a dancer while his wife - Kirov principal character artist Alexandra Gronskaya - sometimes brings their three-year-old son Pasha to the theatre.
"It is a tradition that started in the 19th century. Children stand in the wings and watch the performance. This is how ballet careers start; how mine started. It is very important that the children understand what it means to be a dancer. They see the bleeding toes and the heaving in the wings and also get a tiny taste of the glamour."
The Kirov's programme includes the full-length ballets Jewels and Don Quixote and agala performance made up of the one-act Chopiniana - which British audiences know as Les Sylphides - set pieces from his Le Spectre de la Rose and the Kingdom of the Shades sequence from Act III of La Bayadere.
* Birmingham Hippodrome, May 20-24 as part of The International Dance Festival Birmingham.