When did you start dancing?
I started ballet at considerably late age, when I was already 10 years old.
Why did you start dancing?
It was my mother’s idea for me to try this profession. She was Russian and ballet has always been very popular in Russia and many women dreamt to become a ballerinas. Unfortunately she never had an opportunity to do ballet herself, but she was keen for me to try and to audition for the Estonian State Ballet School.
I was admitted but at the time had no idea what was waiting for me… It was tough training and leaving home to attend boarding school away from my family was one of the hardest things in my life. I cannot say I fell in love with ballet instantly, but it did happen when we first visited a theatre with the school and did our first ballet performances on stage.
Which dancer inspired you most as a child?
My biggest inspiration when I was a student was one of our local prima ballerinas, Kaie Kõrb, but Estonia was at the time part of the Soviet Union and I also admired many Russian stars, especially Ekaterina Maximova and Vladimir Vasiliev.
Which dancer do you most admire?
I don’t have just one specific dancer… Throughout the years I have been inspired by many incredible dancers, all with their own unique talents and qualities, some more famous than others.
What’s your favourite role?
All of them, but one favourite role was definitely Manon and I’m so grateful that it came into my life just at the right moment in time, a period when I felt creatively stuck and wanted to retire.
What role have you never played but would have liked to?
I would have loved of danced Tatiana in John Cranko’s Onegin.
What’s your favourite ballet to watch?
That is difficult question… One of my favorite ballet is Onegin, but even with great masterpieces a lot depends how well something is presented.
Who is your favourite choreographer?
I love MacMillan, Cranko and Balanchine, and of the more contemporary choreographers, Wayne McGregor.
Who is your favourite writer?
I don’t have one.
Who is your favourite director?
Who is your favourite actor?
Nicole Kidman, Jack Nicholson, Shirley Maclaine, Maggie Smith.
Who is your favourite singer?
Celine Dion, Barbra Streisand, Annie Lennox.
What is your favourite book?
Imperial Dancer by Coryne Hall.
What is your favourite film?
The old film by Franco Zeffirelli, La traviata with Teresa Stratas, Placido Domingo and Cornell Macneil. It is so beautifully filmed with most amazing settings and incredible artists – not just singers but also my favourite ballet duo are in it: Ekaterina Maximova and Vladimir Vasiliev!.
Which is your favourite city?
London! The day I arrived I fell in love with the place and I am so happy to have spent 19 years there.
What do you like most about yourself?
What do you dislike about yourself?
I wish I had more patience in certain situations.
What was your proudest moment?
Giving birth to my daughter.
When and where were you happiest?
On stage and dancing together with my husband and, of course, seeing my daughter for the first time when she was born.
What or who is the greatest love of your life?
I have two greatest loves of my life: my husband Thomas and our daughter Elizabeth.
What is your greatest fear?
Losing loved ones and heights.
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
The ability to let go of my fierce attention to detail.
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
Receiving the CBE and not giving up dancing after the many injuries that I have had.
What is your most treasured possession?
What is your greatest extravagance?
My headpieces by Philip Treacy.
What do you consider the most overrated virtue?
On what occasion do you lie?
I don’t, but occasionally a white lie slips out, like when I say to my daughter, “The chocolate biscuits are all finished.”
If you hadn’t been a dancer, what would you have liked to be?
What is your most marked characteristic?
What quality do you most value in a friend?
Honesty, loyalty, love.
What quality do you most value in a colleague?
Professionalism and loyalty.
Which historical figure do you most admire?
Queen Elizabeth I.
Which living person do you most admire?
My close friend Tessa.
What do you most dislike?
Dishonesty and being late!
What talent would you most like to have?
What’s your idea of perfect happiness?
A perfect balance of everything in life! Does it exist?
How would you like to die?
Peacefully without pain and regrets.
What is your motto?
Cherish what you’ve got and appreciate every day you have!
Agnes Oaks – a biography
Agnes Oaks was born in Estonia and trained at the schools of the Estonian State Ballet and the Bolshoi Ballet, going on to dance with the Estonian Ballet before eventually joining the English National Ballet in 1990 together with her partner (onstage and off) Thomas Edur.
An exceptionally refined classical stylist, she was most naturally suited to the 19th-century repertory, but she also danced in works by Kenneth MacMillan, Michael Corder and Derek Deane- Oaks and Edur created roles in Wayne McGregor’s 2Human in 2003 which revealed an unexpectedly spiky, contemporary edge to her dancing.
She and Edur spent a year with Birmingham Royal Ballet from 1996, and then embarked on a joint freelance career, returning to English National Ballet as principal guest artists until the couple retired in 2009.