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Carlos Acosta: I don't go out thinking, 'Here I come, the Cuban Sex Missile'

Classical ballet harms your body I used to do 40 to 50 shows a year and I've had plenty of body traumas and surgeries, but it's been worth it. Nothing compares to the feeling of being on stage and connecting with an audience.

Performing in Stravinsky's 'The Rite of Spring' almost killed me I was constantly throwing up, and at the end of the first performance I couldn't move. I'd used up all my energy in one show and I was scared I wouldn't have the ability to finish the whole run.

I have regrets but I wouldn't change a thing I've had a great career, dancing all over the world, winning many awards, but it led me away from my home [in Cuba] at a time when my family were not doing so great, and they didn't get to see that success.

I didn't read a book till I was 25 I was not a very good student, and in many ways I'm still making up for that. But it's never too late to start something new. I've had a lot of time to catch up and now I find great pleasure in learning; I read about where we come from and how things started, and I find everything I absorb affects my art on some level. Right now I'm reading The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón, which is about Barcelona in the time of Franco.

Cuba is opening up to the outside world But you can't rush the process if you want to retain a country's authenticity and culture. Look at islands such as Puerto Rico; I don't know where its culture ends and American culture begins. When the transnationals arrive, it's all about the money and they take over, so Cuba has to be careful.

I try not to think too much about being called a sex symbol I certainly don't go to the supermarket thinking, "Here I come, Carlos the Cuban Sex Missile." I laugh about it instead; it amuses me.

I want to make Cuba an artistic destination not just the place people visit to see the home of Che Guevara. I'd like to go back to Cuba and open a huge dance centre, where all can go to study any kind of dance, and it will act as a bridge from Cuba to the world.

Carlos Acosta, 38, is a ballet dancer and principal guest artist with the Royal Ballet. His new show, 'Premieres Plus', is at the London Coliseum from 27 to 30 July. See carlosacosta.com for further venues and dates