VIVIANA DURANTE is guest principal dancer with the Royal Ballet. She left home, near Rome, at the age of 10 to attend the Royal Ballet School in London. Although she has lived in England for 21 years, Viviana still feels very much Italian. "My friends tell me that I have a very Italian personality - whatever that means. I still have an Italian passport. I could have a British one too, but I haven't got around to applying for one."

Being a guest dancer gives her more flexibility to dance with other companies around the world. "Obviously I work around the Royal Ballet, but if I can get a week off, I will go away and dance somewhere else. I enjoy it, although it is challenging."

Viviana travels on these exchanges without her usual partners, so how does she learn a ballet in just a week? "Recently I went to Wiesbaden in Germany to dance Giselle. I've danced it many times with the Royal, but this was a slightly different version. I was there for four days altogether, which was just enough time to rehearse the changes. Usually, though, it is pretty much the same. It is just a matter of getting into the right spiritual mood for the part."

In April Viviana returned to Rome for Sleeping Beauty, a performance that she particularly enjoyed. "I last danced at the Teatro dell'Opera 20 years ago when I was tiny. It was a big comeback for me, I got a really warm reception, especially as all my family were in the audience."

She might have been in safe language territory in Italy, but what about when she travelled to Japan to dance with the Tokyo ballet company? "Most ballet people speak English, and the Japanese are so appreciative that you are working with them, that it becomes so much fun, even if you can only half communicate with each other."

The Royal Ballet breaks for a week at Christmas and for five weeks during the summer. Although Viviana may dance in Rome again during her summer holiday, she will inevitably spend some rest and relaxation time there too. "Whenever I have the chance I go to Italy, I need to get an Italian feeling back into me. If I am not doing anything in London, I tend to go home, even if it is just for a weekend."

Viviana also plans to take a break in the sun later this year but hasn't decided where yet. "I am looking forward to just lying around and drinking some good red wine. I love the sun, perhaps it is because I am from a hot country but I always feel happier when it is sunny. I think it is good to relax and do nothing but recharge your batteries and to think about oneself as a woman rather than a dancer. When you go back to the hair-styling and make-up and costumes after a good holiday it is quite strange. You have a different outlook and feel much more energised, which is good, I think".

The Royal Ballet season at London's Coliseum opens on 7 July. Viviana Durante will be dancing in 'La Bayadere'. Telephone: 0171 632 8300.