"Up to now, I've had about 120 partners in total," Nina Ananiashvili declared with a laugh. "Of course, I mean on the stage."

Even after 35 years in the spotlight, the dancer described by London's Daily Telegraph as "one of the 12 greatest ballerinas of all time" was obviously still her famously sparkling self when we met for an interview ahead of her "Final Classical Gala" shows in Tokyo next month.

Now aged 53, the former child prodigy from the Georgian capital of Tbilisi danced in Russia and widely around the world before being invited back to her then independent homeland in 2004 to revive the State Ballet of Georgia as both a performer and its artistic director.