With four roles in a little over four months, Worthing ballerina Francesca Hayward is excited by the “challenge” she faces.

In October, the 23-year-old first soloist with the Royal Ballet made her debut as Juliet in Kenneth Macmillan’s Romeo and Juliet, this month she reprises the role of Clara in The Nutcracker, which she first danced in 2013, in January she is in Frederick Ashton’s Rhapsody and in February, it’s Christopher Wheeldon’s Within the Golden Hour.

“I’ll be exhausted!” Francesca tells Simply Worthing. “Moving from one classical role to another, I think it means my life at home suffers a bit, as I don’t want to read a book or talk about normal things. If I’m very tired, then I have to eat very well, and put my feet up and stretch my legs.

But it’s all very exciting and I’m loving the challenge.”

“You just have to keep doing it. There are moments when you’re not sure how you’re going to get through it, but the more you do it, the more you realise that you felt like that before, and you did make it.”

Last year, Francesca triumphed when she was given the role of Manon in the MacMillan’s three-act The Nutcracker at the age of 22, a role usually reserved for a more experienced ballerina, and the Royal Ballet’s director Kevin O’Hare admitted at the time the casting was a “risk”.

“Manon was incredible – kind of surreal though,” says Francesca. “Usually you build up to that role. It is unusual for a young dancer who hasn’t actually done even a three-act ballet to be given that role. It still feels like I didn’t really do that, it feels like it was all a dream.”

It had come shortly after Francesca’s promotion to soloist, and now it is being reported that she is being “fast-tracked” by Kevin O’Hare and could one day become the first non-white female principal dancer in the company.

“I wouldn’t call it fast-tracked,” says Francesca.”They are definitely giving me roles with lots of opportunities very quickly. It has all happened quickly and Kevin is aware of what I can cope with.

“I wouldn’t say I wouldn’t like to be a principal dancer but I would like to do as many roles as possible. When I retire, I’d like to look back on so many different classics and know that I’ve achieved them as best as I could.”

Francesca spent the first two years of her life in Nairobi with her parents, her mother Kenyan, her father English, and then came to live with her grandparents in West Sussex. They lived first in Goring, where her grandfather ran John Hayward’s pharmacy, and then in Ferring. “When I was three,” recalls Francesca, “my grandma gave me a video of a ballet and although I don’t remember the first time I watched it, I do remember that it was The Nutcracker.”

At three, she joined the Valerie Le Serve ballet school in Worthing, where her talent was nurtured. At 11, she joined the Royal Ballet School, after which she won a series of major prized including the 2009 Lynn Seymour Prize, the 2010 Young British Dancer of the Year as well as prizes at the 2010 Genée International Ballet Competition.

She graduated from the Royal Ballet School to the Royal Ballet Company in 2011, rising from first artist in 2013 to first soloist this year, and was nominated for the 2015 The Times/South Bank Breakthrough Award.

Despite her work being largely in London, Sussex and in particular Worthing hold very fond memories.

She says,“I’ve come back a few times but I haven’t recently been able to because I’ve been so busy. I still have a few very close family friends here and I try to visit them when I can. My grandparents are coming to London to watch me perform.”

• Watch Francesca Hayward dancing the role of Clara in The Nutcracker, recorded live at the Royal Opera House, at 7.15pm on Wednesday December 16 and at 2pm on Sunday December 27, both at the Connaught Studio , Union Place, Worthing. For details and tickets, phone 01903 206206 or visit worthingtheatres.co.uk. More details at roh.org.uk.

Front page picture: ©ROH / Tristram Kenton, 2013