Inga Eglite quite literally danced into local lives.

She was first spotted in the ensemble of last year's musical theatre production Evita, becoming affectionately known as a 'pocket rocket'.

Her exuberant personality's a perfect match, for her life's a blast.

Inga adds yet another layer to this city's conglomerate of cultures.

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Latvia's her birthplace, it's her father's homeland, her mother's Russian, her husband's from Estonia, her grandparents live in the States, she's worked in China.

A professionally-trained ballet dancer, she spent eight years at the Riga Choreography School where academic studies ran in tandem with dance classes.

Inga wasn't one of those little girls who dreamed of pink point slippers and tutus; her mother did the dreaming for her.

"She didn't get into ballet school when she was little but was determined I would; when I was 10 I managed to meet the criteria to enter the Choreography school."

The reality is Inga's a natural-born dancer.

Any Kiwi kid who thinks they're hard done by spending six or so hours a day in a classroom take heed.

At Inga's school they studied until "whenever", book work in the morning, dancing from then on in, Saturdays included.

"If we were in rehearsal we stayed until very late, we spent a lot of time in that school."

Despite graduating with a diploma in ballet (a lot didn't make the grade) Inga knew a ballerina's life wasn't for her.

"Somewhere along the way I lost passion for classical ballet, teachers screaming and telling students how bad they were just didn't work for me; I believe it's hard to be good at anything you're not passionate about."

Her passion lay with things Spanish; she enrolled in the Latvian Academy of Culture where, with a BA in Latvia and Spain's inter-cultural relations secured, she moved to a Masters in cultural management.

To fund her studies she worked as a tour guide for English and Spanish tourists.

She learnt "our" language in childhood, her delivery's faultless.

As she talks of her guiding years it dawns on Our People how embarrassingly little we know of her Baltic state and what draws visitors to it.

Our ignorance is compounded when we discover how much she knew about this country before her arrival: "the kiwi bird, Lord of the Rings, extreme adventure stuff".

The capital Riga, she patiently tells us, is a UNESCO World Heritage site, noted for its medieval and art nouveau architecture.

"Our town's absolutely amazing with so many things happening now."

Inga's been at the sharp end of two of them. First off the blocks was office manager for Miss Universe Latvia; being the contact person for the Eurovision Song Quest's Spanish entrant followed. Her day job was teaching Latvian to foreign students at the Berlitz Language School.

We don't doubt it when she says her's is a difficult language to learn.

"The grammar's complicated, demanding."

In what was a delightful, meandering conversation Inga drops in how, at 22, she met her now husband, Tarvi, they were on an inter-university cultural programme together.

He was studying engineering. When his post-graduation employers, an international corporation, posted him to Shanghai Inga went too.

"It was crazy, new, exciting, annoying at times, I was teaching English at the University of East China."

A year on Tarvi was transferred to coastal Rizhao; Inga again taught English, this time to 6 to 18-year-olds.

She goes all giggly on us describing the day he proposed on the beach.

"I didn't see that coming at all it was so unexpected."

They married three months later at their favourite rendezvous spot, Parnu in Estonia.

"We thought of eloping to the Philippines or somewhere tropical but the documentation was too troublesome so we got married on a nice winter's day. I wore rubber boots and a short white dress, there were just the two of us, our families respected our decision to be alone."

She was pregnant with the couple's daughter when her husband was transferred to New Zealand in 2013.

"I went back to Latvia alone to deliver her, my husband had started here a month earlier."

Baby Mia was more than two months old before her father saw her "live".

Based at Kinleith, he chose Rotorua for the family's home "because of the mountain biking, he's really passionate about it".

Being a stay-at-home mum made Inga happy - to a degree.

"To be honest there was a lot of homesickness then I saw about the auditions for Evita, I've always loved musicals, my grandparents live in New York, I'd seen many shows on Broadway, loved Ricky Martin in Evita, when I got into it here it proved to me that Rotorua is the place where dreams come true. Through it I've rediscovered myself, made so many amazing friends."

Being back performing gave her the confidence to look for work.

"I've always wanted to get into hospitality, when the Terrace Kitchen opened I was offered a front of house job, I absolutely love it."

However, a new business venture's consuming the couple. Along with Russian friends they're on the verge of opening Rotofobia, defined by Inga as an "escape adventure house".

"In Europe they're huge, 10 in my home town."

And that homesickness?

"It's long, long gone, I'd never want to live anywhere else but here."

INGA EGLITE
Born: Riga, Latvia, 1981.
Education: Local primary, Riga Choreography School, Latvian Academy of Culture.
Family: Husband Tarvi, daughter Mia, parents and brother in Latvia.
Interests: Family, "Our new business". Musical theatre, movies, travelling, meeting people of different cultures. "Living in China I studied Mandarin." Reading (in English).
What's next: "I was lucky enough to be selected for hospice's Dancing With The Stars at the public auditions, that's really cool."
On Rotorua: "I love it, it's friendly, has everything, all the nature, its steaminess is amazing. I've never complained about the smell."
Personal philosophy: "Living the amazing race of life with a smile on my face."