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Irina Kolesnikova (Principal Dancer)

Irina Kolesnikova was born in St Petersburg - regarded by many as the most beautiful city in Europe - in 1980.

Her first dream was to be a doctor. Her father, a lawyer, and mother, who taught at a St Petersburg kindergarten, encouraged Irina to pursue many sporting goals. First, she excelled at swimming, followed by ice skating and gymnastics. It was her prodigious talents in these two artistic sports that led young Irina, aged 9, on her journey towards ballet stardom, which began through the doors of St Petersburg’s famous Vaganova Ballet Academy, the inspirational cradle of Russian ballet. Irina studied at the Academy under Elvira Kokorina and, following nine years of hard work, she graduated in the summer of 1998, her 18th year.

Later that same year - in December - Irina was accepted into Konstantin Tachkin’s St Petersburg Ballet Theatre as a soloist where her first teacher was former Kirov Ballet star and Honoured Artist of the USSR, Svetlana Efremova. Within two years, Irina’s extraordinary dancing talent and acting abilities were recognized by her promotion to principal. By 2001, Irina Kolesnikova had become the company’s Prima Ballerina, aged just 21.

Her many great roles cover a wide repertoire of classical and romantic ballet include Clara in Nutcracker, Princess Aurora in The Sleeping Beauty, Kitri in Don Quixote, Nikiya in La Bayadère, the title role of Paquita and, of course, any ballerina’s most coveted roles – in the title role of Giselle and as Odette/Odile in Swan Lake. Today, Irina Kolesnikova works under the tutelage of Lyubov Kunakova, herself honoured as a People’s Artist of Russia, who coaches Irina for all her major roles and oversees her strict training regime.

It is in the definitive role of Odette/Odile in Swan Lake that Irina has made her most impressive mark, both in Russia and abroad. Her portrayal of the Swan Queen has become an indelible personal trademark.

The Parisian Journal, Danse Magazine, aptly summarised the many rave reviews that Irina has received for her interpretation of the white and black swan, when respected dance journalist, Margarita Medina, wrote:

“Thanks to this amazingly supple dancer, an artist from head to toe, we got to see the truly ideal Swan. Her tenderness and timidity were very touching.

…Irina united drama with virtuosity in her marvellous illustration of the double-sided nature of this role. Her Black Swan was imposing and self-assured. Her perfect pirouettes and double and triple fouettés electrified the audience of the Théatre des Champs-Elysees.

Her lack of any internal tension, freedom of movement and her expressiveness, all combine to allow us to place this Saint Petersburg star, pleasant behind the scenes and brilliant on stage, at the summit of a choreographic Olympia alongside the other outstanding talents of her generation.

In 2008, Irina enriched her repertoire by venturing into the sphere of contemporary dance for a season at the Apollo Theatre in London’s West End, where she danced the role of Hollywood legend Judy Garland, in Peter Schaufuss’s hugely successful dance spectacular, Divas.

As a member of the St Petersburg Ballet Theatre, Irina has toured extensively across six continents to Spain, Germany, Belgium, The Netherlands, Great Britain, Ireland, France, Italy, Austria, Switzerland, Finland, Brazil, Turkey, South Africa, South Korea, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, China, Macau and Taiwan.

Irina is the recipient of numerous Russian and International dance prizes:

• Natalia Makarova Prize and the Silver Medal at Arabesque 2002 in Russia
• Silver Medal at the world-renowned International Ballet Competition in Varna
• Gold Medal at the International Ballet Competition in Prague
• Nomination for the international prize at Benois de la Danse
• Silver Medal at the 5th Japan International Ballet and Modern Dance Competition
• Nomination by the Critics’ Circle of the UK as a finalist for Best Female Dancer in the National Dance Awards

A photographic album of her career, entitled simply Irina Kolesnikova has been published, featuring more than one hundred superb photographs of the ballerina on and off stage. The introduction to the album is written by the legendary Russian-American ballet critic and photographer, Nina Alovert.

Irina also stars in three DVDs - filmed around the world –performing the leading roles in Swan Lake, Giselle and The Nutcracker.

Back in St Petersburg, Irina’s parents and her banker brother Ruslan eagerly follow her travels around the world and her astounding triumphs.

“The hardest part of a ballerina’s life is missing a home life” says Irina. “Oh, and the constant pain and the need to stay 100% fit, 100% of the time,” she adds: “I’m lucky of course, as I love to perform, love to see new countries and meet new and different cultures. Everything I see, everyone I meet contributes to my emotional palette.”

In her rare, quiet moments, Irina likes to develop her embroidery skills.

Irina is married and recently returned to the stage after giving birth to her first child, a daughter, in 2014.

Edited by Graham Watts





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