Irina, the coach, the dancer

Irina Kolpakova was one of Kirov Ballet‘s stars, in a time when dancers such as Alla Sizova, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Rudolf Nureyev, Yuri Soloviev, and Natalia Makarova, were among the cast. In other words, amongst the best of the best. And she was already a star.

By invitation of Mikhail Baryshnikov, who was her partner before defection, she moved to the United States, in the early 1990s, coaching stars such as Paloma Herrera and, most recently, Isabella Boylston, again, no name few. She was also the coach of my good friend, Marcelo Gomes, and I froze when I met her backstage. She is amazing.

Irina, who turned 88 today, started to dance when she was 7 years old and retired 50 years later. When she was in her 40s, she was the one to choose a promising young male dancer to partner with her in Giselle and Les Sylphides. He was none other than Baryshnikov, who later, in a tour through Canada, defected to the west. He chose her as a teacher as she was meant to be the ultimate classical ballerina, with perfect technique.

She was revered as a dancer as well she is today as a teacher: Happy Birthday, Irina!

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