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Irina Alexandrovna Kolpakova was born in Leningrad and studied at the Leningrad Choreographic School where she was an outstanding member of the great pedagogue Agrippina Vaganova’s last graduating class (1951). She entered the Leningrad-Kirov Ballet at the age of eighteen and danced her first leading role, the title role in Cinderella, at the age of twenty-two.
Her roles with the Leningrad-Kirov Ballet included the Waltz and Mazurka in Chopiniana (Les Sylphides), Eve in The Creation of the World, (to the Andre Petrov score), the title role in Giselle, Maria in Rostislav Zakharov’s The Fountain of Bakhchiserai, Masha in The Nutcracker, Desdemona in Vakhtang Chaiboukiani’s Othello, Natalia in Petrov’s Pushkin, Juliet in Romeo and Juliet, and Princess Aurora in The Sleeping Beauty. Her created roles included Katerina in Yuri Grigorovich’s The Stone Flower (1957), Shyrin in his The Legend of Love (1961), and leading roles in Igor Belsky’s Coast of Hope (1959), Georgi Alexidze’s Ala and Lolly (1969) and Natalia Kasatkina and Vladimir Vasiliov’s Creation of the World (1971).
Kolpakova was honored with the title of Merited Artist of the R.S.F.S.R. in 1957 and People’s Artist of the R.S.F.S.R. in 1960. She is married to Vladilen Semenov who partnered her in many of her most famous roles.
Prior to joining American Ballet Theatre as Ballet Mistress in 1990 during the Company’s 50th Anniversary season, Kolpakova taught and coached the Company in May 1989. Currently, in addition to coaching Principal Dancers, Soloists and company members in La Bayadère, Giselle, The Sleeping Beauty and Swan Lake, she teaches ladies Company class. She also performs the role of the Czarina in The Snow Maiden.
Kolpakova received a 2010 Dance Magazine Award.