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Irina Kolpakova


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#1 vagansmom

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Posted 15 August 2001 - 04:45 PM

Can someone explain to me why she is considered a great Russian ballerina? I recently read in a book about Nureyev that Fonteyn, when she first saw Kolpakova, was shaken. She felt that if K. were in the West, she'd be a genuine threat to her own supremacy of the time. Reading this, I looked forward to viewing a performance of Kolpakova.

My daughter just got a "Great Pas de Deux" video which includes K. dancing in "Sleeping Beauty" with Sergei Berezhnoi. I was sorely disappointed! Granted, I'm a neophyte when it comes to understanding the details of ballet. There may be some quality she had IN HER DAY that was unusual but because I'm not familiar enough with ballet history, I'm not seeing it. I DO know that I love what little I've seen of Fonteyn, for instance.

In this Kolpakova/Berezhnoi pas de deux, I found her to have an excessively stiff upper body. Her head, neck, shoulders and back weren't the least bit expressive. And she had a set amateurish smile (reminded me of your "ballerina polish" thread) plastered on her face the whole time which made me feel almost as though she weren't really "there" but going through the motions. I don't know where, in her career, to place this dance. Was it early on? Late in her career? Was she nursing an injury?

#2 Mme. Hermine

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Posted 15 August 2001 - 05:03 PM

mom, she said that she did not like people to see that performance as she was at that point over 50 years old and didn't feel she looked her best in it. i know there are others, if i can look around tonight at what i have i'll recommend one.

[ 08-15-2001: Message edited by: Mme. Hermine ]

#3 ralphsf

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Posted 15 August 2001 - 06:48 PM

Kolpakova had a rep of being a brilliant technician but not a very expressive dancer. In the four or five videos I've seen of her, she seems like a very cold dancer and not someone who put much character into her steps. I suspect Fonteyn (not my favorite dancer either) was intimidated by Russian dancers. From what I've seen, I think Sizova and Shelest were hands down better than Kolpakova.

#4 Alexandra

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Posted 15 August 2001 - 07:11 PM

From people I know who saw Kolpakova many times, I'd go with the "She's 50 on that video!" answer.

I think there are so few classical ballerinas dancing today -- classical in the sense that Kolpakova and Fonteyn were classical, in the sense of employ, not good, bad or indifferent -- that they don't appeal to those who've grown up on Romantic and/or neoclassical ballerinas (the willow trees and the high kickers). I see a bit of Kolpakova in Lezhnina (who's Aurora is available on video, I believe). This may be fanciful, as I didn't see the older ballerina in her prime. But there's the same crystalline purity that, to me, is right for Aurora. I like the little pieces of video I've seen of Sizova as well, but I do not believe it's possible to make a judgment about a dancer based on only seeing them on video.

#5 felursus

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Posted 15 August 2001 - 07:22 PM

I was fortunate to have seen Kolpakova dance with the Kirov when they first came to New York in 1961. At the time I was simply overwhelmed by her artistry. Her technique and ability to portray the characters she danced were simply exquisite. Sizova, whom I also saw in the same season, was a more virtuoso dancer, but Kolpakova brought true clarity to her roles. I'm not sure if there are any good films from the early 60s - the time when she was at the height of her powers, technically speaking. I have seen her in Giselle, Sleeping Beauty, Raymonda and many smaller roles: Les Sylphides, Nutcracker excerpts, etc. (I don't have the programs handy to help me recall everything I saw her do in two visits by the Kirov to NY - 1961 and 1965- I think it was. I guess a visit to my storeroom to dig out the programs might be in order.) At the time Kolpakova was usually partnered by her husband, Vladilen Semyonov.

#6 Andrei

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Posted 15 August 2001 - 07:33 PM

Kolpakova never was a brilliant technician, but she was a brilliant stylist. If I think about clearness and spiritualness (my English?), the first name is coming to my mind is Kolpakova. From one side she was light as a feather, but from another you understand at once that this girl, women, sylph, princess has something solid and strong inside of her, which doesn't allow anybody to change her inner world.
This kind of chemistry is very difficult to see on the video, but try to believe me, she was one of the few.

#7 Mel Johnson

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Posted 15 August 2001 - 09:45 PM

The second Kirov tour was in 1964; I have very vivid memories of both Kolpakova and Sizova in that season. They brought a complete Raymonda, and my first exposure to her was in that ballet. I saw other things and other people that season, but Kolpakova stands out for the honesty of her presentation, and simplicity of expression. Beautiful technique and glamour didn't hurt, either!

#8 vagansmom

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Posted 16 August 2001 - 10:27 AM

Thank you, everybody. I'm glad to know that this particular performance wasn't during her peak. It must be difficult to be an artist and have, captured on film, a performance that makes you wince.

I wish I could've seen her during her prime. While I know that videos never do justice to the real performance, I'd still be interested in any recommendations any of you can make.


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