On December 20, dancers from the Leonid Yacobson Ballet Theatre will perform at the Hermitage Theatre, during a special night dedicated to the 170th anniversary of Giselle's arrival to Russia. The famous art director Vyacheslav Okunev is designing new costumes and sets especially for the event, while the rehearsals are being handled by Irina Kolpakova — a remarkably gifted ballerina and follower of the Leningrad academic school, People's Artist of the USSR, who used to be a principal at the Kirov (Mariinsky) Theatre from the 1950s to the 1950s and is currently teaching other dancers at the American Ballet Theatre.
170 years ago, as December snowstorms raged outside just as they do today, the Bolshoi Theatre in Saint-Petersburg was bustling with hectic preparations for the premiere of Giselle in Russia. By then, it had already been a year since the opening performance in Paris, but the tidal wave of excitement was still sweeping over Europe. Saint-Petersburg was waiting for the new sensation with baited breath. All the more so since Elena Andreyanova herself — the greatest dancer in the capital — was rehearsing for the ballet.
Ever since then, Giselle has been counted among the most popular ballets in Russia and around the globe. Each new generation of theatre-goers finds itself swept away by the enchantment of this romantic tale, and each new generation of ballerinas is eager to try out for the role that the ballet master Jules Perrot once created for Carlotta Grisi, the star of Opéra de Paris.
Many outstanding ballerinas have gone down in history for playing the part of Giselle: Lucile Grahn, Fanny Elssler, Nadezhda Bogdanova, Anna Pavlova, Tamara Karsavina, Galina Ulanova, Alla Shelest.
Irina Kolpakova, too, was one of the most renowned Giselles of the 20th century. She first performed this part a few years after graduating from a choreography school, where she had studied under the famous Agrippina Vaganova. Her first partner in this ballet was the world-famous Rudolf Nureyev.
Today, Irina Aleksandrovna Kolpakova helps the Leonid Yacobson Company rehearse Giselle. This is her first time working with this theatre, but it actually makes sense for their paths to cross. After all, Kolpakova was among the Kirov Theatre ballerinas that were hand-picked by Leonid Yacobson to help him bring his choreographic concepts to life. It was for her that the ballet master created the Waltz miniature, with music by Franz Liszt, and the Snegurochka miniature; she also performed the Eternal Spring dance and became the first Maenad in Spartacus.
While staging Giselle at the Leonid Yacobson Theatre, Irina Kolpakova trained several line-ups of dancers. The ballet will premiere on December 20, marking the 170th anniversary of Giselle's first performance in Russia; the main parts will be played by Alla Bocharova and Artyom Pykhachov.