Drawing: Irina Kolesnikova in Swan Lake

irina k swan lake

One of the world’s finest classical dancers performed the world’s favourite ballet this week at the London Coliseum. The St Petersburg Ballet Theatre concluded it’s 2015 International touring programme of Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake with prima ballerina Irina Kolesnikova headlining the season as both the Swan Queen ‘Odete’ and the antagonist ‘Odile’ at the iconic venue. The production also included special guest artists from Russia’s legendary Bolshoi and Mariinsky Theatres and the English capitals own Royal Ballet. “It’s Kolensnikova that steals the show,” wrote Londonist’s Tiffany Pritchard, “…with her long, willowy arms, supple back arches and lithe yet perfectly controlled pirouettes on the white swan (Odette), followed in quick succession by the robust, high-spirited sequences of the black swan (Odile).” Originally the two roles were played by separate dancers, but it has become customary for prima ballerinas to perform both parts. The Telegraph’s Vanessa Keys said of Irina’s performance,”Her portrayal of the vulnerable swan queen Odette is almost unbearably vulnerable and her Odile is wickedly seductive.”

I’m a novice when it comes to watching and understanding ballet, but I love drawing dancers and their kinetic effect. This pose of Irina as Odette was striking in its simplicity. I just had to draw it…and naturally meet the dancing Swan Queen herself and have it signed. I waited with a handful of dance devotees at the stage door as a procession of performers flowed out, into the balmy evening air, signing programmes  and partaking in convivial conversation. But no one with a ‘long neck and liquid doe-like eyes’ ( as one reviewer described her), resembling Uma Thurman-my reference for Irina-appeared. After an hour and a half, with the time of my last train home fast approaching a Russian gentleman, who was obviously connected to the production and chatting to the more devout of the devotees said, ‘I’ll go and get her.” And he did. I happened to be the first in line. She was very nice and said “Oh” when she saw the sketch and signed it. In the absence of any interpretation I took “Oh” as an expression of approval. Time well spent and I caught the last train.

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