Being coached by a treasure like former Kirov prima Irina Kolpakova is an experience most dancers only dream of. But company members at American Ballet Theatre have been the lucky beneficiaries of her wisdom since 1990. Thanks to Instagram, where pros like Gillian Murphy and James Whiteside share snippets of their sessions with Kolpakova, any ballet lover can be a fly on the wall during rehearsals with the famed ballet mistress.
Though she’s well into her 80s, don’t you dare think that Kolpakova has gone soft. She coaches with incredible passion, not to mention a dash of humor, and never lets a dancer rest on their laurels—yes, even James Whiteside needs to be reminded how to properly prep for a pirouette now and then.
We’ve gathered videos of our favorite tough-love lessons from Kolpakova. Take note.
Lesson #1: Don’t be so sensitive. Be strong.
Lesson #2: Pay attention to timing.
Lesson #3: Don’t let épaulement be an afterthought.
Lesson #4: Be passionate, and don’t throw away your movements.
Lesson #5: Mind the wind up before you turn.
Lesson #6: Placement matters…and Kolpokova possibly cares about it even more than Gillian Murphy doing a quintuple.
Lesson #7: When it comes to Kolpakova, talent is forever. (Just watch her partner with David Hallberg.)