Irina Kolpakova in the studio with Katherine Williams. Photo by Quinn Wharton for Pointe.

7 Tough-Love Lessons from the Legendary Irina Kolpakova

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 #6: Placement matters...and Kolpokova possibly cares about it even more than Gillian Murphy doing a quintuple. 

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How Can I Stay Motivated While Training at Home?

Ethan Ahuero was having a good year: he was in his first season dancing with Kansas City Ballet II and had been presented with the opportunity to choreograph on the second company. "The day before we shut down I had a rehearsal, and I was so happy," Ahuero says. "The piece was coming together and this was the first time I felt really proud of my creative process."

Suddenly, the coronavirus pandemic brought everything to a halt. With the company's season cut short and the studios closed, Ahuero found himself attempting to continue dancing from home, with his choreography project put on hold. Like many other dancers around the world, Ahuero is dealing with disappointment while struggling to stay motivated.

Keeping up with daily ballet classes may feel difficult right now; inspiration can seem hard to come by when you're following along on Zoom and short on space at home. Below are a few simple tips for finding new ways to stay motivated.

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Isabella Boylston has been teaching on Zoom for Universal Ballet Competition, as well as on Instagram Live. (Courtesy Boylston)

(Virtual) Dancing with the Stars: How to Get the Most Out of Online Classes with Dance Celebs

When your dance studio is your second home, taking class in your actual home just isn't the same. But if there's one silver lining to the current situation, it's that some of the biggest dance stars from stage and screen have gone online to lead barres, host dance parties, demonstrate combos, and teach technique classes—some of which are completely free.

"Students can learn so much from working with the pros directly," says American Ballet Theatre principal Isabella Boylston, who teaches on Zoom through Universal Ballet Competition as well as offering the Cindies Ballet Class on Instagram Live with fellow ABT principal James Whiteside. "It's inspiring and eye-opening to connect with dancers all over the world."

So what benefits do these virtual master classes offer? How do they fit into your overall training regimen? And how do you even navigate all of the content that's out there? Read on for advice from the pros.

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Tulsa Ballet in Ma Cong's Tchaikovsky: The Man Behind the Music. Kate Luber Photography, Courtesy Tulsa Ballet.

Updated: Mark Your Calendars for These Online Ballet Performances

Updated on 5/27/2020

Since COVID-19 has forced ballet companies around the world to cancel performances—and even the remainder of their seasons—many are keeping their audiences engaged by streaming or posting pre-recorded performances onto their websites or social media channels. To help keep you inspired during these challenging times, we've put together a list of upcoming streaming events and digital performances.

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