Interview with Igor Kolb

Principal with the Kirov Ballet

by Cassandra

August 4 th 2003

When I asked Igor Kolb how he became a dancer his astonishing reply was, “By accident.”

He comes originally from Pinsk, deep in the Belarus countryside. As a youngster Kolb claims he was “disorganised”. He had any number of interests, which never occupied him for long, but then he discovered dance. The revelation came at a club for young people, where dance was one of the attractions and very soon Igor realized that he had found his role in life. Although a little old to start ballet training, no one actually queried his age, as he was “tiny, skinny and young looking”.

He studied for six and a half years and, even before completing his studies, found himself a member of the company of Minsk, the capital of Belarus, where he began dancing featured roles there. But like that other provincial dancer of years before, Rudolf Nureyev, Igor’s dream was St Petersburg and the Kirov. So off he went, he tried to join the Kirov ballet not once, but six times and six times he was rejected. At the seventh attempt he was accepted and the rest as they say is history. Everything changed for him at this point as he found himself alone in the big city without his family and, at first, without money. Although Igor didn’t elaborate about his circumstances, I got the impression that this period of his life included some personal hardship for the sake of his art.

Which school I ask him do we have to thank for his beautiful classical style?
“No school”, he replies as he is inspired by the beautiful countryside of Belarus. And did he have early role models? Not really, because he has always admired many dancers.

I ask about different styles and he tells me that originally he was dancing the romantic roles and indeed, expected to be limited to such roles as “Les Sylphides”, “Sleeping Beauty” and “Swan Lake” and he was very gratified when his repertoire expanded and has recently included such roles as Des Grieux in MacMillan’s “Manon” and Ratmansky’s new version of “Cinderella”. As a dancer he is deeply interested in other dance styles and is keen on researching them. I ask him about the Bournonville style, would he like to try dancing it? “With great pleasure,” he replies with a wide smile.

Does he have a role he particularly enjoys dancing? He is very lucky to dance everything that he wants to dance. And is there a role he aspires to? “More than one”. More than that he doesn’t say. (Mr Kolb is a model of tact and diplomacy).

Which dancer of today does he most admire? “Sylvie Guillem”. He was “absolutely stunned” when he saw her dance in a work called “Smoke” which was recently broadcast from Graz on Russian television. And would you like to dance with her? “It’s not realistic”. You’ve got to dream, I tell him. “I haven’t lost my mind yet!” is the response (amid a great deal of laughter). Then, ever the diplomat, he adds that there are many beautiful ballerinas at the Kirov too. A view I heartily endorse.

I ask about touring, does he have a chance to get to know the places he dances in? “I don’t have many opportunities, but whenever I get one I use it to go and see something new”

What do you like outside of the theatre? “The drama theatre, museums, concerts. It goes without saying that I love classical music, but I like other music as well, a lot depends on the mood I’m in”.

I next ask about his hopes for the future and am totally disarmed by his reply – my son. Nestor, Igor’s baby son, was attending a birthday party as we spoke, of course he would be “carried there” (laughter). Igor is very much the family man and his face lights up with pure joy at the mention of his child and our interpreter adds, “You know he talks about him all the time”. Which of course is the way it should be.

We talk about his performance in “Chopiniana” the night before and Igor accepts my praise in a grateful manner that borders on surprise. When I refer to his fans, he asks incredulously, “Do I have fans?” I assure him he does.

Before we part he tells me how much he loves London as many happy events in his personal life and his career occurred when he was on tour here and on his very first visit he made good friends here. After St Petersburg this is the city he loves best and he always feels at home in London.

I found Igor Kolb to be a most charming, modest man: almost humble about his achievements. He is warm and sincere and unlike most performers he is far more attractive off stage than on. With his prominent Slav cheekbones and dazzling blue eyes, one can easily become distracted when talking to him. As a dancer he is now at the very height of his career, one of a tiny handful of pure classicists, he possesses a perfection that is unusual even by Kirov standards. The birth of his son last year brought him great joy and I’m very happy that his personal life has given him so much contentment. He brings joy to those that watch him and I’m sure many people will join me in wishing him continued happiness for the future.

Igor found time to talk to me in the midst of a very busy schedule and indeed there was a queue waiting to interview him! So I’m very grateful to him for making time for this interview. Many thanks also to Criticaldance’s Coda, who kindly agreed to act as interpreter without prior notice. I’m in your debt, Coda.


Edited by Stuart Sweeney

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