Irina Kolesnikova’s endless flight with the swan

Very few dancers remain at one company for 18 years. And that’s especially rare if they’ve been performing as a principal artist for most of those years.

One such dancer is Irina Kolesnikova who joined St Petersburg Ballet Theatre in 1998 when she was 18 years old. Three years later she was promoted to principal and has since danced as Odette/Odile in Swan Lake in numerous cities around the world.

Now 36, she will soon be touring to Australia for the fifth time to dance, yes, once again, in Swan Lake, with St Petersburg Ballet Theatre. The brief three-city tour in December begins in Adelaide, then on to Melbourne and finally Sydney just before Christmas.

The Australian tour will follow performances of Swan Lake in Singapore and Macau (two shows in each city) and after the Australian season the company will visit New Zealand, with three days each in Christchurch, Wellington and Auckland. (In Melbourne and Sydney in December the company will also perform Nutcracker in which Kolesnikova is likely to play the role of Clara.)

That seems like the ultimate whistle stop tour, but there’s more. The southern hemisphere schedule follows a three-day Swan Lake season in Edinburgh and the Swan Lake run will move on to Paris at the end of January 2017.

Then the international touring circuit will start all over again. Such is life in St Petersburg Theatre Ballet.

The global touring is reminiscent of Anna Pavlova’s endless tours around the world although she and her troupe travelled by ship, spending much more time in every city than any company can manage today.

Pavlova’s tours were managed by her de facto husband, Victor Dandre, while Kolesnikova also tours with her husband, Konstantin Tachkin, a former army parachutist, who founded St Petersburg Ballet Theatre in 1994. Their two-year-old daughter travels with them.

The company has no government funding and takes no risks with its conservative repertoire (almost all well known classical ballets) or the length of its seasons (short), although a new work, Her Name Was Carmen, will premiere at the London Coliseum in August 2016.

As St Petersburg Ballet Theatre’s corps de ballet dancers are mainly recent graduates from Russian ballet schools, their salaries are likely to be on the low side.

The company’s last tour to Australia was last year when they visited Melbourne. They performed in Perth in 2013.

Previous Australian tours in 2004 and 2000 were produced by Andrew Guild, then working with Michael Edgley.

The 2016 tour will be presented by Guild and Simon Bryce, a theatre producer who has worked in both Australia and the UK.

Last year Bryce helped produce St Petersburg Ballet Theatre’s season at the London Coliseum.

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Irina Kolesnikova as Odile, Swan Lake, St Petersburg Ballet Theatre, photo © Konstantin Tachkin

Irina Kolesnikova and Dmitri Akulinin, Swan Lake, St Petersburg Ballet Theatre, photographer unknown

Irina Kolesnikova, poster image for Her Name Was Carmen, photo © Petr Titarenko

Irina Kolesnikova, publicity image, photo © Sven Arnstein