An Interview with Irina Kolesnikova

Can you tell us about Her Name was Carmen? Why did you decide to create a contemporary spin on a classical piece?

As a mother of a young child I was struck by the number of children that are caught up in the refugee crisis. This shocked me and I knew I had to do something for them. As we are a ballet theatre, ballet is our tool.Our use of the Carmen story is very unusual and interesting. From the beginning she is on a woman on a mission. Her driving force is to bring together families that have been torn apart.  Hers is a story of freedom- its beauty as well as its cost.

Can you tell us about your collaboration with Andrei Kuznetzov-Vecheslov? How do you portray vicariously your experiences in the Balkans?

We visited two refugee camps in Balkans, and those visits have shaped the production. The most significant problems – homeless children and the separation of families – are featured in the performance.  I heard a lot of personal stories from many refugees and some of these are included in our story. The most significant problems – homeless children and the separation of families – are featured in the performance. My memory of one little girl has stayed with me every day. She had clung onto me throughout me time in one of the camps. As I was leaving she put a plastic ring on my finger. I didn’t take it off for a long time, and I will be wearing it during all performances in London.

Andrei played an important role in steering our ballet through its initial stages. We are now working with a team of talented young choreographers to captures the power and urgency of the story.

How, in your opinion, does art respond to human crises?

Art responds to our environment and human crises. I believe art has the power to imbue quiet suffering with something identifiable and immediate.   All artists, dancers and musicians can end up in tragic circumstances. They have their personal tragedies and these are often reflected in their work.

Irina poster image jpeg 

“There is no happiness in comfort, happiness is bought with suffering.” (Dostoevsky). Do you agree?

It is hard to say. No one can say no to comfort, especially in the 21st century. There are many gadgets we can’t imagine our life without. When it comes to comfort through suffering I can’t imagine what kind of comfort it should be to make a person suffer for it. If we look at the situation the refugees are in, they are forced to endure many hardships in their effort to find a better life. If you mean to make a better life for yourself and your family, then obviously people are ready to take risks. When it is a question of life and death, it is understandable.

What are your plans after Her Name was Carmen?

Immediately after the London Coliseum season, we have go to the Edinburgh Playhouse (01-03 September) with Swan Lake. Then we have a very busy season, many tours;  Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Taipei, the United Kingdom, Paris. In fact, it is typical of life in a private theatre.

Her Name is Carmen’ starring Irina Kolesnikova will be coming to the London Coliseum 25th, 27th and 28th August. For tickets please go to


Author: Julia Florence

Julia Florence is the founder and editor-in-chief of Performance Reviewed.