London Coliseum is set to welcome Her Name was Carmen in August. The production is a new version of Carmen, a story that has been adapted countless times over the last century, but lead performer Irina Kolesnikova insists we haven’t seen anything like this before

Words: Mark Kebble

At this time of major political upheaval, we all need something to take our mind off of things – but the new ballet heading to the Coliseum in August will once again highlight the plight of the millions of refugees all around the world.

Carmen is a story that has been adapted countless times over the last century, but the star of Her Name was Carmen, Irina Kolesnikova, insists we haven’t seen anything like this. ‘We had the idea because of the situation in the world,’ she explains of the The St Petersburg Ballet Theatre take on Merimee’s story.

‘As a ballet theatre, and as a ballerina, our art is our only tool. After visiting the refugee camps in the Balkans and talking to refugees, I realised the absolute necessity of doing something to help them and tell their story.

Irina Kolesnikova in Her Name is Carmen

Irina Kolesnikova in Her Name was Carmen

‘This is a Carmen audiences won’t have seen before,’ Kolesnikova continues. ‘From the beginning she is 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. Our aim is to make the final scene one of the most spectacular that the ballet world has ever seen – but, of course, I can’t share all the details with you yet!’

This is a Carmen audiences won’t have seen before. From the beginning she is on a mission. Her driving force is to bring together families that have been torn apart

What Kolesnikova can tell me is how excited she is about returning to London. ‘The Coliseum is one of the greatest venues in the world,’ she exclaims. ‘It is a huge responsibility to perform in London because the audience here has a chance to see the best productions from all over the world. All famous companies and celebrities perform in front of this audience.’

Kolesnikova has come far since being described as ‘the little red lump in a T-shirt’ who presented herself to audition at the St Petersburg Ballet Theatre at 10 years of age. Despite initial misgivings, Kolesnikova’s determination to succeed has seen her go on to receive global accolades and awards.

‘It is definitely one of the hardest careers [to pursue],’ she says, ‘because it requires both a serious emotional and physical output. There is always responsibility and there is no time to relax. That’s why my pregnancy was the calmest period of my life.’ Has being a parent changed her approach to ballet? ‘I don’t think so,’ she shakes her head. ‘I didn’t notice any major changes, but according to the critics my dancing has only got better since I had a child.’

And there’s a good chance in August that we will be able to see that for ourselves. ‘Carmen is the first full length ballet choreographed especially for me,’ she beams. ‘That is an ambition for any ballerina, but this ballet is so much more for it gives me the chance to use dance to tell the tragic story of these refugees around the world and the dreadful situation they find themselves in. I hope this ballet will live on in the hearts of the audience and will urge them to support and help the refugees in some small way.’

Her Name was Carmen, starring Irina Kolesnikova, will be at the London Coliseum from 25-28 August 2016. For tickets visit