I was born in Yakutsk, one of the coldest cities on earth, the capital of Sakha Republic, Siberia, a big part of Russian Federation.

Irina-Lapteva-Traditional-dressMy family comes from a long line of ancestors . In the 18th century two  young Russian naval officers and brothers, Khariton and Dmitry Laptev explored the coasts East and West of the Lena River, which is for Siberia what Mississipi is for Americans — a source of life and richness for the land and its people. Dmitry Laptev was a lieutenant in the Russian Navy and head of the Second Kamtchatka expedition under the legendary explorer Vitus Bering, from whom the Bering Sea and Bering Strait between Kamtchatka and Alaska are named.

Dimitry Laptev’s specific task was to charter the region around the Indigirka Lena, starting from the East Siberian Sea. He and his crew navigated up the Indigirka and was met with hospitality by the native Yakut people, who provided shelter and food for the expeditioners, during the very cold winter of 1739. He was the first Russian explorer to arrive in the region. He didn’t settle for long, but before he sailed back to Russia, his descendants were born and his name was spread.

The Yakut people, from which I come, are some of the oldest living peoples on earth, and multiples studies conducted over the last 50 years indicate that they share the same genes with native Indian Americans. These people have originated in the Chukotsk sub-artic region, and have migrated down South some 12,000 ago, with part of them settling in today Siberia, and another part crossing into the North-American continent through an isthmus which existed at that time, where now lies the Bering Strait that separates Asia and North America.

The size of Sakha Republic (Yakutia) is dazzling. It is the largest region of the Russian Federation and the largest political unit within a nation state in the world. Republic of Sakha is bigger than two New York states and four Texas states together. Above you shines a huge, clean, blue sky: frost provides high atmospheric pressure that makes cloudless winter there. And the proverbial cold is not a problem, if you dress appropriately

As a proud descendant of the Sakha people, I made a mission from preserving the cultural heritage of my people. As a choreographer and dancer I am not only influenced by these ideas, but I also try to actively incorporate elements from my folk traditions into the artistic performances that I stage and perform today.

Here’s also an interesting fact:

At the Museum of National History, in Manhattan there exists a fur coat described as made by Siberian native people. We were able to identify and trace this “artifact” during my parents visit, last year, as made by the grand grand-mother of my father, in the 19th century. The identification was made based on another existing coat, displayed at a museum in Srednekolimsk, Russia, and on records kept in our family about the second coat’s existence in America.

fur_coat of Yakutia Irina Lapteva

In 2010 I moved to New York City because this is perhaps the most multi-ethnic and multi-cultural city in the world, with not only freedom of expression, but also possibility of affirmation. To make something known, you need a stage, and New York is the biggest stage.

My work at Brighton Ballet Theater enables me to interact with a multitude of students and families of all races, coming from all social environments in multi-ethnic Brooklyn. I believe that my professional ballet formation combined with my ethnic and cultural background, and the multi-cultural and modern framework of New York will help me become a great artist and director.

I choreographed “Siberian Dance” at Brighton Ballet Theater for my students were I incorporate elements of Siberian folk traditions, from simple costume elements and props to elements of movement, and dynamic forms of expression. One should not forget that dance used to be as much part of the ancient spiritual traditions. In shamanic traditions which are still being practiced among the people of Eastern Asia as among the native Indian Americans, dance routines are part of the rituals for establishing synergy with the Universe we live in.

I believe that there is more room for choreography inspired from traditional and folk elements from all over the world. As choreographers, we work with live human bodies, and we all carry in our genes the biological and cultural heritage of our ancestors. As we move forward and make progress in science and technology, and we are challenged to discover new ways of expression in music, dance and visual arts, we’re looking back at the folk traditions of humanity, and try to incorporate them in our work, giving new meanings.