Alina Cojocaru (born 27 May 1981) is a female principal dancer with The Royal Ballet of London.
Alina Cojocaru was born and raised in Bucharest, Romania. She has one sister. From a young age she studied gymnastics. Later she began ballet classes, despite never having seen a live ballet.
At the age of 7 or 8 she began gymnastic classes, progressing at the age of 9 to a Bucharest ballet school which acted as a feeder for the Romanian State Ballet school. Later the same year she took and passed the entrance exam for the school and a few months later was chosen (with 8 other Romanian students) by the director of the Kiev Ballet school to take part in a student exchange.
She left her family to train at the school, and did not speak any Russian. Initially, Cojocaru and the other Romanian students were taught separately, before being integrated with the other students in the third year.
The ballet school gave a public performance every six months and it was in one of these performances that Cojocaru made her debut, dancing the role of Amor in Don Quixote.
In January 1997, aged 15, she competed in the Prix de Lausanne, a prestigious international ballet competition.She won the gold medal, winning a six month scholarship to train at the Royal Ballet School in London. She moved to London that same year to commence her training, but did not speak any English.
After completing her six months training with the Royal Ballet School, Cojocaru was offered a contract to join The Royal Ballet as a member of the corps de ballet. She was also offered a contract to join the Kiev Ballet as Principal. She subsequently joined Kiev Ballet in November 1998, believing she would gain greater experience as a Principal dancer. She stayed for one season, dancing a variety of roles.
Whilst dancing with Kiev Ballet, Cojocaru re-applied to the Royal Ballet in London, but was only invited to audition for the corps de ballet. She attended an audition for the company whilst on leave from Kiev Ballet and was offered a contract. Doubtful of development opportunities elsewhere, she accepted the contract and joined the company in November 1999. She was subsequently promoted to the rank of Principal dancer in 2001. In 2004, she received the Prix Benois de la Danse for her portrayal of the titular character in Cinderella.
Cojocaru's early appearances with the company included performing in the opening gala for the refurbished Royal Opera House, plus appearances with the corps de ballet in the Kingdom of the Shades from La Bayadère, as a snowflake in The Nutcracker and as a doll in Coppélia.
One of the highlights of her career is her partnership with Danish principal danseur, Johan Kobborg. The partnership began in 2001 when they danced together in Romeo and Juliet after Cojocaru filled in for an injured Miyako Yoshida. Since then, Kobborg and Cojocaru's partnership has been named one of the greatest in the history of ballet and they have danced together not just at Covent Garden, but worldwide.
In 2012, Cojocaru became the first ballerina to receive the Prix Benois de la Danse twice, this time for John Neumeier's Liliom with the Hamburg Ballet. The lead role of Julie also marked the first time a full-length ballet was created on Cojocaru.