For many years, she was the prima ballerina of the Kirov State Academic Theatre of Opera and Ballet (now the Mariinsky Theater) in St. Petersburg. From 1974 to 1979 she served as a deputy of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR.
In the 1990s she worked for several seasons as choreographer and coach at the American Ballet Theatre in New York City. She is currently a professor of classical dance at the Vaganova Academy of Russian Ballet in St. Petersburg and a ballet coach at American Ballet Theatre.
Kolpakova was made a People's Artist of USSR in 1965 and a Hero of Socialist Labor in 1983. She was awarded the Order of Lenin in 1983 and was awarded a pension by presidential decree in 1996 for outstanding contribution to the development of national art.
- Brief biography at Heroes of the Country (in Russian)
- 75th birthday of the celebrated folk artist of the Soviet Union Irina Kolpakova, Oreanda News (in Russian)
- Great Russian Encyclopedia, 2009 (in Russian)
- Tolstoy House and its Famous Residents (in Russian)