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Natalia Osipova: Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui – Russell Maliphant – Arthur Pita

Natalia Osipova Photo by Nikolai Gulakov
Natalia Osipova – Photo by Nikolai Gulakov

When you’re looking forward to seeing Royal Ballet principal ballerina Natalia Osipova partnered on stage with ballet’s ‘bad boy’ Sergei Polunin, now also her real-life partner, the disappointment when expectations are dashed is acute. Both feted for technical and artistic prowess, with Polunin also famed for drama and excitement off stage as much as on (particularly for unexpectedly walking away from the Royal Ballet when a principal dancer in 2012) expectations are, perhaps unfairly, high.

It’s clear Osipova wants to explore artistic options alongside and outside of classical ballet and contemporary dance would seem an obvious choice. But contemporary demands perhaps more than she has yet discovered as it is comparatively new to her – technically impressive classically, but not quite ‘there’ yet. Her classical Bolshoi training is much in evidence and at times a slightly less refined edge would be welcome and also allow more emotion and passion. This contemporary triple bill of works from Arthur Pita, Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui and Russell Maliphant, neither shows her off at her best, nor excites those watching. Although it’s painful to say, at times the dancing became boring and dragged, with no purpose, dramatic or emotional intention. Even Polunin seemed rather ‘flat’ in performance, despite some impressive moments and curiously, this real-life couple who are usually so compelling, interesting and exciting to watch elsewhere, have little chemistry together on stage and unfortunately fail to excite or engage us.

Pita’s Sixties set RUN MARY RUN starts the evening with Osipova and Polunin a couple in a destructive relationship falling in and out of love not only with each other but with alcohol and drugs with inevitable consequence. Pita’s inspiration was apparently Amy Winehouse’s album Back to Black and her tragic life. Beehive hair and leather jacket with a few ‘funny’ moments and flashes of technical brilliance make for a messy, unfinished indulgence rather than a cohesive piece. Cherkaoui’s QUTB followed and was more successful for me as Osipova was joined by Jason Kittelberger and James O’Hara, both incredibly strong, fluid, grounded contemporary dancers. Qutb is an Arabic word meaning axis or pivot and the dancers connect in a profound way throughout, interacting, colliding, picking each other up and only ultimately surviving by clasping each other. Osipova’s classical style is clearly different to the two men here. Russell Maliphant’s SILENT ECHO has Osipova and Polunin stretching and flailing in bursts of light that fade to black. Compelling at the start it goes nowhere and both dancers become anonymous and characterless, which neither are.

A frustrating, uninspired evening. Osipova and Polunin can do much better than this and hopefully will in the future.

2 gold stars

Review by Catherine Françoise

Multi award-winning Russian classical ballerina Natalia Osipova is a major star in the dance world. She started formal ballet training at age 8, joining the Bolshoi Ballet at age 18 and dancing many of the art forms biggest roles. After leaving the Bolshoi in 2011, she joined American Ballet Theatre as a guest dancer and later the Mikhailovsky Ballet. She joined The Royal Ballet as a principal in2013 after her guest appearance in Swan Lake. For this brand new production, Natalia experiments with the contemporary genre as she strives for new ways of artistic expression. The programme, the first ever to be commissioned by her, features new work inspired by this unique dancer, by three contemporary choreographers: Sadler’s Wells Associate Artists Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui and Russel Maliphant, alongside Opera House regular Arthur Pita.

New trio choreographed by Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui (James O’Hara, Jason Kitlleburger & Natalia Osipova).
New duet choreographed by Russel Maliphant (Natalia Osipova & dancer TBC).
New solo choreographed by Arthur Pita (Natalia Osipova).

Natalia Osipova at Sadler’s Wells
Rosebery Avenue, London, EC1R 4TN
Age Restrictions: Under 5s not admitted.
Booking Until: 1st Oct 2016

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