Tickets for this short run of new work featuring Natalia Osipova have been sold out for months. Add into the mix bad-boy of ballet and real life partner Sergei Polunin and the buzz has been so intense, one wonders whether the content of the work is even relevant when the majority simply want to say “I was there”.
Classical dancers are understandably keen to express themselves and the three works featured here fall more into the dance-theatre category than anything else, however this rebel couple display a disappointing amount of chemistry and lack the acting skills required for the choreography to really catch fire.
Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui’s Qutb is aesthetically attractive with its ominous glowing sun beaming down onto Osipova and her two partners (James O’Hara and Jason Kittelberger) in this piece that explores co-dependency and unchartered territory. The threesome’s lithe limbs and raw athleticism in their fleshy costuming makes for silky smooth movements as they emerge from an apocalypse. It’s a slow burner with the best moments coming in a series of stretches in which Osipova walks over her partners’ rippling backs and is lifted in the air by a single arm or leg. It’s an atmospheric, moody piece, packed with effervescent bodies and an underlying menace that never quite reaches a satisfying climax.
Osipova’s foundation in classical ballet is, predictably, far more apparent in Russell Maliphant’s piece, Silent Echo. It also gives Osipova and Polunin individual moments in the spotlight where we are treated to a showcase of spins, jumps, leaps that feels like the epitome of the expression and freedom they are wanting to grasp from this programme. The coming together in the final pas de deux feels more climatic and complete than Cherkaoui’s piece, although the two choreographies here feel a little too similar to sit alongside each other in the same programme.
Arthur Pita’s Run, Mary, Run is the more memorable work of the evening featuring the most developed narrative. It begins with the stark image of Osipova and Polunin appearing to be lying in their graves, surrounded by dirt, their arms and fingers entwine in the air and form different patterns to the ominous spoken word sound of the Shangri-Las (Past, Present and Future).
There is more than a whiff of the “live fast, die young attitude” and with her auburn beehive, Osipova is reminiscent of a young Amy Winehouse and Polunin a typical bad boy rocker. Of course this rebellious look comes naturally to these two as they float and loll around convincingly, hanging off each other’s bodies. There’s a Jive, solo and pas de deux section but from the dress circle their chemistry was again not tangible, neither of the two appearing to have the capacity in their acting to pull off this heartbreaking tale. There is plenty of moody walking from Osipova and Polunin parading around in a leather jacket. There’s a beautifully designed scene with Osipova on a swing as Polunin rocks her back and forth as she naively dreams of a happy future before they are crushed and they return to the graves where they started.
Pita’s storytelling is stark and moving, aided by strong set design from Luis F. Carvalho and an emotive soundtrack, where the last words are left again to the Shangri-Las: (Dressed in Black)
I climbed the stairs
I shut the door
I turned the lock
Alone once more
And no one can hear me cry
This is ambitious work from the Royal Ballet principal and her bad boy partner, it is sadly delivered without the necessary toolkit to fully carry it out, but there’s no doubt in years to come we’ll simply be grateful to say we were there to see it.
Review by Vikki Jane Vile
This programme will play at the Edinburgh Festival Theatre from August 12 – 14 and again at Sadler’s Wells from September 27 – October 1.
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 form’s 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 in 2013 after her guest appearance in Swan Lake. Osipova will be joined by Sergei Polunin for these world premieres, marking the first time they have danced together in the UK.