BWW Review: FORCE OF NATURE NATALIA, Curzon Mayfair
You don't need much convincing that Natalia Osipova is a force of nature. Live, she is a thrilling sight, the Royal Ballet Principal who beams charisma from stage to stalls and flies through the air, a storyteller from head to toe.
Perhaps we have that distance to thank for her being in the UK at all, her on-off relationship with the Bolshoi soured from the start when the gymnast who wasn't going to make the Olympics was labelled too short for the classical Russian roles. She's not someone to back down from a jibe like that!
Gerald Fox's film is at its best when we're in the rehearsal rooms and Natalia is moving through space, no make-up, yoga pants and a brow furrowed with concentration. This is the hard work that produces the magic on stage. It is fascinating.
She listens, she asks questions and she does what is required - and you do, because we're very up close and personal, see the changes, the subtle turns of the head, the eyes held that moment longer, the line of the back defined more sharply. She says, often and passionately, that she loves to dance, but she loves to learn to dance almost as much. At 33 years of age and at the peak of her powers, that humility is surely a key to her success.
Her desire to push boundaries has taken her into a second career in contemporary dance, running concurrently with her classical career, and one wonders, as she twists and turns, folds around her partner then slinkily unwraps herself, whether the body - "so strong" as choreographer Natalia Makarova exclaims - can take it all. But, you know, Force of Nature...
Osipova is almost recklessly free with the access she offered the crew (she did collide with a camera at one point) and the film takes us to places few outsiders have been in the world of dance. But, in doing so, it raises expectations that are never met - or even explored.
Osipova is so open, her recently acquired English rapid and unguarded, that we want to find out more about her. There's an aside in a segment on a piece she is creating with her partner, Jason Kittelberger (I'm Fine - about the trials and tribulations of love) which provokes the comment that it can be difficult working with one's offstage partner onstage. And it's left there!
Kittelberger himself is (understandably) besotted with her and so there's not much that we find out from him and other contributors (dancer Jonathan Goddard and journalist Judith Mackrell, for example) are so relentlessly gushing with their praise that the film topples into hagiography. And, though it is clearly not Fox's intention to explore Osipova's private life, it's so embedded within her career trajectory that it's frustrating to see it made manifest in only the occasional flash of anger in the eyes.
We get a full-blooded vodka cocktail of dance, but a vanilla ice cream of a personal profile of a woman who is clearly anything but.