BWW Review: NATALIA OSIPOVA - PURE DANCE, Sadler's Wells
Just over a year ago, Natalia Osipova premiered her own curated programme of work, Pure Dance, to mixed reviews. Amazing how, just one year later and with the pieces sitting more comfortably with the artists on stage, the momentum shifts, making for a much more powerful experience than before.
The evening is bookended by some whimsical classical offerings, Antony Tudor's The Leaves are Fading and Alexei Ratmansky's Valse Triste. Both see Osipova partner American Ballet Theatre's David Hallberg with whom she shares an easy chemistry - "we are like one blood group, we feel very mutual", she says in the programme notes.
Osipova dances with a wonderful fluidity, skittering across the stage, exuding a delicate musicality and making next to no sound in some well-worn pointe shoes. The overall effect is pleasant but lacking a little punch, and at under 10 minutes each there isn't enough to get stuck into.
The mood shifts for the mainstay of the evening to some more turbulent and compelling storytelling that Osipova does so well. Firstly, and new to the 2019 programme, is Left Behind by Jason Kittelberger, who also partners her on stage. The pair excel in this story of a tumultuous relationship to Rachmaninov's unsettled score. The central prop of a door receives the wrath of both of their brewing physicality, slamming it before attacking its frame and emerging on the other side. Inspired by the idea of the impact other people have on us, there are hints of abuse, passion and confrontation all evident in seven startling minutes.
Roy Assaf's Six Years Later (now fully realised at 22 minutes) is another intense, difficult watch, but no one makes brutality and turbulence as addictive as Osipova, especially when dancing with her real-life partner, Kittelberger. There's one section where Osipova twists her body, smacking her elbows into her partner's chest; it lasts for seconds, then minutes, enough for the audience to really live the discomfort, establishing a mood that rarely relents.
As the evening progresses, Osipova's endless endurance becomes apparent; dancing in six of the seven pieces and taking only a short pause between to change costume and hair, she re-emerges fresh each time to attack each work with the same degree of focus and care as the last. All this, of course, and not forgetting a couple of miles down the road you can see her dance in a classical triple bill the following Monday as part of her "day job" as a Principal with the Royal Ballet.
What a privilege it is, then, to see a dancer at the peak of her career indulge fans with further creative offerings, without parameters, and with such an intensely burning passion.
Image: Johan Persson