Natalia Osipova

A disappointing leap into contemporary dance

Natalia Osipova in Russell Maliphant's
Natalia Osipova in Russell Maliphant's
1 SEP 2016
by

The Sadler’s Wells theatre has recently hosted a triple bill produced by three choreographers and commissioned by Natalia Osipova, in order to (re)introduce her to the varied world of contemporary dance.

A three-act-show presented at the Sadler’s Wells press conference, last November. A conference that resulted in some perplexities from the very beginning; as Osipova was accompanied by her life and stage partner Sergei Polunin, who expressed their intention to work almost exclusively together from that moment on, underlining how their off-stage relationship should be considered as a vital element for their on-stage performances. However, back then it had already sounded as just a fascinating and romantic idea, quite far from what would really be expected from two dancers at their level, while on stage.

Sadler’s Wells triple bill was a sad confirmation that (even though they had already danced together some of the classical repertoire) Natalia Osipova and Sergei Polunin, almost the same age and coming from comparable backgrounds, are now at very different artistic and physical stages of their careers.

On one hand we have the former Bolshoi ballerina who is (too early?) experimenting a leap ‘à-la-Guillem’ into contemporary dance, on the other there is the outsider, sought after by all the most important theatres of the world who appears as a guest here, but is in fact, merely playing her game. The choreographers she chose missed the point in staging their (very different and almost thoroughly incompatible) abilities.

Osipova is aware of being a sui generis ballerina and a glance at contemporary might indeed be a chance to experiment with her acrobatic skills and move towards works that can really catch her essence (constantly underlining that she is dancing with her soul is useless. When the soul is involved, the audience will notice, so they do not need to be reminded!).

Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui’s choreography is perfect for the two male dancers, but it leaves her totally at her own mercy. Whereas, Russell Maliphant’s work – almost too inspired by the exceptional music video for Take me to church by Hozier (interpreted by Polunin last year and impeccably choreographed by Jade Hale-Christofi) lacks the very spirit that led to the creation of that video: highlighting an artist at the height of his potential.

Osipova and Polunin need something completely different to shine. Arthur Pita’s piece is remarkable in its tarantinesque attempt of involving the audience with music and atmospheres from the 60s as well as brightly coloured costumes, but it is still just another sad part of this pastiche that only leads to one question: is that all?