Natalia Osipova: Pure Dance at Sadler’s Wells
Natalia Osipova is a rare jewel in an art form dictated by tradition and stringent technical perfection. During the second run of her directorial debut, Pure Dance at Sadler’s Wells, the Russian star continues to astonish audiences as she diverts some of her talent towards contemporary styles.
One would assume that as a principal dancer in the Royal Ballet and American Ballet Theatre, two of the world’s top ballet companies, Osipova would instinctively abide by the strict philosophy of conventional ballet in all her artistic endeavours. But Pure Dance features seven pieces, curated by Osipova, that range from elegant pas de deux with deep historical foundations to modern, edgy solos meant to disturb and provoke.
To the traditional ballet enthusiast, a programme with such a wide range may appear a muddled mix of styles at first glance. Osipova manages to utilise that contrast to create a fundamental showcase of the art of dance – a must-see for beginners and aficionados alike.
Osipova reunites with David Hallberg for the first and last pieces of the programme, Antony Tudor’s The Leaves Are Fading (1975) and Alexei Ratmansky’s Valse Triste respectively. Both pieces showcase the dancers’ exceptional technical talents. Placing classical works at both ends of the show feels as though Osipova is making clear where her loyalties lie – as if to say: “Ballet first, but here’s what else I can do.” She masters each move with the utmost grace and expertise, almost liquescent with every lift.
By contrast, the third set, Ivan Perez’s Flutters, is a significant departure from the classicism of the aforementioned pieces. Rushing in and out of the shadows, Osipova and guest dancer Jonathan Goddard bask in a frenzy of dizzying lighting, set to multi-layered music by Nico Muhly. Purposefully uncomfortable with fleeting moments of calm, Flutters is a magnificently chaotic contemporary number.
Roy Assaf’s Six Years Later follows a solo by Hallberg in perhaps the most experimental piece of the programme. Jason Kittelberger, Osipova’s real-life partner, is perhaps the only person who should be paired with the star for this challenging dance. Certain pauses – including a moment where the two stand in front of one another and pound into each other with their shoulders – are so long drawn out that viewers were left shifting in their seats.
A ballet dancer at the height of her career and physical capabilities, Osipova has successfully delivered a production that evokes awe, surprise, discomfort, confusion, admiration and more. Pure Dance is in no way a display of vanity or an appeal for praise; it is a show of art for art itself.
Photo: Johan Persson
Natalia Osipova: Pure Dance is at Sadler’s Wells from 22nd October until 26th October 2019. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.