The Leaves are Fading by Antony Tudor

Flutter by Iván Pérez

In Absentia by Kim Brandstrup

Six Years Later by Roy Assaf

Ave Maria by Yuka Oishi

Valse Triste  by Alexei Ratmansky

Ballet and contemporary dance fans will adore the chance to see one of the greatest living ballerinas Natalia Osipova at the Sydney Opera House this week. Doubling as Artistic Director she features in a showcase titled ‘Pure Dance’ which has so far toured through London, New York, Lyon France; then later in the year will travel back to Sadlers Wells and across to the Bolshoi.

Osipova’s rise to fame has been well earned through exceptional hard work, stunning talent, determination and known as a consummate professional 24/7. The ultimate perfectionist, she rose through the ranks at the Bolshoi to Principal Artist and has continued to grow her reputation to celebrity status via the Mikhailovsky Ballet, American Ballet Theatre and Royal Ballet.

Touring with her are three leading dancers. Jonathan Goddard, founding member of the New Movement Collective, featured with Rambert company and other British based companies; also Jason Kittelberger who has a broad base of knowledge in dance and acting, working with Rochester City Ballet, Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet and working in film including training Emily Blunt for The Adjustment Bureau. Special guest for this tour is American born David Hallberg , Premier Dancer of the Bolshoi Ballet and Principal of the American Ballet Theatre with guest appearances including La Scala, Paris Opera Ballet, Kiev Ballet and Royal Swedish Ballet.

The program featured six works, each by a different choreographer opening with Osipova and Hallberg performing the main Pas de Deux from “The Leaves are Fading”, a ballet choreographed by Anthony Tudor originally in the 1970’s for Gelsey Kirkland.  A sweet gentle piece where the communication between the two seemed very organic moving through subtly different moods like trees alter the shades of their leaves in Autumn. Osipova’s artistic genius showed immediately in completely understanding the concepts to express throughout whilst Hallberg’s incredible attention to detail created flawless smooth movement in his Pas de Deux technique – truly outstanding.

Next, Osipova and Goddard performed the contemporary “Flutter” choreographed last year for the pair by Iván Pérez. Some lovely ideas came through this piece though the main theme of jumping into the abyss was lost as lighting was not fully blacked out upstage. The soundscape was created by acclaimed American composer Nico Muhly who recently came to Sydney for the premier of one of his works at the City Recital Hall starring baritone Brett Brown. The low sub-woofer tones had been amplified too much which was distracting and uncomfortable to the audience.  Hopefully lighting and sound will be corrected as the season progresses.

“In Absentia” was a crowd favourite by award winning choreographer Kim Brandstrup and performed solo by Hallberg. Stunning in its simplicity, Hallberg is constantly drawn back to an addictive television screen which plays a Chaconne by Johann Sebastian Bach, inspiring him to build movements into a dance as if improvising there on the spot. So many lovely images made with astounding execution and legs that go on forever, Hallberg was able to stretch out in solo and offer his own personal perspective.

After interval Osipova and Kittelberger performed “Six Years Later”. A very masculine work depicting the lengthy struggle and violent strife of an old relationship revisited. Osipova’s character was abusive and tormenting, yet over and over he came back to try to lighten her up. A complicated psychological work beautifully performed. Such a pity this is the only time we see Kittelberger on stage, once for Goddard as well – would loved to have seen more of the two of them. 

The final two works were both commissioned for this tour. “Ave Maria” by Yuka Oishi with Osipova solo, an exploration into the feminine psyche bordering on madness and the stunning but over-too-soon ‘Valse Triste’ by Russian born Alexei Ratmansky with Osipova and Hallberg. The colours and lighting design of this piece were just superb.

The gallery of moods and themes through this program showcased Osipova’s brilliance at being able to fully immerse herself in each character, be they light and playful, lost and confused or a fierce bully. Her technique is even more stunning live compared to video and it was a great treat to be up close to these artists without an orchestra pit between them and us. The intimate setting means the audience is drawn into the stories and movements with the dancers feeling every turn and gesture, hearing the breathing and bathing in the music. It’s a must see for any dance appreciator.

Meeting Osipova after the performance, she said she absolutely loves Australia and is keen to return here. However, being much in demand around the world means it may not be as regularly as we would like so, get along to the theatre and see her now. Season continues at the Drama Theatre of the Sydney Opera House till 31 August 2019.

Featured image : David Hallberg and Natalia Osipova’s. Pic courtesy of the Sydney Opera House.