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.Continue reading NATALIA OSIPOVA’S PURE DANCE WITH DAVID HALLBERG→
As part of ROH Live screenings , we were privileged to see a most intriguing contemporary triple bill superbly danced by the Royal Ballet – Christopher Wheeldon’s ‘Within the Golden Hour ‘, Crystal Pite’s ‘Flight Pattern’ and ‘Medusa’ , a new work by Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui.Two revivals and a world premiere .
The programme opened with a glorious revival of Wheeldon’s ‘Within the Golden Hour’, created on San Francisco Ballet in 2008 and first performed by the Royal Ballet in 2016. It is abstract yet lush, shimmering and exquisiteLY redesigned with semi transparent golden , floaty costumes by Jasper Conran .
Wheeldon acknowledges he was influenced by Klimt’s ‘golden period’ in creating the ballet , and Australian audiences might think of Kristian Fredrikson ‘s costume designs for Graeme Murphy’s ‘Shéhérazade’ . Peter Mumford’s lighting is splendidly enhancing and atmospheric with most effective use of shadows and silhouettes Ezzio Bosso’s ‘Music for Strings’ throbs and glimmers, blending towards the end to the andante from Vivaldi’s Violin Concerto.
There are seven pairs of dancers who come together in assorted combinations. Wheeldon’s athletic ,challenging choreography is fluid and sinuous and includes difficult high lifts, slithery floorwork and male pas de deux as well as possible references to Latin-American ballroom.
It also requires a long , stretched ‘line’ and big showy jumps at times particularly for the male dancers. The first section for the whole ensemble sees them writhing sculpturally. Then there are assorted pas de deux and other combinations : for example a tender, fragile ,dreamily lyrical pas de deux and a darting dragonfly like female quartet which are contrasted with a coolly elegant and regal pas de deux by another pair of dancers.
Towards the end the dancers cascade off the stage, then return for the final short segment and are still dancing when the curtain falls.
The middle work was the hotly anticipated world premiere of ‘Medusa’ by Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui with Natalia Osipova in the eponymous role. While Osipova was sensational , it is perhaps slightly disappointing .This is Cherkaoui’s first commission for the Royal Ballet. The music blends Purcell arias at times ironically commenting on the action with the atmospheric ebbs ,flows and bumps of electronic composer Olga Wojciechowska .
Based on the story from Ovid’s Metamorphoses , the ballet tells the story of how Medusa was a beautiful priestess who was dedicated to and served in the temple of the goddess Athena .Medusa was raped by the god Poseidon, and a jealous Athena took revenge by turning Medusa (one of her favourites) into a monstrous creature, a hideous Gorgon with writhing serpents for hair. Anyone who looked Medusa in the face was instantly turned to stone, until Perseus succeeds in killing her which sets free her soul transformed back to beauty.
Osipova tries to depict both sides of Medusa – the stunning priestess, who offers a scarf as a good luck token to Perseus , and the furious Gorgon, with fierce kicks and a basilisk stare. While the ‘snaky’ headdress is rather striking it is not scary rather just looks messy, somewhat of a disappointment .
Cherkaoui’s choreography is eclectic, blending deconstructed neoclassical ballet and pointe work , street style moves , writhing floor work and capoeira-style kicks with blade sharp feet and deadly neck twists.
Olivia Cowley was coolly elegant as Athena who punishes her acolyte because she can’t punish the god. Ryoichi Hirano in an asymmetric indigo kilt like outfit ( Samurai inspired.? ) and dramatic blue stripe was commanding as Poseidon who calmly observes Athena’s punishment of her priestess. The transformation is achieved behind a huge scarf, (The scarf is a recurring visual motif – we see Medusa with one at her first dance with Perseus, her transformation, and her death).
The soldiers – Perseus et al – are led by tremendous Matthew Ball but hampered by the rather discordant ,unflattering semi transparent boiler suit costumes. Other soldiers wear mesh fencing masks made to look like stone , with plumes resembling Ancient Greek helmets, their faces hidden. Perseus removes his at one point – does Medusa recognise him? Does he recognise her? It is suggested that Medusa lets Perseus kill her so her soul can be free,
The ending is rather enigmatic and inconclusive with Medusa transformed back to her beautiful self and on the temple steps with her bowl .She is sad and reflective.
Crystal Pite’s ‘Flight Pattern’ is stark and bleak but very moving. The dancers are all in grey costumes and often move in surging , pulsating patterns, at times like flocks of birds . To Górecki’s haunting Symphony of Sorrowful Songs Pite has produced a work inspired by the world wide refugee crisis , motherhood and loss. It is mostly a huge ensemble work (36 dancers in the cast!) who writhe, leap ,fall, but we occasionally see churning individuals break out from within the group, all harbouring their own sense of loss, destroyed hopes and other back stories. Towards the end we see one couple , Kristen McNally and Marcelino Sambé,, who have already lost their baby.
McNally mourns in anguish. to the lament of Mary on the death of her son (sung by soprano Francesca Chiejina). McNally also has to symbolically bear the weight of everyone’s loss, as represented by the huge, heavy load of coats that end up piled in her arms. Her partner Sambé explodes in a solo of feverish anger.. The black walls of the set open to let the crowd of refugees in, but close to exclude the couple. McNally rocks back and forth, lamenting. Snow is continuing to fall behind the wall and now the refugees no longer have their coats. Have they reached their destination? The ending is inconclusive. A melancholIc, poignant work.
A very thought provoking triple bill full of glorious dance.
Running time just over 3 hours including two intervals.
A must see for balletomanes, this is completely Natalia Ospiova’s show as Anastasia and she is more than sensational.
The Royal Ballet has just completed the live performances of this production which took place at between the 26th October and the 12th November. We are privileged to see this amazing production via the filming of the performance which took place on the 2nd November which is being presented as part of the current Palace Opera and Ballet season.
The ballet’s subject is the mysterious woman, known as Anna Anderson, who was incarcerated in a mental hospital in Berlin from 1920 and claimed to be Anastasia, daughter of Tsar Nicholas II, who somehow escaped from the cellar where the imperial family had been murdered by the Bolsheviks. Choreographer Kenneth MacMillan explores the whole notion – Was she or wasn’t she?! Continue reading THE ROYAL BALLET PRESENTS ANASTASIA @ THE ROYAL OPERA HOUSE, LONDON→
This particular version by Sir Anthony Dowell for the Royal Ballet is now almost thirty years old. I have previously seen it with other casts, both live in London at the Royal Opera House and on screen, and it is still enthralling.
Quick! Run! Book now if you haven’t already to catch this extraordinary screening of Natalia Osipova and Carlos Acosta in the Royal Ballet’s GISELLE which has just finished a sold out season at the Royal Opera House in London. Regarded as the epitome of Romantic ballet, GISELLE, created by Jean Coralli and Jules Perrot in 1841, is the story of a village girl who loves but is betrayed by Count Albrecht, a nobleman in disguise .
This is the very traditional Peter Wright version (he is interviewed and in the audience to watch it and brought on stage for curtain calls at the end) that has been around for about thirty years .Yet it feels amazingly vibrant and fresh. It is a clear and emotionally gripping performance .The sets and costumes in Act 1 are in autumnal russet colours, in Act 2 we see an eerie, misty, moonlit forest glade with Giselle’s grave marked by a rough cross.
Under the dynamic baton of conductor Boris Gruzin, we see the orchestra who are terrific and play Adam’s lilting score eloquently.
Former Bolshoi dancer Natalia Osipova who has just joined the Royal Ballet this season as Giselle is superb, playing this ‘Hamlet of the Ballet’, a very challenging test for ballerinas since its first performance. In Act1 Osipova convinces as the naive, delicate young peasant maiden in love with Albrecht. She is delicate and shy and her frail heart is emphasised. Yet she is bright and joyous at first and reassures anxious Berthe, her mother. In Act 2 she is like a moonbeam or gossamer.
The opening flirting pas de deux for Giselle and Albrecht is glorious and her ‘mad scene’ is shattering. In both acts we admire her astonishing elevation and ballon. Her appearance and first whizzing solo in Act 2 is magnificent, – fast and yet also blurry like delicate mist. Simultaneously she has incredible control in her adagio and a beautiful ‘line’. She pleads for Albrecht’s life in Act2 with delicate despair.