Natalia Osipova

Three choreographers talk about the dancer and the works they've created for her in this year's EIF

Natalia Osipova

credit: Alastair Muir

When a dancer of the calibre of Natalia Osipova asks you to create work for her, few choreographers have to think twice. Certainly Arthur Pita, Russell Maliphant and Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui all jumped at the chance.

Known for their contemporary style, but experience of working with classically trained dancers, the three men had much to offer the Russian ballerina and former Bolshoi star. And their resulting works all pull out different qualities in Osipova.

In the latter two works, she teams up with Sergei Polunin, one of the hottest properties on today's ballet scene. A former dancer with the Royal Ballet (where Osipova herself is now a principal dancer), Polunin has attracted almost 16 million views on YouTube for his dance to Hozier's 'Take Me To Church' (and with good reason – check it out if you haven't already).

Together, the duo deliver a passionate modern take on the traditional pas de deux in Maliphant's Silent Echo, and deliver fine character performances in Pita's dark dance theatre work, Run Mary Run. Contemporary dancers Jason Kittelberger and James O'Hara join Osipova to form a formidable trio in Cherkaoui's Qutb (an Arabic word for 'axis' or 'pivot').

We speak to the three choreographers to find out what they admire most about this talented and versatile dancer.

Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui - Qutb
An associate artist at Sadler's Wells theatre, the Belgian choreographer is a former dancer with Les Ballets C de la B who started creating work in 2000, for both his own company and some of the world's finest ballet companies.

'I think Natalia is extraordinary,' says Cherkaoui. 'She's very curious, a real explorer who keeps on digging, keeps analysing and is very intuitive. She has a real, deep technique and a very strong skill set that she has acquired through years and years of training. Which is mixed with something very organic and natural that she can tap into, because she's a natural mover, too.

'In Qutb, the three dancers never stop touching, there is constant physical touch between them – it's like they are one entity. The piece is really about inter-connectedness, and maybe the notion of how, as a victim, you are pulled out of that pool of misery by someone else – and then having the strength to pull someone else out. Picking up the pieces.'

Russell Maliphant – Silent Echo
Also an associate artist at Sadler's Wells, Maliphant trained at the Royal Ballet School before dancing with companies such as DV8 and Michael Clark. As a choreographer he has created many works for his own company, which he formed in 1996, as well as for English National Ballet, BalletBoyz and Sylvie Guillem to name but some.

'Natalia has of course excellent strength, articulation and precision, that's already a great start,' says Maliphant. 'But more than that, she's open minded to new vocabularies, and is familiar with techniques which are very different from the usual techniques employed in classical training.

'Our shared foundations in classical ballet and hunger to try new possibilities was a starting point for Silent Echo. I wanted to utilise elements and qualities of the mastery Natalia and Sergei have in classical technique, and broaden that language into something that could be contemporary.

'I hope the piece will show their remarkable artistry in a new light and allow the audience to see the incredible classical technique of these two remarkable dancers in a new way.'

Arthur PitaRun Mary Run
Born in South Africa, and trained at London Contemporary Dance School, Pita performed with Matthew Bourne's New Adventures before turning to choreography. As well as several productions at London's Royal Opera House (choreographing for both the Royal Ballet and Royal Opera), he has created works for Phoenix Dance, Ballet Black and Candoco.

'I'm a big fan of Natalia, I love what she does and how she does it,' says Pita. 'First of all, it's her body technically – what she can do. She's got a wonderful spring to her jump and she can really turn. She's a free, wild spirit, but she can also be very focussed.

'In Run Mary Run, I wanted to give her a character because I know she loves acting, but I wanted to find something that maybe we hadn't seen from her before. Because she has this amazing artistic talent, so you really want to provide the space, movement and scenario where she can feel free to act and interpret.

'The piece is a kind of 1960s sex, drugs, rock 'n' roll scenario: girl meets rebel boy and enters a relationship which is almost obsessive. And those rebel boys had a kind of melancholy about them which Sergei also has, as well as such a natural ability, and of course he partners Natalia so well.'

Natalia Osipova and Guests, Festival Theatre, 12–14 Aug, 7.30pm, £12--£32.

Natalia Osipova and Guests

  • 5 stars

Multi award-winning Russian classical ballerina Natalia Osipova, and a company of dancers, perform three brand new dance works created specially for her. She is a force of nature, a major international star in the dance world, celebrated for her brilliant technique, vivid characterisation and electrifying energy. In…


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