Natalia Osipova and Guests (5 stars)

Classical training and contemporary choreography produce fireworks in this triple bill from Royal Ballet's Natalia Osipova

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Natalia Osipova and Guests

Natalia Osipova and Sergei Polunin in Silent Echo / credit: Bill Cooper

We don't see Natalia Osipova immediately after the curtain has risen, in Arthur Pita's Run Mary Run, the first in this triple bill of contemporary choreographies created for the Russian dancer. There's only a hand – hers – weaving up from a pile of black earth, undulating into a curious, kitschy dance with the hand of her real-life partner Sergei Polunin, to the mournful, Beethoven-sampling 60s sounds of the Shangri-Las' 'Past, Present and Future'.

Out of this grave Osipova heaves herself, then returns to drag out her lover, hauling him across the stage, clambering, climbing, beating the zombie life into him, until they both dissolve into a sultry memory of the past. Pita's piece was loosely inspired by the relationship between Amy Winehouse and Blake Fielder-Civil, and feels like the heroin-soaked, wayward brother of Matthew Bourne, a toxic love ballet of LA gothic, with shivers of James Dean, David Lynch and Michael Jackson's 'Thriller'. Osipova sensitively tracks the perverse backward emotional trajectory of her character, starting as a seductive, sophisticated party girl, regressing into the heart-breaking role of a child sold a lie.

What is remarkable about Osipova is her chameleon ability to absorb and transmit the tones of different pieces while owning a movement style. Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui's Qutb is an abstract piece – you can make what you like of the orbiting relationships between the three dancers, two men and Osipova, but it carries the same drugged sensuality of the first piece, shot through with heart and soul. Fabiana Piccioli's lighting design scorches the backcloth with a solar eclipse, then turns the stage into a burning eye as James O'Hara turns and curls solo through it.

Into cleaner, sharper territory heads Russell Maliphant's Silent Echo, where Osipova is reunited with Polunin in a monochrome firework of a duet. Maliphant based his piece on the classic pas de deux structure. The spirals and spins both dancers create on stage as they introduce themselves are electric – a reminder of the tightness of their training. Punkish but fresh, this is the perfect counterpoint to the opening – a happy ending with a distinctly grown-up edge.

Festival Theatre, until 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…

Comments

1. Judith Berry23 Aug 2016, 9:59am Report

I saw this at Sadler's Wells and loved it but I think the change in running order would work even better. This review is much closer to the performances I saw than the London critics - especially the account of Run Mary Run.

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