Natalia Osipova & Guests
A Sadler’s Wells London Production
Auckland Arts Festival
ASB Theatre, Aotea Centre
Classical ballerina Natalia Osipova is recognised as one of today's great prima ballerinas and has been principal dancer with The Bolshoi, American Ballet Theatre and The Royal Ballet.
Her Auckland programme featured three works she commissioned from leading international choreographers – Russell Maliphant, Arthur Pita and Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, who choreographed Milonga at last year’s festival and Babel in 2015.
The three works on the programme showcased Osipova’s skills with a variety of dance techniques from the pop video dance in Run Mary Run to the almost balletic work of Silent Echo.
The first work on the programme Run Mary Run, choreographed by Arthur Pita, featured songs by the Shangri-Las the American girl group of the 1960s, with their tales of broken hearts and broken dreams such Leader of the Pack and Remember (Walking in the Sand).
There was a strong narrative inspired by the songs with Osipova dressed like a go-go dancer interacting with her male lover, danced by Sergei Polunin. It was an elliptical work telling of the consequences a frenetic dissolute life – they even drink and smoke on stage. The work opens and ends with a display of groping arms emerging from a pile on the stage. It initially seems to be a comic sequence as Osipova disentangles herself but she then appears to be old woman lamenting. The dance ends the same way but here the groping arms are those emerging from a car crash.
The two protagonists danced through the progressions of teenage love with Osipova dancing in her lime green go-go dancer's outfit and Polunin with his leather jacket a la Marlon Brando. They explore all the dimensions of relationships; the ecstatic love, the playfulness, the anger, the disappointments and the making up.
This was all conveyed with dramatic moves on the part of Osipova, which were almost acrobatic as she leapt around Polunin with hectic, rock-video inspired moves.
The second work on the programme was Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui’s Qutb, which Osipova danced with Jason Kittelberger and James O’Hara. Incidentally, O'Hara has accepted a full-time role at the New Zealand School of Dance as a contemporary dance tutor.
The work exists in several dimensions. In one the dancers are thrown apart as though from an explosion while they also appear to conform to some predetermined lines of action as though planetary bodies. At other times, they trace out biological and crystalline shape and patterns
These parallel existences can be seen in sequences where Osipova the dancers clutch and adhere to each other, human bodies under stress appearing to be both attracted and repelled by the male dancers,
The music, much of it Middle Eastern had a string rhythmic quality to it as well as sinuous chanting that mirrored the sensuous movements of the bodies with an extreme physicality as the dancers' bodies entwined.
The sound engineers endeavoured to spoil the piece by pushing the volume past the level of enjoyment but thankfully only for a few minutes.
In Silent Echo by Russell Maliphant, the dance was grounded in a more classical structure. Osipova and Polunin were initially spotlit performing individual movements and poses, then they slowly gravitated to each other to perform a series of almost classical pas de deux. Often the sensual classical movements became more robotic and flexible with elaborate twists and turns. In many of their solo pieces Osipova and Polunin danced as though on steroids and in one sequence their bodies were spinning so quickly all we saw was a blur.
There was a lot of emphasis on the physicality and closeness of the two dancers, exuding a sensual chemistry.
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