Sadler’s Wells, London
September 28, 2016
Following mixed reviews from its first stint in the capital, Natalia Osipova’s triple bill returned to Sadler’s Wells for a second bash at ballet turned contemporary, with decidedly mixed results.
Multi-award-winning ballerina Osipova is spoilt by the renowned contemporary choreographers creating work for her. Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, Russell Maliphant and Royal Opera House regular Arthur Pita push her into the contemporary genre with force, out of her apparent comfort zone. It’s intriguing to watch, especially the ease at which she performs, particularly through the narrative and drama of Pita’s Run Mary Run. In momentarily distancing herself from classical repertoire, it’s impossible not to hear echoes of the choice made by Sylvie Guillem in her move away from her pointe shoes. Whilst Osipova does not perform with the same ease and grace as Guillem, she still has the luxury of being able to dabble in contemporary work and then return to the Opera House stage for many years yet, where she is arguably at the peak of her career.
Opening the evening, Arthur Pita’s Run Mary Run set the tone with its dark undertones and strong narrative. The duet sees Osipova paired with real-life beau and former Royal Ballet dancer Sergei Polunin, against an eclectic and haunting soundtrack by The Shangri-Las, The Crystals and David Lynch. It opens promisingly with a leap into the contemporary field, but what then emerges is an almost static display of leggy tilts and balletic movement vocabulary from the pair. Bordering on the self-indulgent, there was little emotion behind the movement, but this improved as the piece progressed and the narrative took hold.
Osipova’s status of principal with The Royal Ballet does much for her stature for audiences, carrying her through the perhaps stickier parts of Pita’s piece, which does not always sit quite so comfortably on her. Polunin meanwhile carries the contemporary work well, rougher round the edges than Osipova and perhaps more haphazard in his approach, which lends itself well to the performance.
Qutb, by Sadler’s Wells Associate Artist and artistic director of Royal Ballet of Flanders Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, is a trio for Osipova and two males: Jason Kittleberger, formerly of Cedar Lake Contemporary Dance Company, and James O’Hara, who was recently seen in Bolero at Paris Opera Ballet with Marina Abramovitch and a long term collaborator with Cherkaoui. It’s described as an exploration of unknown and dangerous territory, with the three performers coming from a different dance or movement language. In fact, the connection between the three dancers seemed almost intrinsic, so at one was their performance.
Free-flowing, seamless movement melts into itself as the dancers grow, leap and counter-balance. Here Osipova seemed more suited to what was required. There is little dazzling display of high developpés or split jetés, but a more organic, writhing mass of movement in which she is able to shine, supported by her male counterparts and illustrating her contemporary interest with genuine – rather than contrived – content. The trio were reliant on yet perfectly aligned with each other. The chosen soundscape sits against the movement perfectly, highlighting Cherkaoui’s trademark fusion of movement vocabularies, musical genres and cultures.
Concluding the evening, Russell Maliphant’s Silent Echo is a duet for Osipova and Polunin, featuring a soundtrack from UK composer and sound artist Scanner. Dipping in and out of classical movement vocabulary with spots fading off and on, the piece displays the pair as equals. It was a second seamless performance from her, with Polunin’s contribution also a treat. Kicks, flicks and leaps developed from fading slow turns, spotlights trained on the dancers in turn as they explored the line between the contemporary and the classical. It was a fitting end to the triple bill, proving you don’t have to try too hard with narrative, costuming or set to put on a successful and convincing display.