Since stepping down as a Bolshoi Ballet principal in 2011, prima ballerina Natalia Osipova, now a principal with The Royal Ballet, has been on a quest to express her own artistic voice. This month she takes another stride on that path by starring in ISADORA, an evening-length narrative work about Isadora Duncan that premieres August 10–12 at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Costa Mesa, California.
Born in San Francisco in 1877, Duncan pioneered modern dance and broke ground for independent women artists. Largely unappreciated in the U.S. during her lifetime, she spent much of her career in Russia and other parts of Europe and married a Russian poet. "I feel I understand Isadora," Osipova says, "as dancers striving always to gain artistic freedom and our unique individuality. Even being part of The Royal Ballet, I still fight for my freedom to gain artistic strength." In search of that freedom, Osipova has continually pursued outside contemporary projects.
Osipova as Isadora. Photo by Doug Gifford, Courtesy Segerstrom Center for the Arts.
Choreographed and directed by the Mariinsky Theatre's Vladimir Varnava, ISADORA traces Duncan's life in the U.S. and Europe, and blends classical pointework with modern movement that evokes her lyrical, Grecian-inspired style. A cast of 25 dancers, including former American Ballet Theatre principal Veronika Part, will portray everyone from family and collaborators to Vladimir Lenin and Soviet citizens. The music, Prokofiev's score for Cinderella, holds further emotional resonance for Osipova, a passionate fan of the composer's work. "It is seeing the music in an entirely new light," she says. The Mikhailovsky Orchestra will play live. ISADORA is Osipova's first full-length project at the Segerstrom, which is co-producing with Ardani Artists. After the premiere, she hopes to tour ISADORA internationally.