The Royal Ballet's Vadim Muntagirov and Marianela Nuñez in La Bayadère. Photo by Bill Cooper, Courtesy ROH.

Do you ever wish you could teleport to London and casually stroll into The Royal Opera House to see some of the world's best-loved ballets? Well, we have a solution for you: The Royal Ballet's 2018-19 cinema season.

Whether live or recorded, the seven ballet programs listed below, streaming now through next October, will deliver all of the magic that The Royal Ballet has to offer straight to your local movie theater. Can you smell the popcorn already?

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Natalia Osipova as Isadora with Emily Anderson as Terpsichore. Photo by Doug Gifford, Courtesy Segerstrom Center for the Arts.

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.


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Ballet Stars
Hallberg speaking at a Bolshoi press conference before the premiere of "The Sleeping Beauty." ITAR-TASS Photo Agency/Alamy Stock Photo, Courtesy Simon & Schuster, Inc.

"Do you still love ballet?" I ask David Hallberg as we sit in a drab conference room at American Ballet Theatre discussing his new memoir, A Body of Work: Dancing to the Edge and Back. The book details Hallberg's grueling return from a series of injuries that left him questioning whether he would ever dance again. "Yes, I love it even more," he says almost hungrily, as he stares me down with his searching, slightly hollow gaze.

A Body of Work is not an easy read. Its final section, devoted to the long road back from injury and despair, is the most distressing, but what comes before is not much lighter. The self-portrait Hallberg has outlined is stark: a boy, and later a man, propelled by a single-minded drive, subjected to savage bullying at school in Arizona; ostracism during a year of studies at the Paris Opéra Ballet School; arduous private training that has his parents half-joking about appealing to child services; un-empathetic partners; a punishing work schedule that leaves his body broken. All this, in order to satisfy the "gravitational force" of ballet, which he feels "pulling [him] in deeper and deeper," he writes.

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Osipova and Sergei Polunin in Arthur Pita's Run Mary Run. Photo by Bill Cooper, Courtesy Sadler's Wells.

Natalia Osipova, the Moscow-born principal of The Royal Ballet, has teamed up with London's Sadler's Wells Theatre to present Natalia Osipova & Artists, which will be making its U.S. premiere at New York City Center from November 10–12. (One piece on the program, Russell Maliphant's Silent Echo, debuted August 27 in Los Angeles.) This surprising triple bill has given Osipova free rein to explore her contemporary side while working with some of the world's most important choreographers (Arthur Pita, Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui and Maliphant) as well as her romantic partner, ballet dancer Sergei Polunin.

With the help of a translator, Pointe sat down with the 30-year-old Osipova and discussed ballet, contemporary dance and that moment and place where the personal and the professional meet.

What was the reason for creating a show featuring contemporary works rather than ballet?

I was always interested in contemporary dance—even in ballet school, I would follow it. Also, when one dances classical ballet all the time, you have to spice things up, so I choose to try different things. In a way, it's all part of a creative search. I wouldn't say I'm bored dancing classical pieces, I'd simply like to learn other languages of dance, as well.

How has the show been received?

As usual, there were good and bad reviews. I couldn't really single out what specifically people objected to in the bad reviews, not because I don't listen to critics—it's a very hard profession and I'm used to critics of all kinds—but I don't peruse every little detail and then try to reconcile it.

In Russell Maliphant's Silent Echo. Photo by Bill Cooper, Courtesy Sadler's Wells.

Each piece was created especially for you. At the Edinburgh International Festival, the audience was particularly impressed with Russell Maliphant's Silent Echo. How involved were you in its creation?

Normally, I don't interfere, but I initially met with Russell and discussed it, and it was clear from the beginning that I would be dancing with Sergei. But the rest was left up to him. In this contemporary sphere, I trust the choreographer, whereas in a classical ballet, I might have discussions with the choreographer in order to introduce my own idiosyncrasies into pieces.

Is that because you're new to contemporary dance and less comfortable with it?

Classical ballet is my native language, so there is room for me to deliver something of my own within it. With contemporary dance, I simply don't feel like I am at the level where I can give input. I'm still learning that language.

How did you and Sergei Polunin meet?

We met about a year and a half ago while working on Giselle at La Scala in Milan. The partner who was scheduled to dance with me was ill, so I asked him to fill the role. There was something in the air about dancing with Sergei. My mother even mentioned that he might be an interesting dance partner. So in a way it was in the cards.

You must have heard he was being called the “bad boy of ballet" as rumors of him throwing fits and storming offstage surfaced. What did you expect working with him to be like?

I had certainly heard of Sergei's reputation before working with him, but I understand well how things are very often exaggerated. So I didn't pay much attention. In the end, I wasn't going to dance with his reputation, I was going to dance with the real person.

In Pita's Run Mary Run. Photo by Bill Cooper, Courtesy Sadler's Wells.

What is he really like?

I met him after he gained that “bad boy" reputation, so I can only judge him as he is now. He certainly is quite outspoken. But the person that I work with and that I am together with is fairly levelheaded and very genuine. He is possibly a little more settled now. The situations that occurred previously happened for real reasons. He behaved as he did as a sincere creative person, there was no unnecessary theatricality.

It must be difficult to maintain a relationship when you work with different companies and are constantly touring. Was this production, at least in part, a way to spend more time together?

The show was already in motion at the time when we met, so it was not made specifically so that we could dance together, but it was a happy coincidence.

What are the best and worst parts of working with your significant other?

The most difficult part is that any outburst or critique during rehearsals is more open, so conflicts do arise. And as I am a young woman, it is easier for me to sometimes give way in these conflicts; and sometimes they carry on into our personal lives a little bit. The positives, however, are obvious. The feeling of being onstage together and dancing together and creating something together is incomparable.

For more news on all things ballet, don't miss a single issue.

Ballet Stars

After months of anticipation, it's finally here. Dancer, the long-awaited documentary of international ballet star Sergei Polunin, had its world premiere in Los Angeles September 9, and opens in New York and on demand this Friday, September 16. It will also play in selected cities across the country.

Through intimate childhood home videos, performance footage and in-depth interviews with his family, friends and even detractors, Dancer aims to unpack the complicated, controversial life of the former Royal Ballet star. As you may recall, Polunin made headlines several years ago for walking out on his principal contract at age 22—and for his very public, self-sabotaging behavior. But the movie also reveals his troubled home life, the enormous sacrifices his family made for him, and his inner turmoil over whether to continue dancing. In this clip, we see him spiraling out of control, exhausted and stifled by his heavy commitments with The Royal Ballet.

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Inside PT

Natalia Osipova in Coppélia (Photo by Marc Haegerman, via the New York Times)

Bolstered by its eccentric characters, Coppélia has comic flare like no other ballet. In this 2009 rendition staged by Sergei Vikharev, Natalia Osipova, a then 23-year-old Bolshoi Ballet soloist, storms the stage in Swanhilda’s variation from Act III. It would be another year before her promotion in 2010, but here Osipova demonstrates all of the ideal qualities of a principal dancer: articulated feet, expressive arms, an emotional parallel with the character that comes from years of experience and, of course, flawless technique.

After being reunited with her beloved Franz, she leaps (quite literally) onstage with confidence. The variation is fashioned with jumps, and though petite, Osipova seems to defy gravity, proving once again why her jumps are famous worldwide. She dives into each step with ease, showing a mesmerizing certainty in her ability (specifically after her soutenous at 1:10, before she begins an endless stream of développés and pirouettes). In the final seconds of the variation, Osipova’s delicate upper body captures the lighthearted nature of the ballet so well.

Now a principal with the Royal Ballet, Osipova has shown an interest in contemporary ballet. Just recently, she traded in her tutu to appear in an evening of contemporary work by Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, Russell Maliphant and Arthur Pita. Now that she has our attention, we wait in anticipation of her next performance! Happy #ThrowbackThursday!

Ballet Stars
Polunin in David LaChapelle's video to Hozier's "Take Me to Church." Photo via Dance Magazine.

There are times when Sergei Polunin's life seems straight out of a movie. From his notorious rebelliousness—exemplified by his shocking decision to walk away from his promising career at The Royal Ballet—to his glamorous relationship with Natalia Osipova to his trademark tattoos, the international ballet superstar has had his fair share of drama. We can never predict what he's going to do next, but let's face it—that's part of the reason we love him.

So when we heard there would be a new documentary about his life, it seemed only fitting. The trailer for the film, Dancer, was just released, and from the looks of it, there will be tons of jaw-dropping footage of Polunin in motion. In case we needed a reminder of how powerful this can be, the trailer is set to Hozier's "Take Me to Church," bringing to mind his passionate, soaring moves in last year's viral YouTube video. It also looks like the film will dig into Polunin's challenging past, with the trailer alluding to family drama and inner turmoil.

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Photo by Nobby Clark/Arena PAL via The Royal Opera House on Flickr.

Sir Frederick Ashton created his 1980 ballet Rhapsody in honor of Elizabeth The Queen Mother (mother of Elizabeth II) for her 80th birthday. I’d say this serene, elegant pas de deux is fit for a queen—and for the strengths of its lead dancers, Mikhail Baryshnikov and Lesley Collier, on whom the roles were created. In her shimmering blush-pink dress, Collier wafts across the stage, feet fluttering to the piano’s peaceful notes. With his effortless partnering and her full, graceful port de bras, it seems as if there’s no transition from floor to air. My favorite moment is when Collier ducks under each of Baryshnikov’s arms and he reacts with a barely-there embrace, eyes gazing outwards. They strike a perfect balance between dancing for themselves, for each other and for us.

Baryshnikov actually requested the commission for Rhapsody. Judging by the thriving success of the Baryshnikov Arts Center, the creation and performance space he founded in New York City 25 years later, he’ll continue to be a pioneer in the arts for years to come. Lesley Collier became a widely respected coach and teacher after her retirement from the stage. Below, watch her lead Royal Ballet principals Natalia Osipova and Steven McRae in rehearsals for the sublime ballet she starred in. Happy #FlashBackFriday!

For more news on all things ballet, don’t miss a single issue.

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Photo by Nikolay Krusser via Splash Magazine.

When this La Bayadère clip was filmed in 2008, Natalia Osipova was two years away from breaking into the Bolshoi Ballet’s highest rank. Though she doesn’t play the tragic heroine in this performance, it’s actually a treat to watch Osipova in a purely technical soloist role. Despite the ethereal-sounding name, the second Shade variation is no delicate, airy solo. Osipova devours space, both horizontally and vertically with her famously explosive jump. But she doesn’t sacrifice details for airtime. The controlled stationary steps, like those perfectly crossed relevé attitudes, are all the more impressive for having followed such a leg-tiring sequence (well, for any other human).

 

 

Osipova won the prestigious Benois de la Danse award for Best Female Dancer that same year. She joined The Royal Ballet as a principal in 2013, where she recently created the role of Amélie Gautreau in Christopher Wheeldon’s Strapless. Happy #ThrowbackThursday!

 

For more news on all things ballet, don’t miss a single issue.

Ballet Stars
Polunin and Osipova dancing at La Scala. Photo by Marco Brescia and Rudy Amisano

What's more exciting than two of ballet's biggest superstars dancing together in a new contemporary program at Sadler's Wells? How about finding out they're a couple in real life, too?

Well, it's official. This week, Royal Ballet principal Natalia Osipova and Stanislavsky dancer Sergei Polunin (who also made waves dancing in a viral video to Hozier's "Take Me to Church" earlier this year) confirmed the rumors that have been flying around for months when they announced that they are, in fact, in a relationship. They're also longing to dance together more often, and claim that classical companies are resistant to letting them be partners onstage. The two performed together in Giselle at La Scala earlier this year, but haven't been able to do so again since.

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Ballet Stars

When former Bolshoi stars Natalia Osipova and Ivan Vasiliev called off their engagement in 2013, fans wondered whether their spectacular onstage partnership was over as well. On their breaks from St. Petersburg’s Mikhailovsky Ballet, where both are now principals, she guested with The Royal Ballet while he toured with Kings of the Dance and told the press that maybe, someday, they would dance together again.

In July 2014, they reunited in Solo for Two, a self-curated evening of contemporary choreography created for them by Ohad Naharin, Arthur Pita and Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui. The premiere at Orange County’s Segerstrom Center for the Arts marked their return to performing together and a new stage in their artistic lives, defined by creative freedom and self-determination (performances in London and Moscow followed). “In classical dance, you follow the rules,” Osipova explains. “In contemporary dance, you have no rules. I love that feeling of freedom.”

Solo for Two expands their horizons and satiates the curiosity of these restless artists. “We want to dance while we can,” Vasiliev says, “because 10 years later, you can’t.” Osipova herself requested the choreographers. Learning their works entailed rehearsals in London, Milan, Tel Aviv and Los Angeles, as well as two weeks in Israel studying Gaga, Naharin’s movement style. All the while, their agent, who is also Solo for Two’s producer, translated artistic direction from Hebrew, French and English into the dancers’ native Russian.

In the studio, their chemistry is as mesmerizing as ever. They give themselves over completely to the movement, and she trusts him implicitly to catch her when she leaps without looking. He makes her laugh; she softens his muscularity with her breathtaking lightness and grace. As Vasiliev puts it, “We smile at each other and move.” And lucky for “Vasipova” fans, they promise that this is only the beginning of their renewed stage partnership.

 

All photos by Joe Toreno

Ballet Stars
Osipova in "Firebird" with American Ballet Theatre. Photo Courtesy ABT.

Press room, Metropolitan Opera House, New York City, before show time (loud bells interrupt us between 7:40 and 8 pm). Natalia Osipova, American Ballet Theatre's 26-year-old star ballerina, has come from rehearsal wearing a purple T-shirt over crocheted tights and down booties. No makeup, heart-shaped face, small features, black hair pulled back, like a fresh-faced elf. Osipova's continent-straddling career—she and fiancé Ivan Vasiliev are also principals at the Mikhailovsky Theatre in St. Petersburg, after their headline-grabbing departure from the Bolshoi Ballet—has made her an international name. She puts feet up on couch, asking if I mind. I don't!

You told me once that your parents moved back to Russia from Israel, and that you spent summers with your grandmother in Israel.
Yes, that's true. It was hard times in the USSR when they were young. They wanted a better life. Israel was a young state. If you had relatives there you could get a visa. But after a while it didn't go well, so they moved back. My sister and I were both born in Moscow.

Parents?
I come from a simple family, you could say working class. Mama went to school, then she met my father. She had a child—and she was a mom. That was her profession from then on, and she did it very well.

What was your father's work?
He was educated as an engineer. But he did sports.

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Dancer: Sarah Van Patten
Company: San Francisco Ballet
Ballet: Marius Petipa’s Swan Lake

San Francisco Ballet principal Sarah Van Patten always commands the stage in roles that call for dramatic depth and musicality. But because she is not usually thought of as a strong technician, she was a long shot to be cast as Odette/Odile in Swan Lake.

Certainly, her interpretation was the least virtuosic among the six women who performed the role in Helgi Tomasson’s new
production—but hers was also the boldest and most touching. Van Patten’s phrasing as Odette was lush and aching. Her sexiness as Odile was searing. Portraying the emotions of her characters came naturally, Van Patten says. But she also powered through the fear-inspiring fouettés and worked hard to maintain strong footwork. “I wanted to have a solid base because when you have that, you can give yourself over to the role,” she says. Indeed, she achieved the technical strength she needed, but put it in total service to emotional artistry. —Rachel Howard



Dancer: Domenico Luciano
Company: Dominic Walsh Dance Theatre
Ballet: Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake

 
Domenico Luciano knows how to be a he-bird. As the only dancer outside of Matthew Bourne’s troupe performing Bourne’s all-male Swan Lake pas de deux, Luciano made a statement during his Houston performance last season. At 6’ 3” and a dead ringer for Michelangelo’s David, Luciano is a mighty presence. He evokes an animal energy with his seemingly endless lines. Bourne’s ballet straddles a fine edge between parody and myth, and Luciano luxuriates in that very territory: sensuous, but always masculine. “Bourne’s piece feels right for my physicality,” says Luciano. “Although I’m so comfortable in the role, there’s so much to discover in the character. It’s a bit murky in that I am a figment of the prince’s imagination. The relationship between the prince and the swan is really deliciously ambiguous.” —Nancy Wozny

 

Dancer: Natalia Osipova
Company: Bolshoi Ballet
Ballet: August Bournonville’s La Sylphide

 
In her sensational debut with American Ballet Theatre last June, Bolshoi Ballet principal Natalia Osipova demonstrated the power of a beloved old classroom step: grand jeté. With her impeccable technique and unfailing musicality, she would be the ideal heroine for any ballet, but it was the airy lightness of her grand jeté that made her the perfect choice for the doomed forest sprite in Bournonville’s La Sylphide. The three leaps she performed in rapid succession at the end of Act I seemed to require no preparation at all, coming out of nowhere to vanish before our eyes. While tossing off feats of strength, Osipova embodied a fatal fragility. A creature of the air, utterly weightless, she was too delicate to escape the tragic end awaiting her. —Harris Green

 

Dancer: Alina Cojocaru
Company: The Royal Ballet
Ballet: Marius Petipa’s Giselle

 
For almost a decade, Alina Cojocaru had been one of the brightest stars in a sparkling constellation of ballerinas at The Royal Ballet—until a prolapsed disc in her neck threatened to end her career in 2008. After 11 months away from the stage, she returned to the Royal Opera House last April to perform Giselle, her signature role.

Cojocaru always brings exquisite technique and emotional poignancy to this role. But being unable to dance for so long brought her even closer to her character. “The joy of dance made my Giselle and my Alina be one person more than ever,” she says. With just five days’ rehearsal, she allowed no concessions to her long layoff; her technique was as brilliant as ever and Giselle’s adolescent innocence blossomed into a coruscating love that defied the grave. The New York Times’ critic Roslyn Sulcas declared it to be “one of the great dance renditions of our time.” 

    
At the end of an emotional evening, the ecstatic audience covered the stage in flowers and, as the curtain fell, Cojocaru says she felt that “to lose and then fight for something I love was in my very soul. One battle in my life was won; now I’m ready for whatever else life will bring!” —Graham Watts

 

Dancer: Riolama Lorenzo
Company: Pennsylvania Ballet
Ballet: Peter Martins’ Barber Violin Concerto

 

Sometimes a smaller company offers just the room for growth that an exceptionally gifted dancer needs to burnish her talent. Riolama Lorenzo danced Peter Martins’ Fearful Symmetries while in the corps of New York City Ballet several years ago. Now, after having moved to Pennsylvania Ballet in 2002, and ascending from corps to principal in three short years, she’s still dancing Martins’ work—sublimely. Her role in his Barber Violin Concerto last season had Lorenzo making a dazzling transition from the ideal
ballerina who seemed to land each jump on a pillow of air, to literally letting her hair down in gutsier action. Cuban-born Lorenzo is beloved by Philadelphia audiences for her daring and her clear attack. Standing 5’8”, with exquisitely arched feet and an astonishingly supple spine, her flexibility, precision and range along with a presence that exudes both directness and depth make Riolama Lorenzo shine. —Lisa Kraus

 

Dancer: Alex Wong
Company: Miami City Ballet
Ballet: Twyla Tharp’s In the Upper Room

Few would think of the cheerfully loosey-goosey choreography for the sneaker-clad “stompers” in Twyla Tharp’s In the Upper Room as technical. Yet when Miami City Ballet principal soloist Alex Wong blazed through the stompers’ bouncy leaps and backward jogs this spring, he epitomized virtuosic technique. Wong’s precise classical style and fine-tuned musicality lent the high-speed role—which most dancers are lucky just to survive—polish and panache. And in a work defined by explosive displays of energy, Wong crackled with a singular electricity: His jumps were the most buoyant, his joyful intensity unmatched.

Wong thinks that Tharp’s presence in the audience inspired his superhuman performance. “We were pushing as hard as we could for her, trying to fill the entire space,” he remembers. “Just thinking about it makes my body start to tingle.”  —Margaret Fuhrer

 

Dancer: Sterling Hyltin
Company: New York City Ballet
Ballet: George Balanchine and Alexandra Danilova’s Coppélia

Sterling Hyltin made several outstanding performances at New York City Ballet last winter, and two were as Swanilda in Coppélia. At her first performance, her sunny personality, unfailing musicality, assured technique and buoyant energy proved a perfect fit for the spunky heroine. Less successful was acting that relied on mugging (rolling her eyes, say, to express disdain for her boyfriend, Franz). By her second performance, however, Hyltin had replaced mannerisms with actions; now Swanilda snubbed Franz with a toss of her head or a shrug. It was if she had created a new performance, one that could now reach the audience at the very top of the house through movement alone. Such makeovers are as much a part of Hyltin’s dancing as taking class. —Harris Green

 

Dancer: Kristi Boone
Company: American Ballet Theatre
Ballet: George Balanchine’s Prodigal Son

 
Although she’s been a soloist since 2007, Kristi Boone has rarely been given the chance to carry a ballet. But during a foray into principal territory last June as the Siren, she looked every inch the part, from the sensuous, exaggerated curves of her legs and feet to her beautiful face, stoic and imposing. It was a dangerous, exciting debut. Her dancing was icy and deliberate—she pulled off the tricky Balanchine choreography with finesse. Boone had been itching to wield the Siren’s red cape since ABT’s last run of Prodigal in 2000, when she was still with ABT II. She relishes the role as a rare opportunity for a female dancer. “You’re usually the damsel in distress,” she says. “You never get to have that much power.” —Kina Poon

 

Dancer: Jonathan Porretta
Company: Pacific Northwest Ballet
Ballet: Marius Petipa’s Swan Lake

 
Even when the music was soft in PNB’s production of the Petipa classic, you couldn’t hear Jonathan Porretta land his clean, soaring jumps. You could, however, in an auditorium that seats 2,900, actually hear the beating of his feet.

Over the past few years, working with contemporary choreographers, this magnetic virtuoso has grown into an artist. With his Swan Lake roles—the flashy, character-rich Jester and the gentler, lyrical pas de trois male—he proved himself a sensitive master of classical ballet as well. Porretta is all things to all people, working to fulfill choreographers’ visions, embodying composers’ music, connecting with fellow dancers, achieving personal satisfaction and conversing with the audience. And what a conversation it is! —Rosie Gaynor

 

Dancer: Joanna Wozniak
Company: The Joffrey Ballet
Ballet: Vaslav Nijinsky’s Rite of Spring

 
Joanna Wozniak danced The Chosen One in Rite of Spring three times during the Joffrey’s spring season, and she was perfect from the start—vulnerable, aware, poignant, terrified and noticeably more powerful and ferocious than in her many traditionally lyrical roles. She had dreamed of dancing this role of a human sacrifice ever since joining the company in 2003. And once she learned the part, Wozniak began “thinking about what this young virgin girl was really like, going through all the complex emotions she must have felt knowing she was about to die, and realizing that her family, and all the people she had trusted, had turned against her in a way.” The Chosen One’s grueling solo lasts only a few minutes, but before the dancer bursts into motion she must stand absolutely still, frozen in fright. “There is a spotlight over you at that point, and everything else seems to disappear into darkness, though you can hear the Elders stomping. And it’s at that moment that you really become the character.” —Hedy Weiss

 

Dancer: Marie-Agnès Gillot
Company: Paris Opéra Ballet
Ballet: George Balanchine’s Apollo

 
As the first Paris Opéra Ballet dancer promoted to étoile after performing a nonclassical ballet, Marie-Agnès Gillot is the company’s contemporary darling. She always looks like she’s having an “on” night, so grounded that she can balance at her whim until she chooses to move on to the next step. But what makes her truly unique in modern movement is her ability to imbue even the most abstract works with meaning and personality. Many Balanchine purists were astonished at Gillot’s playful, seductive Terpsichore in  Apollo at the Nijinsky Gala in Hamburg last summer. The usually spare, cool neoclassicism became jazzy, with hips jutting from side to side. Her long legs articulated each step with clarity. And her entire body tested the limits of how much she could play with the music, coyly waiting to feel each movement from within before letting it gravitate out to the tips of her pointe shoes. —Jennifer Stahl

 

Dancer: Ebony Williams
Company: Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet
Ballet: Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui’s Orbo Novo

 
When Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet’s Ebony Williams steps onstage, her presence is sometimes so fierce, it’s intimidating just to be in the audience. That presence was most evident this year in Cedar Lake’s mysterious, multilayered Orbo Novo by Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui. Williams moved with utter fearlessness, forcefully throwing her body into the movement at one moment, finding a soft, slinky angularity the next. “He choreographed my solo by giving me tasks that would create movement,” says Williams. “At first, I had to move like I had balls all over me, then like I was made of fire and at the end I became an animal.” Although Williams admits she was nervous about having to come up with her own contemporary movement, she appreciated that the process was a partnership: “He wanted to know how I moved and who I was—and let me show that onstage.” —Jennifer Stahl

 

Honorable Mentions

Kathryn Morgan in The Sleeping Beauty Wedding Pas de Deux, during New York City Ballet’s “Dancer’s Choice” evening: Simultaneously authoritative and delicate, regal and gentle, the young corps de ballet member breezed through this technically exacting pas de deux, the perfect showcase for her ineffable brand of understated charm.

Maria Riccetto in American Ballet Theatre’s Giselle with Herman Cornejo: Usually paired with David Hallberg, Riccetto bloomed dancing with Cornejo, bringing a deep tenderness and vulnerability to the role. Technically flawless, she made Giselle utterly believable, and together she and Cornejo seemed a natural partnership.

Pacific Northwest Ballet’s 45-year-old Louise Nadeau in Forsythe’s Urlicht at her farewell performance in June: Strength, grace, technique, musicality and personality all combined at peak levels for what was one of her best performances.

Hamburg Ballet principal Hélène Bouchet in Verklungene Feste by John Neumeier: She moved with that ideal combination of strength and abandon that all dancers strive for yet rarely achieve. Over and over, she sent her body flying, then pulled back and found the control to guide her limbs into precise positions.

Robin Mathes in Mauro Bigonzetti’s rousing Cantata: Leaving fear in the dust, the Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montreal soloist mixed gravitas with abandon, charging head-on into the pathos of the music.

Jazmon Voss and Cira Robinson of the U.K.’s Ballet Black in Antonia Franceschi’s intimate Pop8: After a scintillating duet in which Voss and Robinson were vivacious yet sinuous, Voss’ jazz-themed solo fused muscular virtuosity with delicate grace and sophistication.

Osipova Guest Stars

Twenty-three-year-old Bolshoi dynamo Natalia Osipova, known for her buoyant jump and vibrant stage presense, will appear as a guest artist with American Ballet Theatre during its spring season at the Metropolitan Opera House dancing Giselle and La Sylphide. Visit abt.org for more information. --MF

 

Ratmansky's On the Dnieper Premieres

Since last fall's announcement that Alexei Ratmansky--who recently stepped down as artistic director of the Bolshoi Ballet--would become American Ballet Theatre's resident choreographer, audiences have eagerly awaited his first work for the company. Will his creations for ABT rival the two ballets he's made so far for New York City Ballet--particularly the acclaimed Concerto DSCH?

Soon, they'll have an answer: ABT performs Ratmansky's new staging of On the Dnieper, a little-known Prokofiev piece, during the first weekk in June.  On the Dnieper is the highlight of an all-Prokofiev program that also features the company's premiere of James Kudelka's Desire and a revival of Balanchine's Prodigal Son (which will give ABT a chance to show off some of its spectacular male dancers--Ethan Stiefel, Angel Corella and Herman Cornejo are all cast in the title role). www.abt.org --MF

London ballet fans, get excited: It was just announced yesterday that Natalia Osipova will join The Royal Ballet. Her first role will be Juliet opposite Carlos Acosta this fall. The only problem? She's still on contract as a principal with both American Ballet Theatre and the Mikhailovsky Ballet. Although the Mikhailovsky director said she'd be warmly welcomed back to St. Petersburg for guest appearances, theartsdesk.com reports that ABT's Kevin McKenzie did not hide his frustrations when he found out that one of his biggest stars had made conflicting commitments right in the middle of the ABT season.

 

Another interesting plot twist is the fact that Osipova's fiancé, Ivan Vasiliev, is not part of her latest move. So far the ballet phenom has followed Osipova everywhere she went, leaving the Bolshoi for the Mikhailovsky when she did, taking on a contract with ABT when she did. For the past few years, the two have seemed like a packaged deal. This is the first time Osipova's taken such a bold step on her own.

 

At the moment, her reasons are unclear to observers. The Royal's repertoire isn't all that much different from ABT's (just swap in some McGregor for Ratmansky). It could possibly be the lure of London, where audiences adore her, and where she first emerged as a star with the Bolshoi. Maybe she simply wants to partner with Acosta. Or it might just be a case of wanderlust: When Pointe writer Elizabeth Kendall asked Osipova how she felt about leaving the Bolshoi last year, the star replied, "I don’t regret the decision. It feels much simpler and easier now without the Bolshoi. Maybe I’m that kind of person—not liking to be tied to one place."

Mark your calendars: The Royal Ballet's cinema broadcast series will bring the company's Giselle to movie theaters across the U.S. next Monday night.

This installment is especially compelling because it features one of the Royal's hottest partnerships: Natalia Osipova and Carlos Acosta. Osipova's Giselle is electrifying on its own, with her ever-astounding jump making her a particularly unearthly Wili. But she and the heroic Acosta share a singular chemistry. He seems particularly tender toward Osipova, particularly eager to take care of her. (The Giselle performance to be aired next week was actually filmed live this weekend, and reviews of the pair in the ballet have been glowing.)

Click here for theater locations and more information about the broadcast.

It seems like only a few days ago that Natalia Osipova and Ivan Vasiliev swept onto the international dance scene, bewitching audiences with their feats of daredeviltry. Yet it was back in 2006 that the pair made their breakout debuts as Kitri and Basilio in Don Quixote at the Bolshoi. They were babies, too: Osipova was 20 and Vasiliev, just 18. Here are a few exhilarating excerpts from that first performance. Happy #ThrowbackThursday!

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