Last summer, Mariinsky Ballet prima ballerina Uliana Lopatkina retired after more than 20 years as a principal. Adored in Russia and by audiences around the world, Lopatkina's virtuosity, elegance and humble presence have been sorely missed. Although best known for powerful interpretations of classical roles like Odette/Odile, Lopatkina also brought unparalleled drama to contemporary works, as in this clip by Dutch choreographer Hans van Manen. Lopatkina performed the austere, but emotionally fraught duet, titled Trois Gnossiennes, with her frequent Mariinsky partner Ivan Kozlov at the Hans van Manen Festival in 2007.
At the start of the video, the dancers are settled under a spotlight, commanding the stage with concentrated energy. Kozlov places his hands deliberately on Lopatkina's shoulders and she slowly rises onto pointe; the tension between them is palpable. Bursting from stillness, Lopatkina slides into van Manen's striking geometric shapes. Kozlov manipulates her supple limbs, creating even more extreme positions. In an unconventional lift, he supports her foot in his palm as she développés. He lowers her into a flexed arabesque and their bodies unfurl together. Their intense, though abstract relationship has us completely absorbed even in just a short clip. Happy #ThrowbackThursday!