Russians call her “the new Osipova” because, since joining the Royal Ballet two years ago, Natalia Osipova hasn’t stopped reinventing herself. Her total lack of fear pushes dance technique into a danger zone, and her English repertory of dramatic roles has revealed an astonishing actress. “What you see is a dancer completely naked and real,” her dance partner Matthew Golding told me.
“Giselle”, which she’s dancing this spring in London, is not only her signature role, but also her most confessional. The 2014 Royal Opera House performances that won her two National Dance Awards drew their raw intensity from her own “very personal, very dark story” – her break-up with Ivan Vasiliev, her former partner both on and off stage. It was wrenching to watch. Those who saw Osipova’s April 2015 performances at La Scala in Milan, described a very different experience. Her surprise partner was Sergei Polunin, replacing the injured David Hallberg. An Italian ballet blogger who wrote of “a miraculously tangible alchemy” between the two stars was unwittingly on the mark. This was the beginning of their “big love”, a relationship that both believe will be lasting. So how will a radiant Osipova adapt her Giselle for the Royal Ballet? She says she’s looking forward to “testing” Matthew Golding as a new Albrecht, and intends to develop her interpretation of Act I’s peasant-girl heroine. “She will be very…” she flashes her little rabbity smile, “very spicy!”
This summer in London, and later in Moscow, she will appear in a triple bill of new works by the contemporary choreographers Arthur Pita, Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui and Russell Maliphant – a programme commissioned by Osipova herself. She turns 30 on May 18th and is keen to experiment and extend her range while still at her peak. In the Pita piece, inspired by “A Streetcar Named Desire”, she performs with Polunin for the first time in Britain. “Before, when I danced with Sergei, there was a competition between us – we both wanted to lead – but now that we’re close there’s a trust. Together, I think we can do something great.”
Giselle Royal Opera House, Mar 17th and 29th; triple bill, Sadler’s Wells, Jun 29th-July 3rd