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Live screening of Giselle

Posted on March 19, 2014

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Tonight, March 19, The Sleeping Beauty will be live screened from the Royal Opera House; Nicola Rayner recalls the live screening of Giselle earlier in the year

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The Russian ballerina Natalia Osipova joined the Royal Ballet as a principal dancer last year and to say she is loved by critics and audiences is to state the facts too quietly: she is revered and adored. For this reason tickets to see her – particularly from decent seats – are like gold dust.

The live screening of Peter Wright’s Giselle on January 27 for me – and many others in the packed cinema at Vue Piccadillly – offered the chance not only to see Osipova dance, but to observe her close-up, from a view we likely wouldn’t be able to afford at the Royal Opera House. The fact that she would be partnered by another global ballet star, Carlos Acosta dancing Count Albrecht, in a sell-out performance of one the world’s most loved Romantic ballets and in what she claimed, in a pre-recorded interview, is her favourite role only added to the anticipation.

For me it wasn’t just the first time I had seen Osipova in action, it was my first live screening and I wasn’t quite sure how it would compare to a “normal” film. There were some differences. With Adolphe Adam’s wonderful score playing as we entered the cinema and a rather thrilling countdown-to-going-live on the screen, we were primed.

The pre-performance buzz of the ROH was certainly captured (I rather childishly enjoyed watching people’s reactions as they realised they had been caught on camera behind presenter Darcey Bussell). But cinema audiences, as well as being treated to rehearsal footage and interviews, were given access to sights we simply wouldn’t otherwise have had – of the dancers warming up in the wings, for example, or conductor Boris Gruzin picking up his baton.

In a performance that received publicity for its stars, the supporting dancers were wonderful too. Deirdre Chapman was fierce and protective as Berthe, Giselle’s mother, rightly suspicious of Albrecht; Bathilde’s frosty demeanour melted with Giselle’s impassioned dancing; and Yuhui Choe was a sunny, springy presence in the pas de six. Even the Wilis had their moment – before Act II we were shown an excerpt of them in rehearsal. “I love the detail in the technique,” said one, “of the arms holding a baby that was never born from a marriage that had never happened.”

Did Osipova live up to the hype? Absolutely: we were transfixed. When she dances with Albrecht in Act I she is so innocent, so trusting, so in love that one cannot help but be filled with foreboding. Acosta, for his part, shifts movingly from playboy lover to heartbroken survivor.

Act II was sublime, with Osipova’s long legs whipping through her first solo with dervish-like speed. She dances so that you believe she is dead – both there and not there. It was just a shame that the cinema audience, as we sat weeping in our seats at the end, felt too inhibited to join those at the ROH in their applause.

Picture: Natalia Osipova and Carlos Acosta in Giselle 

Photograph: Frederika Davis


Nicola Rayner was editor of Dance Today from 2010 to 2015. She has written for a number of publications including The Guardian, The Independent and Time Out Buenos Aires, where she cut her teeth as a dance journalist working on the tango section. Today she continues to dance everything from ballroom to breakdance, with varying degrees of success. Her debut novel, The Girl Before You, was published last year in paperback, ebook and audiobook.

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