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Natalia Osipova on roles and partners

Posted on October 29, 2014


osipovarbfuguejohanperssonNatalia Osipova tells Zoë Anderson about partners, dance styles and what she’d like to dance next.


Discussing Manon for a feature in the October issue of Dancing Times, Natalia Osipova focused on the partnering of Kenneth MacMillan’s passionate pas de deux, which she first danced at La Scala, Milan, before performances with The Royal Ballet in Moscow and London. “At La Scala, I prepared very quickly, there was very little time, I had a very young partner. The main thought in my head was, don’t fall over! In Manon, the characters of Manon and Des Grieux open up in the pas de deux, it’s about the relationship between them. When you don’t know each other well, it’s not easy.

“It was a trial run of Manon, to start feeling and understanding it. My real Manon was done here [at The Royal Ballet]. Even here, I started work with Carlos Acosta three days before we danced it together. But Carlos Acosta is Carlos Acosta! I can’t remember feeling so comfortable, so confident on stage. As a partner, he supports you, he helps you to be your best. It’s very important for female dancers!”

Who are Osipova’s favourite partners, and why? “It’s very difficult to describe, you just feel it on stage. With David Hallberg – honestly, I’ve never loved a man as much as I love David on stage, the emotion I feel with him. It’s a magical thing. It’s not there in every role, but in Romeo and Juliet…” Osipova made her debut in MacMillan’s Romeo and Juliet at American Ballet Theatre, and the experience made a huge impact on her. “When we work together, and I have to leave, it’s really hard. I feel sad, I miss him. With some partners, it’s very professional, the collaboration is great, but I have strong emotional feelings with David.” 

Osipova speaks with enthusiasm of The Royal Ballet repertory, which is full of challenging roles she hasn’t danced yet. What’s on her wish list? What other roles would she like to dance? “Cinderella. It’s my cherished dream that someone should make a Cinderella ballet for me. I’m getting older, and it’s really a young dancer’s role. It’s my favourite music, I love Prokofiev. I’ve never danced it, in any version. Perhaps they will do Cinderella here, and I can dance Ashton’s version.”

She’s also been exploring contemporary dance. Over the summer, she and Ivan Vasiliev appeared in the programme Solo for Two, dancing works by Arthur Pita, Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui and Ohad Naharin. Is she planning to do more work like this? “I really like it, I really enjoy contemporary work, but after Solo for Two, I realised that it affects your body. There was a lot of pain. It’s hard to tune your body again to classical style. Months have passed, but I still feel discomfort. The muscular part of your body works in a different way in contemporary dance. I’m just waiting until my body gets rid of these different muscles –” she pats her slender arms “– the lines I built to dance contemporary work! I would like to do more, but I would like something specially made for me. I’m not interested in dancing existing works. I want a collaboration with a choreographer who will see me, and help me to develop something in my art, a ballet done for me.

“Thinking about the future, there will be a time when I have to leave the world of classical ballet, and then it will be a good opportunity to do more contemporary dance.”

Does she have choreographers in mind? “Lots of them! Before you try, you can’t really answer. Talking about existing roles, I would like to dance Mats Ek’s Giselle and Carmen. When I saw them on video, I felt – this is my role. It’s very close to my soul, I understand the emotions he expresses. His language is very close to me. Maybe in the future!”


Natalia Osipova’s Manon is reviewed in the November issue of Dancing Times. For more of this interview, see the October issue of the magazine. With thanks to Vera Afdjei for translation. 


Picture: Natalia Osipova in rehearsal. Photograph: Johan Persson, courtesy of the Royal Opera House




Zoë was born in Edinburgh, and saw her first dance performances at the Festival there. She is the dance critic of The Independent, and has also written for The Independent on Sunday, The Scotsman and Dancing Times. In 2002, she received her doctorate from the University of York for a thesis on “Nationhood and epic romance: Ariosto, Sidney, Spenser”. She is the author of The Royal Ballet: 75 Years and The Ballet Lover’s Companion.

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