Natalia Osipova is a legend in the making. Last night at Covent Garden’s Royal Ballet (January 27, 2014) she performed ‘Giselle’. For me, this was a performance of a lifetime. I was moved to tears and had trouble leaving the theatre. I could not believe the beauty of what I had seen.
I felt watching her, that Pavlova had arisen from the ashes like a Phoenix , but technically, Osipova has advanced beyond what was possible for Pavlova. She and Pavlova share many similarities: both, five feet, two inches tall; both, with long, delicate arms and legs; Osipova with small, exquisite feet (Pavlova’s were longer); both with graceful shoulders and neck; both with extremely flexible and expressive torsos; both very musical and fast; both as light as fairie dust; both the soul of the part.
These great ballerinas are not made in one generation. In reconstructing the choreography of ‘Giselle’ from the original by Coralli and Perrot, Marius Petipa [1818-1910] in St. Petersburg , who had been a student of Auguste Vestris [1760-1842] in Paris, ’embodied the traditions of the French school in its Romantic florescence’, and took from Johansson the quick, precise technique that Bournonville [1805-1879] had developed in Denmark. Petipa also drew upon Enrico Cecchetti’s [1850-1928] pedagogy,’ which lent Italian bravura to Russian dance.’ (see excellent programme note, ‘Marius Petipa (1818-1910)’ by Tim Scholl, p.31)
Pavlova took private lessons from Cecchetti, who encouraged her not to force her turnout. Osipova has been able to study the Vaganova method, used in both the Mariinsky and the Bolshoi companies. Vaganova [1879-1951] ,who was a contemporary of Pavlova, had turned to pedagogy. Petipa had cared little for Vaganova’s dancing, and she was not promoted until 1915 by Nicoli Legat, who was then the Ballet Master in St. Petersburg. She chose to retire a year later to expand her teaching. After the Revolution of 1917, she fought to preserve the legacy of Petipa and the Imperial Ballet. Her method brings together the heritage of Russian ballet.
Osipova in ‘Giselle’ is a combination of Petipa’s ‘Romantic florescence’, the very accurate footwork and changes of direction inherent in Bournonville and the ‘bravura’ and technical difficulty of Cecchetti. She has unearthly lightness and great natural height which gives her more time to perform and accent difficult foot work ‘en air’. She seemed a tragic apparition.
Frederick Ashton speaks about Pavlova:
Some glimpses of Pavlova:
in The Dragonfly:
Osipova in ‘Romeo and Juliet’:
Osipova in ‘Swan Lake’:
The good news is that last night’s performance is to be turned into a DVD, eventually available at the Royal Opera House gift shop, I presume.