Category Anna Pavlova

Natalia Osipova, the new Pavlova.


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’:

in ‘Giselle’:

In ‘Corsaire’:

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.

The Russian Ballet Icons Gala in London, March 4, 2012. Films of the spectacular programme and the world’s leading stars.

Some of the most talented dancers in the world gathered for this evening to honour Anna Pavlova at London’s Coliseum Theatre. Photo montage and small extant film clips  were used to suggest her charm. (Please see this website for these clips). The evening belonged to the ballerinas, with the exception of Sergei Polunin, who can suggest to us the leaps of Nijinsky.

Rather than offering a critique of the three hour performance, I would like to give an opportunity to show you the outstanding soloists, and if possible, what they danced.

The audience was very amusing, consisting of dignitaries and royalty, Russian oligarchs and their families, a claque from the Royal Ballet ,other artists and mere mortals. One  middle-aged, fastidious Russian  gentleman in a box brought along his young wife whose attire, in my daughter’s words, ‘resembled a magnificent pink flamingo’.

The first moment of stage excitement was the appearance of Alina Somova in the role of Giselle:

After such a beautiful presentation, Ulyana Lopatkina danced a spirited Russkaya:

Next Iana Salenko  (whose feet were particularly beautiful) and Marian Walter of the Berlin State Ballet danced Romeo and Juliet which I do not have, so here is Sleeping Beauty:

Tamara Rojo was brilliant in Life is a Dream,  a piece of choreography by Fei Bo to music of Wu Na: It concerned a fish, and indeed, on the stage in a large bowl was a fish in his first performance. With Sylvie Guillem and her dog and now Tamara Rojo and her fish, I think the influence of the fauvists is creeping literally into the ballet. Unfortunately, I lack this pas de deux with fish but here is Rojo:

Let us look at Sergei Polunin in Cuba. He performed [above] in Raymonda but there is not a film of this:

Alina Cojocaru and Alexandre Riabko performed La Dame aux Camelias which has the most complicated lifts. As Cojocaru dancing Dame does not exist, I will present her in Manon, which also has beautiful lift:

La Dame by the Paris Opera:

Daria Klimentova and Vadim Muntagirov performed a sensitive and delicate Manon. Here is Muntagirov in Le Corsaire:

and Klimentova and Muntagirov in taster clips from lips from Giselle, Cinderella, Nutcracker and Romeo & Juliet:

Svetlana Zakharova danced Cor Perdut to cheers:

Here is Zakharova in Revelation, which I have posted before. She is as moving in contemporary as in the classical repertoire:

The last three are Giselle:

Splendid Isolation III was choreographed by Jessica Lang (b.1975). In this the costume is the set in the dance:

It was danced as in this film by American Ballet Theatre’s Irina Dvorovenko and Maxim Belersokovsky.

Finally, here is Lucia Lacarra:

She danced this piece with music by Cesar Franck and Camille Saint-Saens.

I have tried to bring my Feast for the Gods to you.

Clement Crisp and Graham Watts made important contributions on Pavlova to the programme notes. Clement Crisp quotes a French critic describing Pavlova: ‘Her expressiveness outruns fancy. She is The Dancer: she is Dance itself’.

Lest we forget:

Three generations of Fokine’s Dying Swan and Costume Design by Karl Lagerfeld.

Karl Lagerfeld designs a costume for The Dying Swan.

Fokine’s ‘The Dying Swan’ to solo cello ‘Le Cygne’ from Saint-Saens’s ‘Carrnival of Animals’. The idea for the dance originated with Palova’s reading of Tennyson’s poem, ‘The Dying Swan’. It was first performed by Pavlova in St. Petersburg (1905).

Fokine remarked in Dance Magazine (August 1931):

It was almost an improvisation. I danced in front of her [Pavlova], she directly behind me. Then she danced and I walked alongside her, curving her arms and correcting details of poses. Prior to this composition, I was accused of barefooted tendencies and of rejecting toe dancing in general. The Dying Swan was my answer to such criticism. This dance became the symbol of the New Russian Ballet. It was a combination of masterful technique with expressiveness. It was like a proof that the dance could and should satisfy not only the eye, but through the medium of the eye should penetrate the soul.

The dance is technically more difficult than it may appear. The dancer moves constantly using  different bourrees. The feet must be beautiful, expressing a trembling. All pauses in sus-sous must show legs brought to one point. The arms and the back work independently of the feet which continue to move regularly.

Here is Anna Pavlova, 1905 Kirov ballet:

Each ballerina has a personal interpretation. I have chosen films I especially love. I could not find one for Fonteyn which was a great disappointment. So I used this clip from Fonteyn and Nureyev in ‘Swan Lake’:

An extraordinary version with Nina Ananiashivili ballerina of the Gerogia State Ballet:

Svetlana Zakharova dancing:

Zakharova in class:

A simple elegance and sense of design with Uliana Lopatkina:

Finally, Nuria Moreno from The Lindsay Kemp Company performing choreography by Marco Berriel: