Few programmes of dance this Summer can boast such a prestigious cast as the Ardani 25 Dance Gala. Featuring Principals from the Royal Ballet, American Ballet Theatre and the Mariinsky, and for two nights only this was not a display to miss.
The main attraction, of course, was the Royal Ballet’s Natalia Osipova, making her first appearance at the London Coliseum since Solo for Two this time last year. Osipova is a dancer full of such verve and attack, the eye is drawn to her whenever she is on stage. Indeed a fan sat next to me summed it up when she said, “she could come on and stand still and I would be riveted”.
The evening opened with the World Premier of Alistair Marriot’s Zeitgeist. The piece is mostly a vehicle for Osipova and Edward Watson (also of the Royal Ballet) to showcase a wonderfully exhilarating pas de deux. Osipova’s body pulsates and convulses into countless shapes dictated by the strings of the haunting violin accompaniment. Watson’s softness of touch compared with Osipova’s sheer attack and power makes for breath-taking viewing. The pair are ably supported by Marcelino Sambé, Tomás Mock and Donald Thom who are all equally energetic, athletic and synchronised in their fluid movements. Osipova and Watson too are notably music; jerking exaggerated kicks and steps are the motif of Marriot’s piece and Osipova undulates beautifully delivering them with suitable panache.
The simple black costuming with a hint of gold suggesting the dramatic undertones and intensions of the piece despite the story being left ambiguous, it is no less enjoyable for it.
Tristesse is the second in tonight’s triple bill and contains a far more discernible storyline, choreographer Marcelo Gomes manages to inject humour and joviality into this all male affair. Tristesse traces the story of four young men from boyhood to adulthood and through to a tragic dénouement. The four are all back slapping and handshakes for the most of the piece, they first perform solos, representative of happy but contrasting childhoods; a shoulder shimmy and a high five are thrown in for good measure. As their lives and friendships develop so do the men’s relationships and the interplay between them descends into something more complicated that ends, ultimately, in betrayal for one of them.
Gomes piece is one that seems unremarkable at the start, yet as the characters grow and we begin to like them, by the end we are fully invested in their stories and the piece becomes a unique and memorable showing.
Osipova returns to the stage, along with Ivan Vasiliev for Facada, a piece first seen in their Solo for Two programme last year. Back then it was my favourite of the evening but on this occasion it was shaded slightly by the dynamic Zeitgeist. Arthur Pita’s piece still has all the darkness and attitude that makes for a wonderful piece of theatre, however.
Pita’s work is brilliantly sinister from beginning to end, with nuances such as when Elizabeth McGorian (also of the Royal Ballet and hysterical in her supporting role here) ominously applies her danger-red lipstick in the reflection of her dagger before plunging it mercilessly into a small potted plant.
To sum up, Vasiliev is a tortured groom who jilts his bride, Osipova, at the altar. After taking some time to reflect and (quite literally) cry buckets of tears she seeks her revenge and joyfully dances of his grave; a woman liberated – delivered with the smoulder and sexiness only Osipova can get away with.
Pita’s piece is still hugely enjoyable, it seemed to contain less true dance content than I remember from previously but this is not a piece that is about dance. It’s about the dark comedy, and the revenge Osipova can plot with the freedom that no classical heroine is ever permitted, and she does it with a pleasing uninhibited abandon.