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© Ismene Brown 2017

Osipova's Giselle, photo Elena Fetisova/Bolshoi

06 SEP  17

Natalia Osipova has declared in a Russian interview that she wants to stay with the Royal Ballet for the rest of her career, barring something "momentous" in her love life.

Speaking earlier this week about her current guest performances in Perm, Russia, she talked with affection about her "favourite people" being in London at Covent Garden, and her happiness at her range of repertoire, creative opportunities and freedom to dance the world as a guest star.

Now 31, she talks about two new pieces next season in London made for her by Arthur Pita, who has previously created amusing dance theatre for her and former partners Ivan Vasiliev and Sergei Polunin. This time one of her partners will be the great contemporary dancer Jonathan Goddard.

She also enthuses about Australian Meryl Tankard's solo dance-play about the fate of the extraordinary Ballets Russes ballerina Olga Spessivtseva – who after becoming world-famous as Giselle spent years in obscurity in a mental hospital – which Osipova will be performing next spring in her own curated contemporary programme at Sadler's Wells, including acting a text in English.

She describes Ashton's Sylvia (opening in November) rather delightfully as a pleasant exercise in agony which will find her out as a technical dancer, and rhapsodises about the prospect of dancing Giselle in the New Year with the American David Hallberg.

There is no mention of her past fiancé and creative partner Sergei Polunin, and her wording indicates that she might only in extremis give up the professional and social happiness she currently feels in London.

Her most recent RB roles have included two society hostesses, Marguerite (Ashton) and Amélie Gautreau (Wheeldon's Strapless), a Romanov princess and madwoman (Anastasia), a sex-mad royal groupie (Mayerling), a core role in McGregor's Woolf Works, and Princess Aurora in The Sleeping Beauty. She also led a dubious evening of contemporary works by Pita, Russell Maliphant and Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui created on her and Polunin at Sadler's Wells.

She has the Royal Ballet's director Kevin O'Hare wound around her little finger, and can come and go essentially as she wishes. The anxiety for her fans may be that she says she is thinking of doing fewer performances at the Royal Ballet.

Here is my translation.

"Even if Kevin says no at first, it's always yes in the end"

Kommersant, September 4, 2017, by Maria Sidelnikova

The Royal Ballet prima ballerina Natalia Osipova has also become prima ballerina of the Perm Opera and Ballet Theatre. She has signed a year’s contract in which she will appear in four productions with the Perm company. She talked to Maria Sidelnikova about her beloved ballet and plans for the coming season.

KOMMERSANT: Less than a year ago you told me that you were tired of Giselle. And yet you’ve gone back to her - why?

OSIPOVA: Giselle is one of my favourite ballets, and it was significant for me in my career. And I haven’t danced it for nearly a year because it was really important to me to come to it all cleaned out. That is when one can reach what I call a new level. I very much hope that I can come up with something interesting. Of course we all follow the libretto, but for me this ballet is rather deeper than that. It always expresses everything that has been accumulating in your soul.

You’ve turned up in Perm quite often. Why has that suddenly happened?

It was by accident, but it’s like people say, accidental, but no accident. Last season I myself asked to dance [MacMillan's] Romeo and Juliet. I love this ballet so much, but it’s not in London at the moment. I've danced there and become enormously attached to the theatre. In the Diaghilev festival they premiered Alexei Miroshnichenko’s Firebird, though in the event everything seemed to be running against me: a crazy schedule, sleepless nights, and I also got ill, I twisted my foot – in a word, help! But I wanted to perform so much that I went on stage and forgot about it all.

Doesn’t it bother you that Perm is a small theatre, it’s not Moscow or St Petersburg?

Not at all! Today I don't care where I dance, the main thing is who I'm dancing with, whether it’s interesting, whether I can get something from it and give something out. The Perm troupe is one of the best I’ve worked with. And this is in many ways all due to Miroshnichenko, whom I respect beyond measure and I admire him not only as a choreographer, but also as a director.

Was Giselle also your idea?

Yes. We discussed what performances I could do that would not overlap with my schedule at the Royal Ballet. And since in London the season begins later, the choice fell on Giselle. Physically it’s not going to be easy – I only came back from holiday a couple of weeks ago. But on the other hand it’ll be more emotional, since this will be the first show in the new season.

Your Albrecht will be Nikita Chetverikov, your second time together after Romeo and Juliet. How does the partnership work with him? You trust him? Will you need to make any adjustments?

No, what are you talking about? He is a wonderful, reliable partner and a very sensitive, open person with a big heart. I mean, I tend to describe the movements in rehearsal via the feelings – for instance I’d say, “Do the gesture as if you’re ready to give me the whole world!” And I was so pleased that he understood me. We immediately clicked into a very good partnership.

And not only with him, but also with the conductor Theodor Curentzis.

Romeo and Juliet really was one of the most amazing performances of my life. The music draws all your ability out of you. When I was in the wings and I heard the first notes, I just started shaking all over and I was thinking, “God, what can I do on stage? I am so insignificant and little compared to this music.” The third act begins with us on stage where I am lying with Romeo on the bed, and I was just lying there and weeping. Every little cell of my body responded to this music of Prokofiev’s. May God let every artist feel this sense of being possessed.

London plans

What are you doing in London this season?

Arthur Pita is making a new work, The Wind, which will be a story about the Wild West, something spontaneous and dramatic, the way I like it. I’ve worked with him a lot already and we have a really warm relationship.

Then it’s Sylvia, a very pleasant exercise in torture, I’d call it. It’s technically a very complicated  ballet and needs to be very well prepared so as to prove yet again that you know how to dance. Then Giselle, which I’ll be dancing with my favourite partner David Hallberg. I managed to arrange for him to come to London, and I’m so looking forward to it.

Do you have any time and strength left for personal projects?

I make time for it – I can’t sit still. Early next year I’ll be preparing a new one-person show on the fate of Olga Spessivtseva. It’s called Two Feet, and the choreographer is Meryl Tankard from Australia, who danced in Pina Bausch’s company. She originally made the ballet for herself, then she actually came to me and asked if I would perform it. It’s the best thing that I’ve seen anywhere recently. A very strong ballet. All the genres are mixed up, I have to not just dance but there are bits of choreography from Spessivtseva’s own roles, and I have a whole lot to speak, in English too! It’s a real challenge. I’ll have a new programme at Sadler’s Wells, and I want it to be classical and neoclassical and also contemporary. I’m hoping that David Hallberg will be part of it.

Then at the end of the season, May-June, in London there’ll be a new piece called Mother, using Hans Christian Andersen’s fable The Story of a Mother. It’ll be staged by Arthur Pita and my partner will be the amazing contemporary dancer Jonathan Goddard. I suppose I would describe the genre as a dance-drama. A story about maternal love isn’t the sort of role I’ve done before.

But you don’t have any intention to fly off yet? Is your base still primarily Covent Garden, and your home in London?

I am employed only at the Royal Ballet, all the other performances are as a guest. I used to travel a lot before, I grabbed everything I could. Today my attitude has changed, it’s important to me to rehearse ballets thoroughly. I’m very happily settled in London. I have lots of friends. My favourite people are at Covent Garden. It’s very comfortable living and working here.

At this stage I don’t intend to change anything, I don’t think I will ever leave this company. It would have to be something really momentous. Like I fell in love with someone so much that I couldn’t live without him and I’d break with everything and fly to the ends of the earth. And that’s not likely.

To go and do things elsewhere more often – yes. Some personal projects – yes. Maybe, do fewer shows at Covent Garden. But now, while I’m in my early thirties, this is the best age to dance difficult classical ballets. I need to use this time, and the experimental work can wait. Though I can’t complain – Kevin O'Hare (artistic director of the Royal Ballet) lets me go everywhere. Even if at first he says "no”, in the end it is always a "yes".

Osipova slays Russians in her Juliet debut

Russian reactions to British Bolshoi documentary

Osipova rejoins Bolshoi as guest star

" I’m very happily settled in London. My favourite people are at Covent Garden.  I don’t think I will ever leave this company"

Osipova: 'I won't ever leave the Royal Ballet'