Natalia Osipova & Guests @ Festival Theatre

An exciting triple bill of dramatic contrasts shows off ballet star Natalia Osipova to stunning effect as her classical training skills meld with contemporary dance

Review by Stephanie Green | 16 Aug 2016

Run Mary Run, choreographed by Arthur Pita is deliciously melodramatic. A tale of doomed teenage love, set in the 60s to the broken-hearted pop ballads of The Shangri-las, there’s a hint of Amy Winehouse’s tragic fate here.

Hands rise from black gravel, as the lovers rise from their grave to relive the fatal attraction between Osipova's sweet, naïve lead, wearing an auburn beehive and teeth-gritting acid greens and oranges, and her no-good man, performed by Sergei Polunin as a James Dean/Belmondo/Marlon Brando type, with louche walk, leather jacket and jeans. This is a series of vivid vignettes, more drama than dance: Polunin's solo sees him kicking the gravel into a swirl of dust. There's a moment of sugary sentimentality as Ospiova is spun on a swing by Polunin, whose clever juggling trick with glass and fag offers relief before the inevitable tragedy to come.

Choreographed by Moroccan/Belgian Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, Qutb (which means ‘axis’ or ‘pivot’ in Arabic) is breath-taking. An awe-inspiring vast orange-red sun, occasionally eclipsed, dominates the back screen, and later appears on the ground. Three dancers rotate around it, aligning with each other and coming together or separating in an abstract dance which suggests planets orbiting the sun, reminiscent of whirling dervishes – all to the strains of nerve-tingling Sufi chanting. Osipova’s two male dancers, James O’Hara and Jason Kittelberger, get down and dirty, bringing an embodied physicality to proceedings.

Silent Echo is the most purely classical piece on the bill, a pas de deux choreographed by Russell Maliphant celebrating Osipova and Polunin’s strengths: superb lines, lifts and (a treat) the latter’s famed leap. The abstract classicism takes on a weird character set against Scanner’s electronic rock and some strobe lighting. Indeed at times, it is almost a duet with light, designed by Michael Hulls.

Natalia Osipova & Guests, Festival Theatre, 12-14 Aug, 7.30pm, £12-32 (fees apply)