Title: The Good, the Bad, and a New Ballet Superstar
Author: Robert Gottlieb
Date: June 8, 2010
Publisher: The New York Observer
"Ballerinas are often divided into three categories: jumpers,
turners and balancers. Osipova is all three."
ABT, HOWEVER, CAME through with the debut of the year: the glorious 24-year-old Bolshoi star Natalia Osipova in the role that I believe is her greatest success in Russia, Kitri in Don Quixote. She was an immediate standout in minor roles when the Bolshoi turned up here several years ago, and a sensation last year when ABT revealed her in Giselle and La Sylphide-her swiftness, her ease, her astounding elevation elicited gasps from hardened critics, and everyone else, too. Her Kitri was beyond anything. It's not only that she has that huge, sailing leap across the stage; it's that she simply rises straight up in the air with seemingly no preparation, and with total buoyancy. Ballerinas are often divided into three categories: jumpers, turners and balancers. Osipova is all three. She whirls around in supported turns with no effort, no strain, nothing but joy. Her fouettés are so strongly anchored that when she whips around, alternating singles and doubles, it's inconceivable that anything could go wrong, they look so easy and casual. And when her toe is planted on the stage and she balances-forever-it doesn't look like a feat, it looks as if she's so comfortable up there, there's no reason for her to come down. Osipova has a refined musicality made possible by all this formidable technique. Since she can do anything more or less perfectly and at top speed, she can afford to take her time-stretch a phrase here, speed it up there, as the music speaks to her. She's also pretty and charming, though her Kitri is more a forceful hoyden than an adorable one. If she has a flaw, it's that she's overworking her mouth: too smiley at moments, too pouty at others. But she'll learn.
Photo by Gene Schiavone
So the ballet world has a new superstar. And yet her real importance may not lie in the sensational performances she's giving us now (later this season we'll have her Aurora and her Juliet). It's that she's raising the bar for female technique, the way Nureyev and Baryshnikov did for men. Every aspiring ballerina will be driven to catch up. And this won't be like the disaster of ballerinas emulating the excesses and vulgarities of the willful Sylvie Guillem; this will be a legitimate expansion of classical technique.