Title: An AP Arts Review: Fleet-footed guest from Moscow proves a high-flying 'Giselle' in ABT debut
Author: Jocelyn Noveck
Date: June 15, 2009
Publisher: The New York Times
NEW YORK — "She's going to be a big star someday," a ballet-goer remarked to his companion as they moved up the aisle during intermission at American Ballet Theatre's "Giselle."
He was speaking of Natalia Osipova, a 23-year-old pixie from Moscow with dark eyes and a gravity-defying jump that seems to leave her floating in the air. And to judge from the boisterous ovations Osipova drew throughout Saturday night's performance, the ballet-goer's comment didn't fully capture the moment: This ballerina already seems like a pretty big star.
Osipova is on loan from the Bolshoi Ballet for a few performances this month, and already New York audiences should be begging the Russian company for more of her time. Her stellar ABT debut recalled that of Alina Cojocaru of London's Royal Ballet, another delicate young dancer with porcelain features who caused a stir of her own here in 2003.
Opsiova's talents were apparent from the moment she burst onto the vast Metropolitan Opera House stage as the shy, impressionable peasant girl called Giselle. Her leaps were so light and high, it sometimes appeared that an unseen wire was attached to her back.
And then there were the dramatic demands of the role. Giselle falls head over heels for a nobleman whom she believes to be a simple villager, like herself. But Count Albrecht is somewhat of a gigolo; he's actually engaged to a woman of equally high birth, and when she appears on the scene, Giselle's weak heart gives out.
Not before her mind does, though. Any ballerina playing Giselle has to act like the happiest girl on Earth, then pull off a mad scene worthy of Ophelia, and then drop dead — all in the first act. Osipova did it better than many, because she didn't grow mad out of nowhere. You sensed from the beginning that there was fragility, maybe even foreboding, in her joy.
In the second act, Giselle's remorseful count comes to her grave, which is ruled over by the famous "wilis" — spirits of girls whose love was unrequited. Caught by the wilis, Albrecht seems destined to have to dance until his death from exhaustion, but Giselle's ghost arrives to protect him.
Together, they dance, which is the only important point of all this, because the second-act choreography is a perfect showcase for Osipova. She stunned the crowd with her fluidity, her high extension, her quicksilver turns and especially her weightless jumps, one series of which so impressed audience members that they called her back for two ovations.
It was also an opportunity for Hallberg, the blond, imposing dancer who played Albrecht, to shine, especially in his own jumps, which justifiably drew cheers. Over the past few years Hallberg has emerged as one of the company's most elegant dancers and a partner of choice in classical works.
Osipova is due to dance "La Sylphide" with ABT this week, and will also appear in "Le Corsaire" twice in the coming days at Washington's John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, where her home company, the Bolshoi, is performing. Judging by the advance reaction in New York, Washington is in for a huge treat.