Dance review: Natalia Osipova and Guests

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Classical ballerina stretches herself to brilliant effect in three-part modern triumph

Star rating: ****

Venue: Edinburgh Festival Theatre

Those who come expecting pointe shoes are quickly disabused. For what greets us at the start of Natalia Osipova’s triple-bill is not tutus and tights, but a mound of mud. Out of which the Russian ballerina slowly climbs, a grieving girlfriend leaving behind in the soil the young rebel she loved and lost too soon.

Pulling him back to life, “Jimmy” to her “Mary”as per the Shangri-Las track they dance to, Osipova goes back in time to the start of their relationship, re-creating its doomed dysfunction. Movement-wise, there’s not a lot of space for Osipova and her partner (on stage and off) Sergei Polunin to shine. But choreographer Arthur Pita’s taste for darkly comic theatricality suits them both well, and Run Mary Run gets the evening off to a fine start.

Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui’s Qutb follows, and although those who bought a ticket hoping for classical fare may have struggled, for fans of contemporary dance it’s an intense, sinuous piece.

Osipova is joined by two powerful performers, Jason Kittelberger and James O’Hara, who fuse to her like molten lava. Their bodies slipping over and under each other as though their lives depend upon it – which, in Cherkaoui’s post-apocalyptic landscape, they do.

The best is left to last, however, when Osipova is once again reunited with Polunin for a stunning duet based on the classical pas de deux structure. Choreographer Russell Maliphant’s strong grasp of ballet technique lends the work a graceful air, but Silent Echo is a resolutely modern piece that I, for one, could watch over and over again.

Osipova and Polunin start like museum sculptures, their beautiful shapes picked out by spotlights. High leaps and fast turns follow – a reminder of why they’re so well-loved on the classical stage – but Maliphant takes them somewhere new and altogether more exciting.

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