Natalia Osipova (born 18 May 1986 in Moscow, Russia) is a Russian ballet dancer. From 1996 to 2004 she trained at the Moscow State Academy of Choreography. In 2004, she joined the Bolshoi Ballet as a member of the corps de ballet. She also began dancing solo parts, most notably the role of Kitri in Don Quixote. On 1 May 2010 she was made Principal Dancer of the Bolshoi Ballet. She has garnered worldwide acclaim for her role as Kitri in Don Quixote, Marius Petipa's fun-filled Spanish ballet. Her most recent success has been in Giselle, where her incredible ballon is used to enhance the ghostly character of act two to great effect. Her amazing jump, one that hasn't been seen since the ballerina Maya Plisetskaya retired from the Bolshoi stage, has been described as "a unique jump, a jump that has blasé critics palpitating as they trawl for adequate adjectives...". Natalia has also danced various newer works such as Ratmansky's 'Russian Seasons', which she performed in 2008. She has also recently appeared as a guest artist with American Ballet Theatre, performing Don Quixote alongside Jose Manuel Carreno and other prominent ABT Dancers. Later this year she is going to be performing in The Sleeping Beauty and Romeo and Juliet with American Ballet Theatre.
On June 16, 2010, as she returned home from rehearsals at American Ballet Theater, Natalia Osipova was mugged in New York and her pointe shoes were stolen. She was not seriously injured, and will be able to perform Sleeping Beauty as scheduled
THE Bolshoi ballerina Natalia Osipova smiled brightly, theatrically, projecting outward as she danced the solo that Princess Aurora performs moments after arriving on stage in Act I of The Sleeping Beauty.
Andrea Mohin/The New York Times
Natalia Osipova in an excerpt from Giselle last month.
In a plain black leotard and a shabby practice tutu, Ms. Osipova was working before a single ballet mistress, Irina Kolpakova, in a rehearsal studio many floors under the stage of the Metropolitan Opera House. There, on Saturday night, she will dance this role with American Ballet Theater, with which she is spending a second season as a guest artist.
Ms. Osipova was suffering from a throat sore enough to warrant a doctors appointment immediately after the rehearsal. Later she would cry, feeling ill and frustrated at her inability to perform the steps as she would like. And a week later she would be the victim of a mugging that would leave her bruised and shaken. But for the moment she was Aurora, shy and curious, looking tentatively at the four suitors with whom she will dance the Rose Adagio.
Ms. Osipovas single-minded focus in rehearsal comes as no surprise to anyone who has seen her perform. Since she burst on to the international dance scene in show-stopping performances of Kitri in Don Quixote, during a 2007 Bolshoi tour to London, the sheer energy and intensity of her stage presence has been as remarkable as her improbable floating jump and astounding technical prowess.
Resistance is futile; you adore her on sight, Luke Jennings wrote in The Observer. Let us not exaggerate, but six stars seem to be in order, Clement Crisp began in The Financial Times, adding, Not since Plisetskaya and Maximova have we seen so adorable a Kitri and never one so divinely destined to claim the role as her own.
Ms. Osipova, just 24, is now in demand by major ballet companies all over the world, and in Moscow she is an acknowledged star with a devoted following. But that wasnt always a predictable fate for her, said Alexei Ratmansky, Ballet Theaters artist in residence, who invited Ms. Osipova to join the Bolshoi during his tenure as the artistic director there.
I watched the final exams at the Bolshoi school, Mr. Ratmansky said, speaking on the phone from Jackson, Miss., where he was on the jury of the USA International Ballet Competition. She got a lot of criticism from the examiners not classical enough, no aesthetic, almost vulgar, just wrong, he said. But I felt you could see the physical talent and the openness, so I hired her.
He gave her solo roles right from the outset. There was a big division about her among the audience, and also among the dancers and coaches, he said. I dont remember any dancer in my experience causing as much difference of opinion.
Ms. Osipovas extreme flexibility and steel-sprung jump watching her hover in the air makes you realize how people felt when they saw Nijinsky are quite possibly the legacy of her early training as a gymnast, which she began at 5 in Moscow, where she was born.
I was very, very serious, she said last week, speaking through a translator during an interview backstage at the Metropolitan Opera House. I saw myself at the Olympics. When I seriously injured my back at 8 or 9, and my teachers recommended I stop, this was a tragedy for me.
Her parents took her to audition at the Bolshoi academy, hoping ballet would distract her. She was accepted but remained, she said, indifferent to dance for several years and wanted to return to gymnastics. Then she was given a solo to perform during a school show at the Bolshoi.
Afterward the audience was applauding, and I understood that this is incredible, she said. In that moment I realized, yes, I want to dance.
Offstage Ms. Osipova is wiry and feisty looking, with pale skin, wide-set eyes and jet-black tresses. (She dyes her light brown hair to correspond to her ballerina ideals: Margot Fonteyn, with whom she shares a birthday, May 18, and Diana Vishneva, also a Ballet Theater guest artist.) Onstage she is a theater animal for whom the presence and attention of the public is the oxygen that she needs to come fully alive.
It seems unsurprising that one of her heroes is the similarly avid Rudolf Nureyev, whose Romeo and Juliet with Fonteyn is, she said, the single performance she would most like to have seen. Ms. Osipova described Juliet as her dream role; next month, she will dance it with David Hallberg and Ballet Theater.
I am a very emotional person, and those emotions have to go somewhere, she said. So I am always happy when I have a role where my feelings can come into play. Of course sometimes I scare people. They say, Natasha Ms. Osipovas nickname youre crazy. But I have to go out onstage and give everything I have.
Mr. Hallberg, who has danced with Ms. Osipova at the Bolshoi as well as in New York, said their performances together had been among the greatest experiences of his career.
She doesnt care what people think, he said. She is so artistically involved in each role that she is continually questioning, validating every moment. She taught me to release a lot of my inhibitions, just through our physical communication.
Ms. Osipova, who was invited to perform with Ballet Theater by its artistic director, Kevin McKenzie, after he saw her on tape, said that she was extremely happy at the Bolshoi, where she was promoted to principal in May. But a ballerina in the 21st century, she added, has the opportunity to travel and experience the repertory and schooling of different companies.
The crime of different countries is an unpleasant extra; after the mugging, close to her rented apartment on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, she said she was simply relieved that only her face had been bruised. It was so quick that I think I felt more shock the next day, she said. But now I am thinking only about my first performance of The Sleeping Beauty.
After just a few performances with Ballet Theater, it seems clear that Ms. Osipovas technical gifts have raised the bar several notches higher for every other ballerina.
If someone that talented comes out, it influences the dancers around her, and the younger ones, Mr. Ratmansky said. After her there was a wave of physical talent coming from the Bolshoi school. Its an interesting phenomenon.
Asked if he would like Ms. Osipova to join Ballet Theaters roster of principal dancers, Mr. McKenzie said in an e-mail message that he had that objective in mind. Ms. Osipova said that while she would love to have a more permanent link to the company, her home was at the Bolshoi, where, she said, she felt she hadnt yet fulfilled her potential. But she sounded touchingly girlish when talking of Ballet Theater.
As little kids in school we were just thrilled looking at the stars of A.B.T., she said. And now Im walking next to them. Its phenomenal.
Natalia Osipova performs in The Sleeping Beauty on Saturday and Romeo and Juliet on July 10 with American Ballet Theater at the Metropolitan Opera House, Lincoln Center; (212) 362-6000, abt.org.
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