The Bolshoi! Russian ballerinas! Insane extensions, insane jumps, insane speed!
Last night Bolshoi ballerina Natalia Osipova guest-performed with American Ballet Theater as Giselle. David Hallberg was her Albrecht, Jared Matthews Hilarion, and Veronika Part was Myrta. (Go here for a synopsis of that ballet).
It was all-around some of the best dancing I’ve ever seen, but I have to say, on a scale of 1-10, in terms of chemistry between Osipova and Hallberg, I’d give it a 1.5, and in terms of all-around acting (excluding Kristi Boone’s captivating turn as Bathilde and a rather amusing Vitali Krauchenka as her father), a 2. Regarding the chemistry, to be fair, Osipova was originally supposed to dance with Ethan Stiefel, but because of an injury, David danced in Ethan’s place. A Twitter friend DM’d me asking why she didn’t dance with Angel Corella and I think it’s a good question. He would have been a better fit size-wise and stylistically for her.
But as I said, the dancing was tremendous. During the second act, Osipova did a develope to her ear, she did those hops with her arms in the air as if she had springs in her toe shoes or had a trampoline beneath her, and she did that flat-footed jumping turn at the speed of damn light. Seriously, when she made her entrance during the Wilis act, I put my opera glasses to my face, watched her walk out, and suddenly she was gone from my frame of view. I searched around and around for her with the damn glasses attached to my face wondering where in the world she went. When everyone around me suddenly started screaming BRAAAVAAAA BRAAVAAA BRAAAVAAA, I nearly dropped the glasses. When I took them away, I saw her mid-jumping turn going around and around, in a blur.
Audience (largely Russian, at least in the back orchestra) went stark raving nuts for her. I nearly had my left eardrum blown out over the ear-high develope. And those hopping jumps — seriously, she was half-way to the ceiling. I mean, when Paloma did them (I really did like her Giselle the more I think about it) she raised her head, like those jumps were a prayer to return to life. But here Natalia was going boing boing boing, up to the sky, head straight forward probably so as not to take away from her springing height. I mean, I don’t know. I love to be moved by the image a step creates, as Paloma did, but I can’t deny the thrill of those insanely high jumps and that lightening-fast turn and that insanely high develope.
The high bravura jumps in the first, peasant act, though, worked with her characterization. Her Giselle was all frolicking gaity, a girl in love with dance, in love with life. Her mad scene was over-the-top histrionics. The critic next to me described it as traditional.
And then David. Well, at the beginning he did his Albrecht as a romantic not a carefree playboy. But his was a romantic who was pretty madly infatuated with her. I think David is trying hard to get rid of his nice guy image. He rapped on her door like her mother’d better let her out or else. And when his squire didn’t full-out approve of his peasant costume, I thought he was going to kill him. And after the mad scene, he had kind of a mad scene of his own: I thought he was going to throw poor Jared’s Hilarion straight into the orchestra pit.
But ditto for David on the virtuosic dancing. I think by the time the second act came around, he was following Natalia’s bravura lead, doing sky-high jetes. He only did a Marcelo throw back of the head on the first jump in the diagonal, and then did the ten bizillion entrechats, same as Roberto Bolle. But David’s Nureyev feet! His feet are so heavenly — I think he has the best of any dancer around today, at least any dancer I’ve ever seen. Those entrechats were from God.
As Myrta, Veronika Part jeted around the stage like I’ve never seen her leap before. She really takes up the stage when she leaps and she appeared to just be flying. I don’t even think I noticed all those jumps before! Her Myrta was icy cold and remained so throughout. Of course it was hard to concentrate on her face with all the theatrics going on behind her, but I didn’t see her peeking over her shoulder like Michele Wiles did. After she directed Hilarion’s death, she turned from him, toward us, and gave a wickedly simple little “and that’s that” nod right to the beat of the music, right as he fell, a smug smirk crossing her lips. Splendidly frightful!
I loved Kristi Boone as Bathilde, Albrecht’s betrothed princess. This is a pure character role, no dancing, and she was radiant in that gorgeous red dress, initially all supremely bitchy and regal, then softening when Giselle started pressing her skirttails to her face, allowing the poor girl to have one thing in common with nobility — a love of clothing. Then, when she realized Albrecht’s betrayal, instead of stomping all over Giselle’s pride and insisting Albrecht kiss her gloved hand, she looked more wounded and discomfited.
Vitali Krauchenka was rather amusing as Bathilde’s father, the prince, probably unwittingly so. He seemed to have his eyes half-closed the whole time and the way he looked at her, following her all around as she decided where to sit, whom to talk to, etc., it looked like he was saying “yes, yes, miss priss, whatever you want.” It cracked me up. I think he might have been better opposite Maria Bystrova’s Bathilde though. Hers was more of an unrelenting snobby witch.
Hee Seo and Blaine Hoven were very good in the peasant pas de deux. It was one of the most entertaining peasant pdd’s I’ve seen, which I guess went along with the virtuosity of the whole night.
Only the Russians I’ll be excited to see more of Osipova next week. She’s dancing La Sylphide with Herman Cornejo on Monday night and again with David Hallberg on Wednesday evening. Go here for the full schedule.