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Natalia Osipova’s Pure Dance with David Hallberg

Having the opportunity to see Natalia Osipova and David Hallberg perform together and separately is a great pleasure and a special experience to be savored.  

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Natalia Osipova and David Hallberg in Alexei Ratmansky’s Valse Triste” (Photo credit: Yohan Persson)

[avatar user=”Sheila Kogan” size=”96″ align=”left”] Sheila Kogan, Critic[/avatar]

In celebration of its 75th anniversary, the venerable New York City Center offered a program created by Natalia Osipova who was the artistic director and star. The exquisite Russian ballerina was joined by an international roster of artists.

She titled the program “Natalia Osipova’s Pure Dance with David Hallberg.” Partnering originally at American Ballet Theater, Osipova and Hallberg were beautifully matched and both at the top of their game. They had each suffered injury in the past and now they are back to being star performers, worthy of special admiration and status.

The evening consisted of a number of short dances in varying styles, but the final piece, “Valse Triste,” was the most successful. Osipova wore a simple, off-the-shoulder, blue dress and Hallberg wore a form-fitting unitard designed by Moritz Junge. “Valse Triste” by Jean Sibelius was the music for the plotless ballet. Choreography is an elusive art, but Alexei Ratmansky seems to have understood its secrets. Using the language and conventions of classical ballet, he designed this piece specifically for Osipova and Hallberg, and it showed off their exceptional talents and finely tuned partnership – and beautifully shared the joy of the dance with the audience. It’s the kind of short pas de deux that lends itself to gala events, so there’s little doubt that it will show up again. One wishes it were longer (it’s only six minutes). Or it would have been a wonderful treat to watch again if they had repeated it.

David Hallberg and Natalia Osipova in Anthony Tudor’s “The Leaves Are Fading” (Photo credit: Yohan Persson)

The evening began with Osipova and Hallberg in a pas de deux familiar to fans of American Ballet Theater: “The Leaves are Fading”, choreographed in 1970 by Antony Tudor, and the couple wore the tie-died, pastel pink costumes that had been designed by Patricia Zipprodt. The music is from a lush, string quartet by Antonín Dvořák. It is a romantic, wistful dance. The two dancers move together – as light and airy as autumn leaves – creating a lovely and pleasant atmosphere.

Osipova had enough time to change her costume and then returned on stage with a different partner, British Jonathan Goddard, in a dance titled “Flutter,” which had been choreographed by Iván Pérez to the music of Nico Mulhy (“Mothertongue”). The “music” consisted of shrill sounds, with voices repeating numbers over and over. One appreciates that Osipova wants to experiment and to give new artists an opportunity to display their ideas, but this choreography and music seemed to be random, repetitive, and difficult. The lighting design by Nigel Edwards was more dramatic and interesting. Both dancers are terrific and talented, but it seemed impossible to feel drawn in, only to feel captive, and relieved when it was over.

Following, Hallberg danced a solo piece titled “In Absentia,” choreographed by Kim Brandstrup to music by Johann Sebastian Bach (“Chaconne in D-minor, Part 1”). Based on the notes in the program, this was an examination of the artistic process that a dancer might go through after learning basic choreography and trying to find the meaning within the movement. The title refers to the way an artist goes within himself and absents himself from the ordinary world. Although its concept is intellectual, Hallberg, wearing an ordinary tee shirt and pants, exhibited a natural elegance, intelligence, and dramatic presence that fills the stage, highlighted by the lighting design of Jean Kalman.

Jason Kittelberger and Natalia Osipova in Roy Assaf’s “Six Years Later” (Photo credit: Yohan Persson)

Then, Osipova appeared in pedal pushers, and partnered with the talented American Jason Kittelberger for “Six Years Later,” choreographed by Roy Assaf. The music was a combination by Deerfly, Ludwig van Beethoven and Marmelade, with lighting design by Omar Sheizaf. The staccato movement examined a relationship in a confusion of when or where, but there were discussions, arguments and conversations presented without words. Some of the modern choreography was very original and evocative, aligned with the rhythms of the music, but too often it was repetitive and lacked any cohesion.

After a short pause, Osipova appeared alone on the stage, wearing a simple white dress designed by Stewart J. Charlesworth, and toe shoes. She danced an extraordinarily short, but moving work choreographed by Yuka Oishi to Franz Schubert’s “Ave Maria” and proved once again that she is an extraordinary dancer/actress, whose flexibility continues to amaze audiences.

Osipova has set herself for a marketing quandary. Those fans in the auditorium who came to see one of the greatest classical ballerinas of our time cheered loudly and shouted “bravo” for the Ratmansky piece, but except for a few isolated audience members, the response to the other dances seemed tepid. Perhaps Osipova should find audiences who have an interest in experimental choreography instead of trying to drag her classical ballet fans in a direction that they don’t seem to want to go. It’s something she might consider.

But whether you are a fan of classical ballet or experimental dance, having the opportunity to see Osipova and Hallberg perform together and separately is a great pleasure and always a special experience to be savored.

The Leaves are Fading

Dancers: Natalia Osipova, David Hallberg

Choreographed by Antony Tudor, 1970

Music by Antonín Dvořák

Costumes by Patricia Zipprodt

Relighting by Adam Carrēe



U.S. Premiere

Dancers: Natalia Osipova, Jonathan Goddard

Choreography by Iván Pérez

Music by Nico Muhly

Costumes by Christiana Cunningham

Lighting by Nigel Edwards


In Absentia

U.S. Premiere

Dancer: David Hallberg

Choreography by Kim Brandstrup

Music by Johann Sebastian Bach

Costume by Christiana Cunningham

Lighting by Jean Kalman


Six Years Later

Dancers: Natalia Osipova, Jason Kittleberger

Choreography by Roy Assaf

Music by Deerfly, Ludwig van Beethoven, Marmelade

Lighting by Omer Sheizaf


Ave Maria

U.S. Premiere

Dancer: Natalia Osipova

Choreography by Yuka Oishi

Music by Franz Schubert

Costume by Stewart J. Charlesworth

Lighting by Adam Carrēe


Valse Triste

U.S. Premiere

Dancers: Natalia Osipova, David Hallberg

Choreography by Alexei Ratmansky

Music by Jean Sibelius

Costumes by Moritz Junge

Lighting by Adam Carrēe


Natalia Osipova’s Pure Dance with David Hallberg (April 3-6, 2019)

New York City Center, 131 West 55th Street, New York City, NY

For tickets, call 212-581-21212 or visit

Running time: two hours with one intermission

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