Solo for Two – Natalia Osipova & Ivan Vasiliev: London Coliseum, 6 August 2014

Nono for tutu

Vasiliev shoulders on despite forgetting to remove his pretty little nightdress. Photo by Souheil Michael Khoury

‘Clingy?’ says Osipova. ‘Whaddya mean clingy?’. The marital penny drops for Vasiliev in Arthur Pita’s Facada. Photo by Souheil Michael Khoury

Two of the world’s most famous ballet dancers, Ivan Vasiliev and Natalia Osipova, strode onto the London Coliseum and dabbled their dextrous toes in three contemporary works specially created for them by Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, Ohad Naharin and Arthur Pita.

Perhaps unsurprisingly the most successful was the piece with the strongest narrative; Arthur Pita’s Facada. The tale of the jilted bride who exacts her deadly revenge on the cowardly groom suited their comedic talents down to the ground and, apart from rather too sudden a lurch from high farce to tragedy towards the end, it was really well-crafted with simple, attractive staging from Jean-Marc Puissant and some tremendous musicianship from Frank Moon playing his own take on Portuguese Fado music.

There was a lovely Coppelia-reversal duet between the pair of them when Osipova was controlling Vasiliev (who was sporting little more than a sparkly bow-tie) which also included a staggering leap into his arms that started from about 500 miles away. Marching furiously around the stage in her wedding dress, Osipova eventually did the necessary and squeezed the life out of him with a scissor-legwrap around the throat and finished the piece literally dancing on his grave with the stroppiest, damnedest, most tub-thumping solo of animalistic fury you could ever wish to witness.

The other two pieces were rather indistinct. Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui’s Mercy looked half-finished, a curious mixture of extraordinary body shapes and positions (Osipova rocking on the ground like a scorpion about to strike, for example) with some of the trademark leaps and turns that have become the pairs’ classical trademarks over the years and which looked completely out of place here. The faint narrative of the woman-beating male being tamed by female tenderness was also incoherent and concluded by a duet to Indian Classical music that seemed entirely unrelated. The music prior to that had been some glorious Renaissance vocal music, beautifully performed live by L’Ensemble Akademia.

Ohad Naharin’s Passo looked to be heading the same glum way as Mercy; Vasiliev and Osipova not looking entirely comfortable in the po-faced crouching, flippy-flappy hand choreographic style. But then, right at the end, a little jig was introduced, a touch of humour injected and things took off. There was a great move where he grabbed her by the waist and she dragged him all the way across the stage and everyone went for the interval with smiles on their faces.

Vasiliev and Osipova remain great performers and entertainers and Solo for Two worked best when their personalities were able to shine through. Osipova adapted better to the different styles but Vasiliev proved more agile than suspected in the choreography’s twisted body language. They appeared to be hugely enjoying dancing with each other and while the show was not wholly successful it was interesting to see them trying something different – and Facada is definitely something worth seeing.

Solo for Two runs at the London Coliseum until 9 August 2014. Tickets can be bought on the London Coliseum website.

Gerard Davis


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