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Natalia Osipova

109 posts in this topic

....This line of criticism about these two dancers originates from what I consider the 'deranged elements' that post on the mainly unmoderated Russian language forums. ....

You've got that right, Mashinka. Interestingly enough, those 'deranged elements' (or should it be singular?) tend to be the same person(s) who constantly prop-up The Gymnast of the Mariinsky. Coincidence? :wink:

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Why is strong technique and physical strength in a female dancer somehow deemed to be 'masculine'? Frankly I find that rather a sexist assumption.

Ballet is out-and-out sexist, I'm afraid. Why put ballerinas in tutus? Why make them dance on pointe? Why expect them to hide their powerful technique behind the air of fragility and delicacy?

I understand what previous posters mean when they remark that Alexandrova and Osipova have a "masculinity" about their dancing. That's not to say they are masculine, just not what we normally expect from ballerinas in romantic/classical ballets. In Alexandrova's case I think this comes about because of her commanding presence and maybe also because her arms aren't as long and quite as beautifully shaped as those of other Bolshoi ballerinas (although she puts them to their full use and can be surprisingly lyrical with them).

Osipova posesses a delightful girlish air, so I can only imagine it is her powerful technique and (comparatively) short/stocky figure that gives makes her more "masculine" than other ballerinas. And hey, there's nothing wrong with that! I get very tired of seeing the "dying swan" types all the time!

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A very interesting discussion. I'm quite relieved to hear that Natalia Osipova just received the 2007 UK National Dance Award for her performances in London last summer, and for best "female" dancer... :wink:

UK National Dance Awards

On the side of this, it would also help if people stopped judging and criticising dancers on the strength a few crappy youtube clips or a DVD. They are interesting to a certain degree as recordings documenting a performance or a dancer, but they can never replace the live performance.

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Why is strong technique and physical strength in a female dancer somehow deemed to be 'masculine'? Frankly I find that rather a sexist assumption.

Ballet is out-and-out sexist, I'm afraid. Why put ballerinas in tutus? Why make them dance on pointe? Why expect them to hide their powerful technique behind the air of fragility and delicacy?

I understand what previous posters mean when they remark that Alexandrova and Osipova have a "masculinity" about their dancing. That's not to say they are masculine, just not what we normally expect from ballerinas in romantic/classical ballets.

I've seen Osipova only in Don Quixote, where masculinity is hardly the word that came to mind. But watching video clips, and looking at photographs of her in La Bayadere, I do see why some people think of her as masculine. It doesn't bother me and I don't really read her that way. I find her an attractive dancer and an attractive woman.

But I have to disagree about sexism. As you say, what we expect when we watch female dancers is what we've usually seen from female dancers -- expectations are based on experience, not sexism or a gender equal point of view. We know that women look especially pretty in tutus. And we know that men are by and large stronger physically; and that difference is a source of physical attraction for both men and women, which is why Mika Brezhinski on MSNBC can playfully pretend to strangle Joe Scarborough, and not the other way around. Relative physical fragility (or, in this case, the appearance of fragility) and delicate manners are lovely qualities in women, and so as we know the convention in ballet is for women (and to some degree for men to hide), to make dancing look easy rather than a show of strength.

It's sexist to insist that all women be this way or to take those qualities as an excuse for patriarchy, but I don't think it's sexist to have a taste for one over the other in ballet, no more than it is to prefer Martha Graham to, say, what Patricia McBride might have looked like in Graham roles.

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One part of the interview that puzzled me was Osipova saying that the Bolshoi currently does not have "Romeo and Juliet" in its repertory. Hmm? I thought the Bolshoi has always danced the Lavrovsky version.

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One part of the interview that puzzled me was Osipova saying that the Bolshoi currently does not have "Romeo and Juliet" in its repertory. Hmm? I thought the Bolshoi has always danced the Lavrovsky version.

maybe its not active at the moment? A work can be theoretically in rep but not in active rep. Anyone know when last the Bolshoi performed it?

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Exactly aurora. Currently there is no "Romeo and Juliet" in the Bolshoi's rep. Last staging of the Lavrovsky "Romeo" dates from 1995 and it was last performed somewhere in 2000.

In late 2003 the Bolshoi got the lovely Radu Poklitaru "Romeo and Juliet", which isn't exactly the best version for any classical dancer (or classical company) to come out with. Happily it seems to have been abandoned.

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It's sexist to insist that all women be this way or to take those qualities as an excuse for patriarchy, but I don't think it's sexist to have a taste for one over the other in ballet, no more than it is to prefer Martha Graham to, say, what Patricia McBride might have looked like in Graham roles.

That is well put.

And I hope the Lavrovsky R&J comes back into the repertoire soon. Maybe it's more likely to be revived once the Bolshoi moves back into the big theatre?

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....This line of criticism about these two dancers originates from what I consider the 'deranged elements' that post on the mainly unmoderated Russian language forums. ....

You've got that right, Mashinka. Interestingly enough, those 'deranged elements' (or should it be singular?) tend to be the same person(s) who constantly prop-up The Gymnast of the Mariinsky. Coincidence? :)

Enough said about The Gymnast, I'm sure she's lovely, I just get weepy thinking of her in the same company where Asylmuratova and so many greats originated from.

About the masculinity, I never thought that Alexandrova or Osipova or anyone were really masculine, both remind me, in some ways, of Plisetskaya. However, going by the defs. of "masculine"...would one categorize Plisetskaya as masculine in her technique?

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Gosh, if Osipova is considered masculine, when is Ashley Bouder going to give up ballet and take up her intended career as a member of the East German weightlifting team? Neither dancer is delicate; they're both athletic - but Osipova has good proportions (Bouder's are fine too, but she's a bit more muscular in my impression.) I haven't yet seen Osipova in any other major role than Kitri, but she's the best Kitri I've seen so far. As others have said, not every dancer needs to be a waif - there's room in the repertory for more.

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However, going by the defs. of "masculine"...would one categorize Plisetskaya as masculine in her technique?
I can hardly think of a more womanly dancer than Plisetskaya. Strong and earthy, to be sure, but undoubtedly feminine. Alexandrova shares these qualities. I'm not sure I'd put Osipova in the same category -- I've seen her only as a Don Q flower girl -- but she certainly didn't strike me as masculine.

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"Masculine" and "feminine" mean so many different things -- to different people and in different cultures and time periods.

It might help the discussion if we try to agree on a couple of synonyms -- or a list of adjectives to express their qualities -- for each.

On a lighter note, here's a clip from an interview that NYCB's Megan Fairchild gave to Michael Popkin (DanceView, Winter 2008):

DanceView: Do you watch video of other dancers or other companies?

Fairchild: Actually I was just watching one on YouTube last night. [Laughs]. There's this Bolshoi dancer, I can't remember her name.

DanceView: Osipova?

Fairchild: Yes! [inhaling]. Someone told me to watch it and I was just like, "Oh My God!"

She's amazing. She's just insance. I was totally in awe.

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I have seen Osipova live in Don Q ('her' role from here on in as far as I'm concerned) and some other ballets, and I agree that while on video she appears rather overbearing when seen live she is simply exhilarating. But I do wonder, without wishing to offend, whether she is causing such a sensation simply because she is the first dancer in a while to have such energy (often compared to Plisetskaya) which we associate with the Bolshoi's golden age, and not necessarily due to remarkable artistic merit?

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However, going by the defs. of "masculine"...would one categorize Plisetskaya as masculine in her technique?
I can hardly think of a more womanly dancer than Plisetskaya. Strong and earthy, to be sure, but undoubtedly feminine. Alexandrova shares these qualities. I'm not sure I'd put Osipova in the same category -- I've seen her only as a Don Q flower girl -- but she certainly didn't strike me as masculine.

I quite agree! I think that all 3 are just so wonderful in their abilities to take strength and make it feminine. Osipova, frankly, is stunningly wonderful in Don Quixote, do catch it if you can!

I just don't see masculinity in female dancers, I always see "feminine with a touch of...."

::scampers off to youtube::

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ATHLETIC!

Thank you! I've been trying to think of the perfect way to characterize Natalia, Maya, Maria, and others, but I just couldn't come up with it.

And you're right Leigh, Natalia's TRUE calling is actually on "American Gladiators". ;)

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I have seen Osipova live in Don Q ('her' role from here on in as far as I'm concerned) and some other ballets, and I agree that while on video she appears rather overbearing when seen live she is simply exhilarating. But I do wonder, without wishing to offend, whether she is causing such a sensation simply because she is the first dancer in a while to have such energy (often compared to Plisetskaya) which we associate with the Bolshoi's golden age, and not necessarily due to remarkable artistic merit?

I was wondering that too (sorry for posting so much!). I like how she's shifted back to the age of Plisetskaya, Maximova, who were undeniably energetic. Bessmertnova was someone who was a little...slower. Maybe, also, kids and teens like Natalia as well, she's a little more exciting than Uliana Lopatkina's (stunningly perfect) slow White Act, you know?

As for artistry, I don't know what to say, since I've only seen her on a 4 inch screen. Maybe I'm comparing everyone to the Legends of the Bolshoi and Mariinsky, which could be an issue. Relative to the current crop of Russian dancers, Osipova is fairly artistic. Relative to a generation ago...perhaps not so much.

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I've just watched clips from recent performances of Kitri Don Q, Flames of Paris, Corsaire, and the "Spanish Bride" in Swan Lake, Act III. Wow! In this rep, anyway, consider me a big fan.

Back at the start of this thread, Mashinka posted a comment written by Tobi Tobias:

I'm grateful to drb for quoting part of Tobi Tobias's review. Having now seen Osipova dance, I agree totally that:-
It’s one of those moments that occurs in ballet from time to time, when issues of classical technique drop out of the picture and all you see is pure dancing.

Osipova is so exceptional she appears to sit on the music somehow in those soaring jetés of hers and what I've seen of her dancing so far seems to indicate that intricate terre a terre steps are near perfectly performed. I'm a convert! :)

That seems right on target to me.

As for the masculine-feminine issue. Just look at her explosive entrance during Kitri's variation, the rocket speed, the swagger, the hands on hips, the recklessness -- all supported by technique. I find nothing exclusively masculine in this. Theater and film have often given us minxes, hoydens, sweet girls who can beat the boys at their own game. It's a stock character in 30s Hollywood romantic comedies. Nor is the effect particularly "athletic," although extraordinary athleticism is at play.

In a few minutes she creates the outline of a marvellous character and tells the audience that she is a miraculous jumper, turner, and charmer. I may be missing something, but I did't notice anything forced or incorrect in the technique either. In fact she seems to be one of those dancers who can pick up the tempo without creating the impression of fuzziness in the details. That in itself is a rare gift.

Incidentally, here's a bit from an interview for Marc Haegeman printed in the Summer 2007 issue of Dance Now, It's relevant to the masculine-femine issue.

MH: Are there dancers you particularly admire or who serve as models for you?

NO: Models, not really. They there are many dancers I like and from whom I try to pick up certain things -- ballerinas, but also male dancers. It may sound strange but I adore Rudolf Nureyev. I have seen lots of films and read several biographies of him. The way he used to enter the stage is so impressive. ...

She also mentions that she has danced the 3rd movement of Balanchine's Symphony in C. The dancer I remember in this is Merrill Ashley. I'd love to see Osipova tackling this particular Balanchine.

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She also mentions that she has danced the 3rd movement of Balanchine's Symphony in C. . . . . I'd love to see Osipova tackling this particular Balanchine.
:)
Osipova, frankly, is stunningly wonderful in Don Quixote, do catch it if you can!

Two for my "bucket list." :D

As for artistry, I don't know what to say, since I've only seen her on a 4 inch screen. Maybe I'm comparing everyone to the Legends of the Bolshoi and Mariinsky, which could be an issue. Relative to the current crop of Russian dancers, Osipova is fairly artistic. Relative to a generation ago...perhaps not so much.
Osipova is still quite young. Artistic development generally comes with maturity.

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Incidentally, here's a bit from an interview for Marc Haegeman printed in the Summer 2007 issue of Dance Now, It's relevant to the masculine-femine issue.
MH: Are there dancers you particularly admire or who serve as models for you?

NO: Models, not really. They there are many dancers I like and from whom I try to pick up certain things -- ballerinas, but also male dancers. It may sound strange but I adore Rudolf Nureyev. I have seen lots of films and read several biographies of him. The way he used to enter the stage is so impressive. ...

She also mentions that she has danced the 3rd movement of Balanchine's Symphony in C. The dancer I remember in this is Merrill Ashley. I'd love to see Osipova tackling this particular Balanchine.

Yes, Bart, but the reason she mentioned Nureyev is primarily for his stage presence. What Nureyev and Osipova have in common is this very special magnetism which draws you toward them. You simply cannot avoid watching Osipova when she is on stage, no matter how many other dancers are around, no matter what role, because you immediately realize "something is going on" when she starts moving.

Next to her ability to adapt her plasticity to the style required by each ballet or role - as one can see in her "Don Quixote" (Act 1 and Dream scene), "In the Upper Room", but also smaller bits like the peasant pas de deux in "Giselle", or Frivolity in Massine's "Présages", or now her Giselle - I find this the most cherishable quality of all, much more so than the fact that she is loaded with energy and a great jumper and turner. And that she along the way revitalizes most of the "old" ballets she tackles is a welcome bonus. For someone of her age that's quite an achievement.

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An aspect of Osipova's dancing not so far mentioned is how she appears to have the power to energize the dancers around her, as if they instinctively up their game when in the presence of someone so dynamic. I think you may indeed have to look back to Nureyev to have witnessed that kind of effect. Her performances become more than special not just because of her breathtaking dancing but also because of this phenomenon.

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[ ... ] she along the way revitalizes most of the "old" ballets she tackles is a welcome bonus. For someone of her age that's quite an achievement.
An aspect of Osipova's dancing not so far mentioned is how she appears to have the power to energize the dancers around her, as if they instinctively up their game when in the presence of someone so dynamic.

Very rare qualities -- and something to welcome and celebrate. You can see and feel it even on the brief clips. I look forward to seeing more.

:dunno: It amazes me how, in these days of super-athletic, super-flexible dancers, so many of them do NOT revitalize the ballets or energize their fellow dancers. Sometimes today it seems to be about showing the world just how extraordinary I am, at the expense of what is going on around me. Not to mention the cases in which extreme technical abilities are coimbined with absence of stage presence or, indeed, personal blandness on stage. ("I stretch, therefore I am".) In contrast, Osipova seems to be an extremely generous dancer to those on stage with her as well as to the audience.

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It's also interesting to see how a dancer like Osipova challenges the other soloists who perform the same principal roles. It's clear to everybody in the company that nobody dances Kitri the way Osipova does. In comes this little spitfire who all of the sudden places the hurdle a lot higher. Some take the challenge and try to change their approach even if they realize they cannot really 'outdance' her, others just don't and seem to give up. Question is how this will develop with Osipova getting more and more principal roles - Giselle now, while Medora, Sylphide, Aurora and Flames of Paris are scheduled.

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A very interesting point. Especilly Alexandrova has seen "her" repertoire encroached upon by Osipova, I think. And I'm delighted to hear she will be doing Aurora - she should excell at that!

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I would say that of all the ballerinas at the Bolshoi, Alexandrova is the one most capable of standing her ground.

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Ms. Osipova appeared on the US cable channel Russia Today a few days ago, accepting her award as Best Female Dancer of 2007 during the Critics' Circle National Dance Awards at Covent Garden. An excerpt from Russia Today's website:

National Dance Awards are the only professional awards in the UK, dedicated specifically to dance. They are presented by the dance section of the Critics' Circle, which brings together more than 50 dance writers.... The Bolshoi was recognised as the best dance company, its dancer Ivan Vasilyev received the Spotlight Award for Classical Male Artist, while Natalya Osipova got the Best Female Dancer prize.

For the full story and a link to the video:

http://www.russiatoday.ru/entertainment/news/20029

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