Dancing as Kitri in “Don Quixote” on Tuesday night at the Metropolitan Opera House, Natalia Osipova proved herself the most sensational ballerina now before the public. Kitri was the first major role for which Ms. Osipova — a Russian star of the Bolshoi Ballet, now in her second spring season as guest artist with American Ballet Theater — earned international acclaim. It’s clear why. She has a gamine quality; you can imagine this Kitri as the most riveting of street urchins. And she’s a theater animal. The turn of her head, the flash of her smile, the immediacy of her response to the music, the intensity of her attention to her colleagues: these and other signs show she is never more alive than onstage.
Even if you knew from other roles that Ms. Osipova has the most remarkable vertical takeoff of any ballerina today, her jumps in Act I of “Don Quixote” were, time and again, astounding. She’s in the air in the blink of an eye, and, once up there, she can stay, exploding sideways. Or, in the image that Russian Kitris over the past 60 years have made a signature, she splits her legs in profile so that while the front one aims downward like a hovering javelin, her head and raised arms arch back to reach the other foot. (This is known as “the Plisetskaya head-kick” after the Bolshoi ballerina who first made it phenomenal.) On Tuesday, a sideways jump that is usually a mere transition became colossal. Sweeping across the stage in other jumps, Ms. Osipova became the first dancer in memory to make the vast spaces of the Met seem too small.
So we get what people used to tell me were 'Southern superlatives' in some of my own extreme assessments (I've since curtailed this severely.) So you could then have, after 'Greatest American Ballerina', and 'Most Sensational Ballerina Now Before the Public', you could then have 'Most Versatile Ballerina', 'Best Body on a Womanly Ballerina', 'Most Virtuosic Ballerina in Balanchine', I guess. What Simon finally wrote about 'this is what makes a ballerina' (even if I'm a lot more interested in Osipova personally) is more meaty than this kind of 'Ballet Oscar' thing, so it was worth it going through the thorns. Then there could be 'Most Beautiful Feet on a Danseur Noble', etc., etc., and give them all to Hallberg or Gomes could get 'Best-Fitting Purple Tights on a Rothbart', etc., 'Most Likely to Inherit the Mantle and Occupy the Place Left Vacant by Suzanne Farrell'.
But there should be a unisex Oscar 'Best All-Around Dancer in the Whole World'. You know. A sort of 'Super Bowl Award'.