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Alla Osipenko


silvy

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Yesterday I followed somebody's advice :wink: on this board and watched an old ballet tape of mine. I saw Alla Osipenko dancing a pas de deux called "The Ice Maiden", music by Grieg, choreography by Lopukhov.

I was amazed at Osipenko's "modern neoclassical" looks, and dancing, though the classical school was there. I found it lovely. (I also liked the choreography very much - found it truly innovative taking into account the time and the country in which it was created).

I would like to learn something about Osipenko - what she is doing today, and what her career in Soviet Russia was (what roles she danced, if she was a prima ballerina, or if she only danced modern roles)

Does anyone know?

Silvy

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Hi Silvy,

My daughter's ballet teacher was in the class of Alla Osipenko in St. Petersburg. Osipenko is 71 years old now and I think she is back teaching in Paris. She taught in Connecticut for a few years.

Alla Osipenko was a student of Agrippina Vaganova and did indeed become a prima ballerina of the Kirov. She has danced with both Nureyev and Baryshnikov, and with many others in between. However, because of her strong anti-Communist views, she was suppressed, finally fleeing to Paris. Her contemporary, and direct competition, was Irina Kolpakova, who benefitted from not decrying Communism, and rising to stardom within the Soviet system.

Osipenko was a brilliant dancer, and, as you note, danced contemporary works in as exemplary a style as she did classical.

Many young dancers in the U.S. were lucky enough to have her teach them when she was here.

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The first thing I remembered reading about Osipenko (the Party affiliations not usually written about publicly at the time) was that she was "too thin". She had long, long lines at a time when these were not fashionable. I never saw her dance live (I have seen a couple of videos -- djb, I don't know if the one you're thinking of is with John Markowsky? The Act II pas de deux with Osipenko and Markowsky is on the "Russian Ballet, The Glorious Tradition, Vol. 1" video by VAI). Of course, she'd fit right in today!

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Osipenko has a continuing association with Vladimir Issaev's company, Arts Ballet Theater in North Miami Beach, FL. She teaches from time-to-time and participated in this past summer's intensive program. Try as I might, I could not convince my daughter to attend after coming home from her regular summer program, a missed-opportunity I'm certain she'll regret when she's older.

At any rate, Osipenko is listed as a faculty member for the company:

http://artsballettheatre.org/artisticstaff.htm

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Alla Ossipenko recently appeared in the much admired film "Russian Ark" which was released earlier this year. She played the role of an eccentric lady inspired by an old master painting in the Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg. She looked as striking and as elegant as ever.

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Silvy, There is also a nice chapter about Osipenko in the book "The Great Russian Dancers" by Gennady Smakov. Lots of beautiful pictures and details on what roles she danced. You can probably check it out at your library.

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There are several marvellous photographs of Osipenko in Lobenthal's recent article about Soloviev in the LATEST Ballet Review -- ven in a group shot, with Makarova an Kolpakova and the other ballerinas of the day, in street clothes, she has a look that sets her apart -- sh'es not being a pretty girl. That seems to me very brave.

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There is a video of Osipenko in the Act II adagio of Swan Lake (1972). It is on Vol. l of "Russian Ballet: The Glorious Tradition", with her endless legs she could step right into NYCB and look elegantly at home.

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Hey silvy,

If I remember correctly (I don't have the book and it's been a while) the book perky mentioned (The Great Russian Dancers) classed Osipenko as one of the beautiful ballerinas (I'm sure that's not the words that were used) along with Tamara Karsavina. Since seeing that I've been wildly curious about her myself.

Thanks for bringing her up here. I've been enjoying imensely people's personal knowledge of her.

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To answer the question as to what Ossipenko is doing right now, I can confirm that she is now acting as the personal coach to the leading dancer of the St Petersburg Ballet Theatre, Irina Kolesnikova.

Also listed as members of the teaching staff of this company are Lubov Kunakova and Svetlana Yefrimova, both former Kirov principals.

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Osipenko has a substantial speaking part (a large 'cameo') in the movie 'Russian Ark'. This film is quite amazing -- taken in one long (90 minutes+), continuous shot, as the cameraman walks through St. Petersburg's Hermitage. It pays tribute to the history of the great city in its 300th anniversary by presenting an 'ark' of its great characters, as each reacts to the art in a particular gallery. Osipenko is seen in the Rembrandt gallery.

The final 10 minutes of the film features a gala ball with the entire Mariinski-Kirov Ballet as waltzing courtiers, and Gergiev conducting the Mariinsky Theater orchestra. I spotted Assylmuratova, Chenchikova and other 'greats' among the dancers. You can't blink or you will miss some of them.

I'm not sure if this film has made it to America. The DVD was released in Russia not too long ago. It's worth it just to see Osipenko 'pontificate' on the glories of Rembrandt (and she looks great).

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RUSSIAN ARK is now out in the States too, on DVD.

Ossipenko is featured in the scene in front of the Hermitage's great DANAE, the Rembrandt that was defaced some years back by a vandal, who threw acid on it, or something like that. it was subsequently restored and perhaps was chosen for the scene w/ A.O. because of that?

A.O. danced in the kirov's 1970 London season at Royal Fest. Hall, which included wrapping up after Makarova defected. she danced the Mistress of the Copper Mt. in that season, which concluded w/ a brief stint in Amsterdam.

Oddly among my many souvenir postcards of the run i seem to have none of A.O.

if i had any special ones i'd have posted them.

one of my more memorable moments so far as this kirov ballerina is concerned comes from having seen her perform as berthe in hartford ballet's kirk peterson staging of GISELLE. as she was holding the lifeless giselle in her arms at the end of act 1, & as albrecht tried to show his grief by throwing himself on giselle, ossipenko's berthe took albrecht by the hair at the back of his head, and peeled him off and away from giselle with a deliberate and dramatic gesture that bone chilling. it seemed as if she had really grabbed the culprit by the hairs on the back of his neck and hypnotically tore him out of the picture. it was quite intense, hypnotic and effective.

(i think the only footage of A. O. on video commercially is that of the ICE MAIDEN and SWAN LAKE mentioned earlier here.)

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