Russian-born Royal Ballet star Natalia Osipova returns to Sadler’s Wells with a largely triumphant mixed bill of contemporary and classical fare. Her last programme here in 2016 was slightly hampered by the celebrity swirl surrounding her on-and-off-stage partner Sergei Polunin and his tarnished balletic brilliance. This time around, we get a glowing demonstration of Osipova’s finely-tuned artistic accord with American dancer David Hallberg.
Antony Tudor’s pas de deux The Leaves Are Fading, set to Dvorak, is all lyrical loveliness. As Osipova’s mischievous skitters and Hallberg’s gallant prance modulate into thoughtful melancholy, both dancers create lines that sing just as plaintively as the violin melody. Alexei Ratmansky’s Valse Triste is by turns dreamy and tumultuous, a tribute to virtuoso technique and operatic emotion.
Ivan Perez’s Flutter, set to a shrilly unstable Nico Muhly score, is enjoyable but overlong. Osipova is renowned for her soaring jump, and here Perez sets her surging recklessly into the air and arms of Jonathan Goddard. Dressed in gauzy white tops and trousers, the pair look like lofty playmates in the most elegantly gymnastic slumber party. Decidedly pizza-free, they’re as delicately insubstantial as silken tofu. Israeli choreographer Roy Assaf’s Six Years Later provides a grounded, ominous eroticism.
In Absentia is a searching gem of a solo for Hallberg by Kim Brandstrup. To the studious imperatives of Bach’s Chaconne in D-minor, Hallberg moves broodingly through swinging half-phrases that sweeten into classical forms. Ave Maria, Yuka Oishi’s poignant solo for Osipova, meanwhile, combines tremulous sensitivity with steely resolve.