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About the Change

Natalia Osipova
Bolshoi Ballet

© Jeffery Taylor
Former dancer, Dance Critic and an Arts feature writer for the Sunday Express. Pub 29 07 2007

© Margaret Willis

Osipova June 2007 interview

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Natalia Osipova, 21, is the Bolshoi Ballet’s current darling. Describing this young woman’s career as on a roll is like saying the Sun rises in the East. A few scant words fail miserably to capture the incandescent power, the hypnotic epicentre and the physical impact of a force of nature. And then there’s the Sun.

This time last year, during the Bolshoi’s 50th Anniversary season of their first London visit, 20-year-old Osipova was plucked from the corps de ballet to debut in the Spanish extravaganza, Don Quixote. She was sensational. All the great Russian ballerinas like Maya Plisetskaya, Altynai Asylmuratova and Ekaterina Maximova have triumphed in this balletic litmus test. The 1869 work, created by the legendary ballet master, Marius Petipa, has little to do with Cervantes but everything to do with show case virtuosity and uncompromising star quality. Bearing in mind that this phenomenal dancer is barely out of her teens, Osipova will surely soon be at the top of the list. Already she has gone on to conquer more hearts in America and Japan.

Tomorrow the Bolshoi Ballet opens a three week season in London, including Natalia Osipova in Don Quixote. For weeks hundreds of fans have clamoured for tickets. It could be a very heavy burden on such a young pair of shoulders. “Responsibility works for me,” she said last week when she spoke on the telephone from Moscow. “It makes me happy to know that people in London are waiting for me. But yes,” she admits, “sometimes it makes me nervous when I wake in the early hours of the morning. That happens sometimes when I feel I didn’t dance well. Then I get very worried. But ballet is what I live for. I will never stop however frightened I get when I can’t sleep.”

Natalia Osipova as Kitri
© John Ross

But there is another attraction in the capital this year for the 5` 2” ballet bombshell in the person of Andrej Uspensky, 27, a dancer born and trained in St Petersburg and a member of our own London based Royal Ballet since 2002. “We met last year when I was dancing at the Coliseum Theatre,” says Osipova. “We spend an enormous amount of money on telephone calls.” Not to mention her air tickets for the “six or seven” private trips to the UK in the past twelve months. “I’m so looking forward to seeing him,” she admits with a hefty sigh. “When you are working hard you like to have someone to talk over the day’s problems with and to give you support, so I miss him a lot. But I do think it is working even though we are so far apart.” Then she adds, almost in a whisper, “This is serious for me and I don’t want to tempt Providence by saying too much………..”

Like most dancers, Osipova is superstitious. “I try not to be,” she says, “but still I do it. For instance I always remember the dress I wore when I have a successful performance and I will always try to wear it when I dance that ballet again. No,” she insists in answer to my question. “I cannot describe my Don Quixote dress to you, it will bring bad luck.” We do know that at a petite 5` 2” her UK dress size is 6. “Also,” she goes on, “I never trust anyone to touch my pointe shoes, I sew on my own ribbons and darn the pointes, no-one else is allowed near them.” Nor will cuddly toys feature in her London Coliseum dressing room. “I don’t believe in talismans,” she explains. “I was brought up in a very religious family and as a believer I have some icons which are very precious to me and I have them with me wherever I go.”

Natalia Osipova with Bolshoi colleague Ivan Vasiliev outside the Studios at the 2006 Havana International Ballet Festival
© Margaret Willis

Natalia was born in Moscow in 1986, the baby of three daughters brought up by Irina and Pyotr Osipov. She currently lives in her parent’s flat. “When I feel lonely and want love and support I live with my parents. Sometimes you need to feel your parents are looking after you.

“At the moment,” she adds, “I live life day by day, but I dream of the future. Most of all I want my own family with a house in a forest, a minimum of two children and lots of cats. I have a cat called Maxim who stays with my mother. She says if I leave him again for her to look after she will have him doctored.” Andrej, you have been warned.

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