Zeitgeist (01). Natalia Osipova and Edward Watson in Alistair Marriott's Zeitgeist (now costumed in black) Photo Andrej Uspenski

Natalia Osipova and Edward Watson in Alistair Marriott’s Zeitgeist
(now costumed in black)
Photo Andrej Uspenski

London Coliseum
July 17, 2015

David Mead

The evening may have featured a stellar list of male dancers, but it was Natalia Osipova that most people had come to see, and she didn’t disappoint with two electrifying performances in an evening of diverse dance that celebrated twenty-five years of producer and impresario Sergei Danilian’s Ardani Artists.

Philip Glass’ Violin Concerto is a familiar piece of music, and not exactly unknown in choreography, but Alistair Marriott captures perfectly its mood and spirit better than most in his brand new Zeitgeist.

It opens with a juicy, easy going and fluid dance by supporting Royal Ballet dancers Donald Thom, Marcelino Sambé and Tomáŝ Mock, dressed in black one-piece bathing suits. It’s not long before Edward Watson and Osipova arrive, similarly attired, and the intensity ramps up several notches.

Central to the ballet is a long duet to the second movement that’s full of intertwining bodies. Osipova’s dance in particular appears to echo the violins in the music. “See the music” they say; and here you most definitely could. Frequently there is a hint of an uneasy relationship. More often than not there is a sense of pain on her face. She runs away only to be caught again, or stops, looks back and allows herself to be caught. She sometimes looks vulnerable, especially when the music slows, but when it speeds up she is all fierce determination, her movement strong, powerful and direct.

Design overpowering choreography seems to be an increasing trend, and it happens here too. As good as the first movement is, the eye is constantly taken by Luke Halls’ video projections that spew forth in a constant flow of arcing traces of the sort of shape a firework rocket might leave. They are beautiful but quite simply, it’s too much. Fortunately, the longer Zeigeist goes on, the less intrusive those projections become, and those in the final section, a tree that’s all spindly branches before finally taking full leaf are excellent indeed.

Zeitgeist is next to tour to the United States and Russia as part of the Solo for Two project, but surely it can’t be long before it is taken into a company repertory.

Tristesse (l-r) Friedemann Vogel, Herman Cornejo (whose role was taken by Joaquin De Luz at the Colsieum), Denis Matvienko and Marcelo Gomes Photo Stas Levshin

(l-r) Friedemann Vogel, Herman Cornejo (whose role was taken by Joaquin De Luz at the Colsieum),
Denis Matvienko and Marcelo Gomes
Photo Stas Levshin

For Tristesse, Marcelo Gomes took inspiration from a work by French poet Paul Éluard. It’s a ballet about four childhood friends that come together for a reunion. The ballet’s title translates as sadness, and the sense that all is not what is was is there right from the start. It starts easy going and informal, but pretty quickly, clashes of personality come to the fore as they find that, after many years apart, some of the foursome’s beliefs and feelings have changed now that they have grown up.

It’s a ballet for men, about men, with Gomes himself joined by Denis Matvienko, Joaquín De Luz and Friedemann Vogel. Opening solos for each show their character’s personalities, with quite a bit of the real dancer thrown in too, one suspects. Best are the excitable, skittish dance of De Luz, and the classic elegance of Vogel. There are the expected japes and jokes, but also plenty of time for the lyrical, softer side of relationships to show through, most notably in a duet between Gomes and Vogel that’s full of tenderness and feeling.

It ends somewhat surprisingly as the tensions eventually win out. There’s a moment of violence, done on unthinking impulse more than anything else, but it’s enough for the group disintegrate; you suspect for ever.

Andrei Gugnin on piano gave a remarkable rendition of the Chopin Études live on stage.

Rounding the evening off Arthur Pita’s Facada is a theatrical black comedy adapted specially for Osipova and Ivan Vasiliev from his God’s Garden. Pita is a remarkably innovative choreographer with a talent for storytelling, and here he comes up trumps again in an always engaging work that is fun with a capital ‘F’.

Natalia Osipova and Ivan Vasiliev in Facada Photo Doug Gifford

Natalia Osipova and Ivan Vasiliev in Arthur Pita’s Facada
Photo Doug Gifford

Osipova plays a bride left at the altar by a spooked Vasiliev. Perhaps he knew what she was really like because after getting over her tears, where Osipova showed a wonderful comedic touch, she exacts her revenge. It’s not long before Vasiliev is snared, Osipova then dancing over him like an insect playing with its prey, just waiting for the right moment to deliver the coup de grace, which comes when she strangles him during an embrace. Never has revenge been more satisfying and more sweet, it seems, as she then takes great delight in a fierce, stomping dance that brings a quite literal meaning to “dancing on his grave.”

Aiding and abetting the deed were Elizabeth McGorian as the wickedly deadpan mother-figure in pencil-skirt and killer stilettos, all knowing looks at the audience; and composer Frank Moon playing his fabulous, fado-inspired score live upstage. Delicious.

Galas like this are so often disappointing. Despite the big names, the choreography is frequently less than top notch. Danilian’s showcase bucked the trend. Quite simply this was spectacular, and set the bar extremely high for
London’s other summer visitors. If you missed it, you
missed a huge treat.