Festival Dance

Natalia Osipova and Friends

Festival Theatre, Edinburgh

Mary Brennan

four stars

LONG, pale arms reaching out of the graveyard soil – is it Giselle, coming back to us? Not likely, to the wistful-woeful sounds of the Shangri-Las singing Past, Present and Future. But the arms do belong to Natalia Osipova, and she is resurrecting, albeit as a black-shrouded crone. In a shrug, she’ll emerge in a bright green mini-dress, be-wigged in a shrieking red beehive (redolent of Amy Winehouse’s hairdo) and strap on garish heels – proof that when Osipova said she wanted to go in new directions, stretch herself in contemporary moves, she was serious. It so happens that Arthur Pita’s Run Mary Run – which sees Osipova’s 60’s girlie partnered by Sergei Polunin as her bad boy sweetheart – also allows them both to be funny, and silly and smoochy as well.

While the Shangri-Las sing of lost love, Pita’s choreography demands – to a greater extent than the other pieces in this triple bill – that this blistering hot pair of ballet stars break away from their classical mould. Slip into teen-dream-angst for Run Mary Run, and even warp body-line and technique to get that "death discs" period feel. It’s way out of their comfort zone, and they dance it like it means something to them.

Qutb – Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui’s trio for Osipova, James O’Hara and Jason Kittelberger – majors on sinuousity tinged with ritual, where hints of cosmic eclipses bathe the stage in a red glow and Sufi chants evoke mysteries of the turning world. Kittelberger’s muscle-mass supports acrobatic balances by the other two, with Osipova’s back-bends a thing of beauty in themselves. Finally, Silent Echo (choreographed by Russell Maliphant) sees Osipova and Polunin come close to the balletic sphere where they habitually spin, leap and sustain elegant extensions. They dance it exquisitely, of course, regardless of the industrial sounds of Scanner.