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Text: Svetlana Polyakova

After a serious injury as a child, Natalia Osipova abandoned her dream of becoming a gymnast in favour of what seemed at the time the nightmare of becoming a ballerina. All that changed overnight during her first school performance at the Bolshoy Theatre after which a new dream was born. She realized she wanted to dance. Now she is a soloist at the Bolshoy and has just danced La Sylphide choreographed by Avgust Burnonvilia in a version by Johan Kobborg. And the jury of the Golden Mask Awards have just chosen her as the ballerina of the year.

DE I: Some people are afraid of the dark; some are afraid of dying; some of living. Some people fear other people. Do you have a main, over-riding fear of any kind?

N.O.:   I’m very scared of not having the opportunity to dance. That’s the scariest thing for me. Right at the moment, the most important thing is to dance. I suspect that in 5-7 years I might have to think about what else I’m going to do in life. But right now I want to dance as much as possible. There is so much great choreography, so many interesting things going on in the world, and I worry that I mightn’t be able to keep up with it all.

DE I: Would you say that your strongest characteristic is your work ethic coupled with a search for perfection?

N.O.:   Yes, yes. I think that’s the way it is with any performer who wants to really achieve something.

DE I: It seems that you use not only your body to express what you are thinking. It seems that you read a lot, and think a lot…

N.O.:   Of course I think a lot. I read when I’m preparing for a new piece and I have to really start understanding my role, and the era when it takes place. I read to be able to immerse myself in the atmosphere. Literature helps enormously to get some insight into characters.

DE I: You dance the main role in Giselle, and now in La Syphide. What do you read to understand these characters?

N.O.:   Giselle is a whole separate chapter in my life – 3 months of non-stop rehearsals. I nearly went mad. It’s a very difficult part psychologically, difficult to get it across to the audience and make sure it won’t be dull, but natural and sincere….The film ‘Dancing in the Dark’ with Bjork really helped me.

DE I: How?

N.O.:   Her character commits herself totally to what she is doing, leaving nothing in reserve. It’s not quite like that in the film, but when you’re absorbed by something, love or passion, usually you don’t give yourself to it the full 100%. For her, that total commitment is the reason to live.

DE I: To get in character, do you have someone you consult with or do you manage it yourself? Do you have anyone who you can really communicate with, in the true sense of the word communicate?

N.O.:   There are standard bearers from whom you have to try and learn something for any ballet part. I always try to watch and read as much as I can, even interviews with performers, which can be very helpful. The easiest thing to do is to look carefully at the libretto. Sometimes you can find clues there to things that you would never even consider. From childhood we know more or less what history is about. But if you go deeper, you can discover so much for yourself.

DE I: Is dance for you an attempt to achieve a certain goal, or an attempt to escape from something? What makes you dance?

N.O.:   I enjoy it, it gives me pleasure, for me it’s my raison d’etre. I am a totally happy person on stage, and only on stage. During the interminable rehearsals I get tired, I cry, everything hurts, but when I’m on sick-leave I think how happy I would be to in rehearsals even when sick, with my injured legs.
I’m probably running towards something. With each new part I discover something new in myself, a new quality. Ballet is the art of studying yourself in the hope that during a role you might unexpectedly grow up a bit, or understand something. I danced Giselle and understood if someone asks me for help I’ll always oblige. Indifference probably is the scariest thing for me.

DE I: Kindness helps others, but often it isn’t much good for self-preservation.

N.O.:   There are situations when a person has no-one to talk to. He turns to you, and you tell him ‘What are you so worried about?!’ Or you laugh it off. Or you just say ‘Yeah, yeah, yeah…’ and then he goes off and slits his wrists as a result of indifference, of being ignored. So try and listen, try to figure out what’s going on, and try to help in any small way you can…I got a very sharp sense of that from Giselle.


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