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Natalia Osipova - Bolshoi Ballet

Natalia Osipova was born in Moscow on May 18, 1986. Decided to pursue a career as a gymnast when she was a child, Osipova only turned to ballet because of a back problem. From 1996 until 2004 she studied at the Moscow Choreographic Academy with Marina Kotova and Marina Leonova. While still a pupil at the Academy, in April 2003, she won the "Grand Prix" at the International Ballet Competition in Luxemburg, dancing variations from "La Bayadère", "Don Quixote", "Esmeralda" and "Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux", as well as the especially created contemporary piece "Liturgy" by Yegor Druzhinin.

Upon graduation in 2004 Natalia joined the Bolshoi Ballet as a member of the corps de ballet. Alongside corps de ballet work she was immediately given solo parts. Already in September 2004 she performed the Peasant pas de deux in "Giselle" with Vyacheslav Lopatin. In November 2004, Natalia was cast as leading dancer in "Bolero", a creation by artistic director Alexei Ratmansky, set during the first Bolshoi Theatre's workshop. Initially Natalia was coached by Ludmilla Semenyaka but subsequently started working with Marina Kondratieva.

Further solo roles, notably the Spanish doll in "The Nutcracker", the Spanish Bride in Yuri Grigorovich's "Swan Lake" and the 1st variation in the Grand Pas of "Don Quixote", readily emphasized her magnificent high jump and ballon. At the same time she also created smaller roles in Ratmansky's version of Dmitry Shostakovich's "Bolt", as well as in the Bolshoi Theatre premieres of John Neumeier's "A Midsummer Night's Dream" (Mustardseed) and Leonide Massine's "Gaité parisienne" (as Cancan soloist). In the latter Massine-programme Natalia was also cast as Frivolity in "Les Présages", which highlighted her technical ease and quality of movement.

In June 2005, at the end of her first Bolshoi season, Natalia took part in the Xth Moscow International Ballet Competition, an engagement she had to alternate with continuing performances at the Bolshoi Theatre (among others, she debuted in the leading role of the 3rd movement of George Balanchine's "Symphony in C" during the Competition). Competing with pas de deux from "Flames of Paris", "Diane and Actaeon", "Don Quixote" and contemporary work, Natalia eventually won a bronze medal in the category of duets.

Natalia's debut as Kitri in "Don Quixote" on 7 November 2005 (with Andrei Bolotin) ignited her career considerably. She imbued the old classic with a rarely seen electrifying energy. Her technical flamboyance and carefree daredevilry earned her accolades from the critics and secured great acclaim with the audience. When Natalia danced the role during the Bolshoi's tour to London in August 2006, very few realized she was still a member of the corps de ballet. Financial Times critic Clement Crisp compared Natalia's performance to Maya Plisetskaya's for its "electric vitality" and "airy bravura". In further performances of "Don Quixote" she was cast opposite Ivan Vasiliev, the young graduate from Minsk who had recently joined the Bolshoi and matches her in bravura. Before she was even promoted to soloist, Natalia's Kitri had already gained classic status.

In her second Bolshoi season Natalia created roles in Alexei Ratmansky's version of Igor Stravinsky's "Card Game" as well as Fairy Autumn in Yuri Posokhov's new production of Sergei Prokofiev's "Cinderella", and made her debut as Ramze in Pierre Lacotte's "The Pharaoh's Daughter."

In August 2006, during the Bolshoi tour in London, Natalia also debuted as Aspiccia in "The Pharaoh's Daughter." In her third Bolshoi season she was cast as Gamzatti in "La Bayadère", as The Classical Ballerina in Ratmansky's "Bright Stream" and in "Middle Duet", and featured prominently in the new American choreographers program at the Bolshoi in February 2007, dancing soloist roles in Balanchine's "Serenade" and Twyla Tharp's "In The Upper Room."

Natalia has been touring extensively with the Bolshoi Ballet, notably to New York, Washington, London, Tokyo, Copenhagen, Brussels, Monte Carlo, Baden-Baden, Munich, Milan, Turin and Paris. In April 2007 she appeared in the Mariinsky Festival, dancing "Don Quixote" (with the Mariinsky's Leonid Sarafanov), a performance in which she had to repeat the fouettés in the final pas de deux at the request of an enraptured audience, and the pas de deux from "Le Corsaire".

On 22 November 2007 Natalia made her debut as Giselle in Yuri Grigorovich's staging of the ballet. Her partner was Andrei Merkuriev. On 20 February 2008 she was chosen by Johan Kobborg to dance the title role at the premiere in his staging of "La Sylphide" at the Bolshoi Theatre. Further leading roles at the Bolshoi that year included Medora in "Le Corsaire" in April (in the new production by Alexei Ratmansky and Yuri Burlaka), and Jeanne in "The Flames of Paris" in July, a rework staged by Ratmansky of the famous dram-ballet from Vassili Vainonen.

In 2007 Natalia received the prize "Rising Star" from the Ballet magazine (Moscow) and was selected "Female Dancer of the Year" by the German magazine "Ballet-Tanz" (Berlin). On 22 January 2008, at the 2007 UK National Dance Awards, she received the Richard Sherrington Award for Best Female Dancer. On 15 April 2008 Natalia was awarded the Golden Mask as Best Female Dancer for her performance of Twyla Tharp's "In The Upper Room" and on 6 September of that year she received the Positano Dance Award Leonide Massine (Italy).

The following year she was awarded the Special Prize of the Golden Mask jury (for best duet in "La Sylphide" in the 2007/8 season, with Vyacheslav Lopatin) as well as the Benois de la danse International Dance Association prize for her interpretation of the roles of Sylphide, Giselle, Medora ("Le Corsaire"), Jeanne ("The Flames of Paris").

At the end of the 2008/2009 season Natalia danced her debut with American Ballet Theatre, appearing at the Spring Season at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York in "Giselle" (13 June 2009) and "La Sylphide" (15 June 2009).

In the 2009/2010 season Natalia further expanded her repertory at the Bolshoi Theatre with leading roles in "Coppélia", "La Bayadère" and "La Esmeralda".

On December 16, 2009 she performed in the Paris-Moscow gala, joining artists from the Paris Opera Ballet and the Bolshoi Ballet, at the Palais Garnier in Paris, debuting as the Ballerina in "Petrushka". The following January 8 Natalia appeared again with the Paris Opera, this time as Clara in Rudolf Nureyev's version of "The Nutcracker" at the Opéra Bastille. On February 13 she debuted with La Scala in Milan in Nureyev's "Don Quixote".

On 18 October 2008 Natalia was promoted to Leading Soloist, on 1 May 2010 to Principal Dancer of the Bolshoi Theatre.

Official website Natalia Osipova:

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Text of  Natalia Osipova Copyright © 2010 Marc Haegeman. All rights reserved.

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