Natalia Osipova, perhaps the world’s most renowned ballerina, will land in New York City this week for a one-night solo show at City Center. “Natalia Osipova: Force of Nature” is completely sold out — a testament to her prestigious reputation and New Yorkers’ hunger to experience the performing arts in this moment, particularly those with global acclaim.
This week, she returns to New York for the first time since the pandemic — a city where she’s spent considerable time as a guest principal dancer for American Ballet Theatre from 2011 to 2013.
Known for her expressive technique and fiery attack, Osipova is considered among the world’s most skilled jumpers — leaping three feet or more off the ground with masterful lightness and energy. She has the rare, intuitive capability to temper strength with musical fluidity — lending an otherworldly delicateness to athletic feats.
“Force of Nature,” which takes its name from a 2019 documentary that chronicled her illustrious career, will showcase Osipova’s breadth. She will perform eight excerpts that include classics such as “Giselle,” “Manon” and “Swan Lake,” alongside contemporary works like Alexei Ratmansky’s “Valse Triste” and two pieces choreographed by her husband Jason Kittelberger, who will also perform.
Royal Ballet principals Reece Clarke and Marcelino Sambe will also accompany Osipova, alongside Ukrainian pianist Oleksandr Grynyuk. Osipova has invited two rising talents — Takumi Miyake of the American Ballet Theatre Studio Company and Eva Hrytsak of the American Ballet Theatre Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School — to share the stage and perform an excerpt from “Flames of Paris.”
Here, Osipova checks in with WWD ahead of her solo engagement about her love for New York and the possibilities ahead.
WWD: Tell me what made you want to do a one-night show in NYC?
Natalia Osipova: I love New York, I danced here many times, it’s always great to come back, I love the New York audience, but my schedule is usually very busy in London with Royal Ballet, so I can’t go away for too long, that’s why it’s just one show, but I’m looking forward to seeing everyone.
WWD: How does it feel to have sold out a whole auditorium just with your own name?
N.O.: It’s fantastic. All my life I was working very hard, dancing a lot, and now to feel that a lot of people love what I do and appreciate it, means a lot. I have been dancing for 18 years and it’s great that people know me and want to come to my show.
WWD: Are audiences in New York different in any way or appreciate your art form differently than in other cities?
N.O.: It was always a very warm reception, I worked in [New York] with ABT for five years and the audience always felt great. I even remember my last show at the Metropolitan Opera House with David Hallberg on our mutual birthday. There was a standing ovation and people were shouting “happy birthday.”
WWD: Which piece in the program are you most looking forward to performing this weekend and why?
N.O.: The most important piece for me will be to dance “Isadora” by Frederick Ashton, because for a long time I was dreaming to do this piece. I think it’s a genius work. It was created for one of my favorite ballerinas, Lynn Seymour. I simply adore her and have seen a lot of her recordings, it’s just fantastic. And it’s great that my dream is coming true, and I hope I will have a chance to dance it more.
WWD: You have spent a lot of time in New York, especially when performing for ABT. What are some of your favorite places in the city?
N.O.: Lincoln Center for sure, as I was spending all my time there, when we were rehearsing and dancing at the Metropolitan Opera House [for ABT] and it was great meeting fans, this incredible fountain, where before the show everyone is waiting on the square.
I was coming there also to see performances, it’s always an exhilarating feeling, and there are also memorable moments after the show, when you are so happy and you go with your friends to the restaurant near Lincoln Center and after walking along the empty streets home. I usually stay nearby, near Lincoln Center or in a hotel next door to the studio Steps on Broadway, which is famous in the dance community and beyond. I could always see through the window how dancers take classes or go there myself. And of course Metropolitan Art Museum, I have been so many times and will go again.
WWD: Are there any things you are looking forward to doing on this trip?
N.O.: I hope to see my favorite teacher Irina Kolpakova, the legendary ballerina and ABT teacher — I love her dearly. I really am looking forward to seeing her.
This is a short trip, but I will be looking forward to coming back. My husband Jason is actually from New York and my dream is for him to show me New York and America, to see it through the eyes of American.
WWD: How do you feel dancing now versus before the pandemic? How does your body feel and do you approach your work differently at all after the break?
N.O.: The pandemic indeed influenced dancers. We were displaced from our usual working rhythm, and it was hard to come back. I think after the pandemic the rhythm changed, you feel it, you don’t have that never-ending race to do everything. Now pace is a bit calmer and I think the companies have time to focus on their own artists and choreographers, I think less guest-artist residencies are happening as well. Everyone is supporting their own dancers more, I think that’s the trend in companies around the world.
WWD: With the number of tickets that have sold, it appears that you have many fans in the U.S. Do you plan to spend more time here doing performances like “Force of Nature”?
N.O.: Yes, I would love to come back and do a longer tour to visit Chicago, Boston, Los Angeles, Houston, but also cities I have never been and bring new shows as well. I have a lot of ideas.