Hallberg describes dancing with Osipova as "a bit like an addiction." Photo by Stephanie Berger, courtesy Sadler's Wells

What Makes David Hallberg and Natalia Osipova So Magical Together?

On the surface, intercontinental ballet stars David Hallberg and Natalia Osipova would seem to make unlikely partners. He's an American paragon of elegant princeliness; she's an explosive Russian powerhouse who seems to mock the laws of gravity.

But since they first danced together in 2009, they've moved audiences to tears as Romeo and Juliet, and sent chills through spines as Giselle and Albrecht. Whether at American Ballet Theatre, The Royal or the Bolshoi, each time they're together they bring out new depths in each other's artistry.


"It's a bit like an addiction: Whenever I get a hit of dancing with her, I want more," admits Hallberg. "She has such a powerful, driving engine, to keep up with the machine inside her, she makes me live in the moment. How she moves through space, the expansiveness of her physicality, I feed off of her intuition."

David Hallberg cradles Natalia Osipva's head in his hands in this dramatic closeup

The dancers used to be only able to communicate with each other through movement. Photo by Stephanie Berger, courtesy Sadler's Wells

Yet until this season, no choreographer had ever created a new work on the pair. Enter Alexei Ratmansky. Arguably today's preeminent ballet choreographer, he not only has a reputation for bringing out the best in his muses, but he also has deep experience with both dancers. Hallberg originated a role in Ratmansky's first work for ABT (On the Dnieper) a decade ago and has worked with him several times since; Osipova was given her first major opportunities at the Bolshoi when Ratmansky was its ballet director and later originated the title character in his Firebird.

The trio had three weeks together in the studio last summer to create a seven-minute duet, Valse Triste. It's the centerpiece of an evening called Natalia Osipova's Pure Dance with David Hallberg, a Sadler's Wells co-production with New York City Center.

Although the work has no overt narrative, the dancers saw their personal relationship reflected in the characters: She at times runs across the stage tumultuously, while Hallberg provides a calming, comforting presence. "That's kind of our partnership and friendship in a nutshell," says Hallberg, with a laugh.

After debuting at Sadler's Wells last September, Valse Triste has its U.S. premiere at New York City Center April 3–6. The program also includes Hallberg and Osipova together in Antony Tudor's The Leaves Are Fading. Jason Kittelberger joins Osipova in Roy Assaf's Six Years Later, and Jonathan Goddard partners her in Flutter, a premiere by Iván Pérez.

Photo by Stephanie Berger, courtesy Sadler's Wells

When the pair first started working together a decade ago, Osipova spoke no English, and Hallberg spoke no Russian. But that inability to communicate through speech had a sublime effect: The dancers became hyperaware of how everything felt, relying solely on the energy between them to connect. And it electrified the air around them.

While their performances remain as thrilling as ever, Hallberg has picked up some Russian from his time with the Bolshoi and Osipova has gained a solid grasp of English while living in London. Where they used to go their separate ways after rehearsal, they're now dear friends. Dinner together can last for hours, then turn into a stroll that leads to a cup of coffee, more talking and walking, then maybe a glass of wine.

"What typically happens are these epic sort of evenings," says Hallberg. "Before you know it, seven hours have gone by."

Latest Posts


Paul Matteson teaching at Lion's Jaw Performance & Dance Festival. Photo courtesy Matteson

These 5 Mistakes Are Holding You Back from Improving

There's a healthy dose of repetition in your dance education—whether it's those same fundamentals you're asked to practice over and over as you deepen your technique or the many run-throughs it takes to polish a piece of choreography. But teachers also see the same missteps and issue the same reminders from student to student, perhaps over decades in the studio.

We asked five master teachers to describe the things they wish they no longer had to correct—because if students could just remember to incorporate the feedback, they'd be on their way to becoming better dancers.

GO DEEPER SHOW LESS
Getty Images

How Can We Confront Implicit Bias? The Director of Jacob's Pillow Shares Her Ideas

At Jacob's Pillow's June gala, something happened that outraged me: A patron who identifies as black/biracial felt a white man seated behind her touch her tightly coiled hair. When she ignored him, he audibly complained that her hair would block his view of the stage. At dinner, the patron was further subjected to a series of objectifying questions. "What are you?" asked the white woman sitting next to her. Not "who are you," but a dehumanizing "what." "Who was black? Was it your mother or your father? What do your children look like?"

GO DEEPER SHOW LESS
Jodi Melnick and Marc Happel presenting to Sara Mearns. Photo by Christopher Duggan

The Dance Magazine Awards Celebrate Everything We Love About Dance

What a night. The Dance Magazine Awards yesterday at the Ailey Citigroup Theater was jam-packed with love for dance.

From legendary icons to early-career choreographers we can't stop obsessing over, the Dance Magazine Awards, presented by the Dance Media Foundation, recognized a wide spectrum of our field.

And with more performances than ever before, the night was an incredible celebration of the dance community. As host Wendy Perron pointed out, in many ways, we doubled the usual fun this year: Some honorees had two performances, some had two presenters, and David Gordon and Valda Setterfield were themselves, well, two awardees.

GO DEEPER SHOW LESS
contest
Enter Our Video Contest