There is a reason why Natalia Osipova is the dancer everyone wants to see. And the star delivered on her box office draw for the Ardani 25 Dance Gala with performances full of her trademark visceral, emotional intensity blended with impressive technical excellence.
The star delivers, yes, but she is enabled by a programme of works that not just excite and challenge, but also by a cast of incredibly impressive male dancers.
The first piece, Zeitgeist, sees Natalia partnered with Edward Watson for a dark, sensual performance to a haunting violin concerto from Philip Glass. The performance was a World Premiere and my god, it delivers.
Natalia's performance of an intense and dangerous femme fatale was just infused with sensuality. Her pas-de-deux with Edward Watson took my breath away. The choreography from Alastair Marriott is exciting and fresh with demanding leaps and turns mixed in with contemporary dance but the story of a woman playing, manipulating those around her never dropped for a second.
The piece was so deliciously dangerous that it was a smart move to follow such intensity with the joyful, playful Tristesse. Choreographed by dancer Marcelo Gomes, who also performs, it's a bright, witty showcase for its four male dancers - Marcelo, Joaquín de Luz, Friedmann Vogel and Denis Matvienko.
The final piece in this programme of works, Facada, was the most intriguing. Full of light and shade, joy and death.
Natalia Osipova returns, this time as a bride anticipating the imminent arrival of her soon-to-be husband, played by Ivan Vasiliev. But the groom does a runner and what starts off as a light-hearted piece descends into an explosive and murderous drama as the jilted bride tracks down and kills the man who left her standing.
The music is a passionate Portuguese fado, played live by composer Frank Moon, and it's a terrific musical composition that brings out all the hope and joy of a bride on her wedding day only for the tone to plummet dramatically into an intense score with agitated strings and thundering drum beats.
Natalia and Ivan are both superb. Ivan's grace and athleticism impress and make for an interesting comparison with his partner - how great to see the female role with the responsibility for the power and violence.
The choreography from Arthur Pita is angry and animalistic as much as it is technically demanding and even graceful. And he adapted the piece especially for the two dancers and, wow, do they deliver.
My enduring memory of the Ardani 25 Gala will be Natalia Osipova dancing, ferocious and primal, on the grave of the husband-to-be she murdered. A Fury whose vengeance is complete. Stunning, terrifying, iconic.
And such a memory is only appropriate for what is an impressive evening of works, superb choreography and exciting musical compositions that have been brought together for the Ardani 25 Dance Gala. If only all Gala evenings could be like this.
1.Natalia Osipova and Edward Watson in Zeitgeist © Andrej Uspenski
2.l-r Friedemann Vogel Herman Cornejo Denis Matvienko and Marcelo Gomes in Tristesse © Stas Levshin
3.Natalia Osipova and Ivan Vasiliev in Facada © Doug Gifford
4.Natalia Osipova and Ivan Vasiliev in Facada © Doug Gifford