Sergei and Gaiane Danilian, The Russian couple known by their company name, Ardani Artists, marked their 25th anniversary of dance management, production and promotion with a gala featuring some of the most flashy names in dance today: Marcelo Gomes, Friedemann Vogel, Edward Watson, Joaquín De Luz, Denis Matvienko and Ivan Vasiliev, although, according to most of the reviews, this was the Natalia Osipova show.
The evening is really about Natalia Osipova. She is the star; and what a star. Lithe, sexy, charismatic, with a tiny body that can apparently form itself into every letter of the alphabet…
said Laura Thompson in The Telegraph.
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.
agreed Victoria Sadler for The Huffington Post.
And so on…
So what was on the bill? Here's Claire Cohen for London Dance:
Our evening started with the world première of Alastair Marriott's Zeitgeist which turned out to be an ephemeral ‘this means what you want it to mean' combination of dance and digital art.
It seemed to divide the critics somewhat. Debra Craine in The Times said,
An elegant and dynamic ballet in which Osipova and four Royal Ballet men — Watson, Marcelino Sambé, Tomas Mock and Donald Thom — wound themselves around the elegance of their classical technique while caught up in a swirl of emotional connection. It was compelling viewing.
Margaret Willis for Bachtrack was taken by the pairing of Osipova and the magnificent Watson,
Osipova was partnered by the sinuous Royal Ballet principal Edward Watson whom she hails as her favourite contemporary partner. He can certainly match her physically with his own Sylvie Guillem-esque extensions and high flying jetés, and is physically strong and muscular enough to catch her as she propels herself onto his body with speed… The two expressed a fluidity together like two rivers flowing into each other, their movements entwining and interlocking as they breathed the same air.
However, the Financial Times said,
Marriott's Zeitgeist, set to the doomy noodlings of Philip Glass's Violin Concerto No 1, is redeemed by the edgy and potent combination of Edward Watson and Natalia Osipova.
I do love doomy noodlings… chapeau to the FT's Louise Levene for that. She had a star-rating for each piece in the programme which, happily, went up during the evening. Moving on…
Tristesse, despite its name, was rather fun. This work was choreographed by Marcelo Gomes.
noted Cohen. Joining Gomes himself were Joaquín de Luz, Denis Matvienko and Friedemann Vogel. The FT gave the piece a three-star review,
Gomes's Tristesse offers four reunited friends showing off around the piano while the excellent Andrey Gugnin serves up a Chopin salad.
A Chopin salad is almost as delicious as doomy noodlings!
Lynette Halewood for DanceTabs elaborates,
The work begins with the four guys light-heartedly goofing around and showing off their pirouettes and jumps to each other, with some group hugs. Each of them gets a solo, and then there are duets for two couples. Gomes handles the male on male partnering neatly. These are really fine dancers and look as if they relish the chance to eat up the space.
Craine was also impressed by the dancers,
All the performers were outstanding, but Vogel in particular lifted Tristesse on to another plane with the sheer beauty and heart of his dancing.
And Thompson concluded,
Tristesse is old-fashioned, but it is also imaginative. It could even be an early bagatelle by Kenneth Macmillan.
Arthur Pita's Facada is a kind of anti-ballet. Forget the decorously dying maidens of 19th-century ballet: Osipova plays a jilted bridezilla with murder on her mind… Facada is a black comedy with a deadly aim.
The FT, now rising to four-stars, said,
The consistently fresh and inventive Arthur Pita provided the highlight of the evening.
The Stage‘s Neil Norman was in full accord,
Pita's award-winning Facada is the perfect ending – a surreal mini-drama that hints at Pina Bausch but inhabits a world of its own.
Nevertheless the best has been left until last: Facada, by Arthur Pita, a priceless piece of drollery.
They were taken with the protagonists too,
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.
said Sadler (though, if she's on first name terms, why doesn't she call her Natasha?). Cohen was in full agreement,
This performance was a world away from Osipova's sweet classical ballet heroines and provided a contrast so shockingly satisfying in its intensity it really was a world class performance to remember.
As was Halewood,
Vasiliev is very funny as the unwilling groom, casting off his wedding finery and hurling himself about the stage with abandon. It's a role which still provides some outlets for his virtuosity (to the obvious glee of the audience) but also lets him have fun.
Craine sums it up thus,
Outlandish and hugely entertaining.
And what more could anyone want. As Sadler says,
If only all Gala evenings could be like this.
Happy Anniversary Ardani Artists!
Graham Spicer is a writer, director and photographer in Milan, blogging (under the name ‘Gramilano') about dance, opera, music and photography for people “who are a bit like me and like some of the things I like”. He was a regular columnist for Opera Now magazine and wrote for the BBC until transferring to Italy.
His scribblings have appeared in various publications from Woman's Weekly to Gay Times, and he wrote the ‘Danza in Italia' column for Dancing Times magazine.