Russian Ballet Superstars Twinkle Locally This Weekend

The renowned Natalia Osipova and Ivan Vasiliev return to the Segerstrom Center for the Arts this weekend on a center-commissioned program, “Solo for Two.” They will premiere a new piece by Ohad Naharin, the acclaimed Israeli choreographer at the helm of the Batsheva Dance Company in Tel Aviv. We caught up with Naharin just before he was to begin work with the couple on “Passo.” Their four performances will also include American premieres by Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, of Belgian and Moroccan descent, and Portuguese dance-maker Arthur Pita.

Although Naharin had decided to incorporate material from a duet called “PassoMezzo” and already had selected music by the British electronic duo Autechre, he would spend a few hours with the dancers just experimenting before creating a single move. “It will not be about teaching steps,” he said. “Steps will be a part, but it will be about why we dance, how we dance, how we listen to our bodies, how we find our explosive power, how we understand texture and temperature.” What we love about Naharin’s works are how he makes abstract qualities crystal clear.

Entering into an artistic process depends on trust, and an intimacy develops. As for Osipova and Vasiliev, who were once engaged, Naharin explained that intimacy in a studio is professional and differs from the personal kind. “Couples can have difficulties, but we can’t bring it to the studio.” This couple rapidly leapt up the ranks at the Bolshoi Ballet and are now principals with American Ballet Theater, while Osipova is also a star at England’s Royal Ballet. Naharin said that his work—and the process behind it—might be “a fresh experience” for the dancers. For the audience, too, we hope.

July 25 through 27 at Segerstrom Center for the Arts, 600 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa, 714-556-2787,

Photography by Doug Gifford

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