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By Wendy Perron
So Natalia Osipova and Ivan Vasiliev are engaged! And they’re about to dance “Romeo and Juliet for real” in London, which is driving the London critics wild with anticipation. I just feel they’re meant for each other, and I long to see them dance together again. The first time I almost saw them dance together was at the International Ballet Festival in Cuba in 2006.
Here's how that happened. Our trusty U.K. writer Margaret Willis had recommended Osipova for a “25 to Watch” the summer of 2006, so when I went to Cuba that fall, I already knew about them. I saw they were slated to dance Don Q together, so I went to watch a rehearsal. Osipova wasn’t doing much except trying out her pointe shoes, and he was practicing his multiple turns obsessively. (That’s why it was funny for me to read his quote in the Time Out London interview saying that turns weren’t important to him.)
Someone told us that Osipova was jet lagged (Moscow is pretty far from Havana) and was taking it easy. Apparently she has trouble spotting when she’s jet lagged. Then, for the performance, she refused to dance. So Ivan Vasiliev went on alone, exploding in Basilio’s variation. His jumps were spectacular, and his presence was warm and lovable—lovable because even if his partner wasn’t dancing, he was darn well gonna show us what he could do. They were always together in Havana, and one time Margaret introduced me to them, and translated for me. (Her Russian is wayyyy better than mine.)
So when Youth America Grand Prix brought them both over in the spring of 2008, I was hungry to see them dance together. (By then Osipova had been a “25 to Watch” in our Jan. 07 issue, and Vasiliev in our Jan. 08 issue. Both were given opps to shine under Ratmansky’s reign at the Bolshoi.) Their sensational performance in Flames of Paris brought down the house. The next day Larissa Saveliev of YAGP brought Osipova to our photo shoot—and then left. Since Osipova didn’t know any English, we kept the changes of position to a minimum. She looked lovely in her long La Sylphide tutu. But she really livened up the last 10 minutes because Vasiliev stopped by to fetch her. The shoot was supposed to be over, but seeing him there, I couldn’t resist, so I asked him to jump. And—with no warmup at all— he sprang into the air and almost hit the ceiling. Jaws dropped, but the photographer clicked. We got our cover for the following June.
And then we shot them jumping together, and they were having a great time, like two seals splashing around together. (As you see here.)
I’m envious of Londoners, who can see nine performances of the Osipova/Vasiliev Romeo and Juliet (staged by Peter Schaufuss) at the Coliseum starting next week. I’m hoping that after they're married, we’ll be seeing more of them dancing together.
Photos by Dan Howell for Dance Magazine.