One of the most profoundly moving and emotionally compelling
dance performances you are ever likely to see
“Mother sat by her little child; she was very sad, for she feared it would die. It was quite pale, and its little eyes closed, and sometimes it drew a heavy deep breath, almost like a sigh; and then the mother gazed more sadly than ever on the poor little creature.”
This is the beginning of The Story of a Mother by Hans Christian Andersen almost unknown to Russian readers. The suffering Mother who fears to lose her sick child is visited by Death in human form. It takes the child, as the Mother dozes off for a moment. But the Mother starts in pursuit. It seems that she is ready to do the impossible snatching the prey from the jaws of Death.
This poignant, painfully truthful story written 170 years ago does not romanticize death; it has no happy end, so much wished for in fairy-tales. Yet this story has attracted many poets, playwrights, painters, and composers.
Arthur Pita is a Portuguese born in South Africa who studied dance art in Johannesburg. He later graduated from London Contemporary Dance School; his first ballet The Metamorphosis was nominated for the Laurence Olivier Award. The choreographer was inspired by The Story of a Mother, as he was under the impression of drawings by an Italian painter. To embody his unusual conception, Arthur Pita needed the person who would be able to represent the complex and profound central character. And he found her – the dancer Natalia Osipova.
Natalia Osipova needs no introduction: for many years she was a soloist, and then a principal of the Bolshoi theatre; she worked at the Mikhailovsky theatre in St. Petersburg, the Perm Opera and Ballet theatre, and American Ballet Theatre. Since 2012, she has been a principal of the Royal Ballet in London, where she received the UK National Dance Award. Natalia Osipova had worked with Arthur Pita before, but isn’t it strange that the main part in a contemporary dance ballet was given to a “classical” dancer?
The dancer herself speaks about this in the following way. “The fairy-tale attracted my attention by the fact that I had not had such roles before. I played different feelings, but the love of a mother that would go all the way and sacrifice everything she has got. Arthur Pita knows me well enough to understand that I would not miss it.” As the choreographer says, “Natalia is a very instinctive performer, she does not hold back and allows herself to be fully possessed by the character she is portraying.”
This austere, tragic and, at the same time, movingly lyrical ballet is the result of the creative effort of a big team. Apart from the choreographer, it also consists of the scriptwriter Anna Rulevskaya, costume and scenic designer Yann Seabra, composers and multi instrumentalists Frank Moon and David Price who have been working with Arthur Pita for many years. The partner of Natalia Osipova to play the part of Death taking different shapes in front of the Mother will be a Laurence Olivier Award nominee and a Critics’ Circle National Dance Award laureate, British dancer, choreographer, and actor Jonathan Goddard (“a true star” in the opinion of Natalia Osipova).
The ballet, the scene of which is shifted to Russia of the 1960s, enjoyed the triumph in Edinburgh in December 2018. Now the audience of the Sochi festival will have a chance to make itself acquainted with one of the brightest ballet events of the past season.