This whirlwind tour began with Hallberg dancing Albrecht in Vasiliev’s Giselle at the Bolshoi Ballet opposite soloist Natalia Osipova. Ms. Osipova danced with Hallberg in ABT’s production of Giselle last summer in New York. She is scheduled to appear this season with him in Sleeping Beauty and Romeo and Juliet, and opposite Jose Manuel Carreno in Don Quixote.
We are very fortunate that an audience member surreptitiously videoed portions of Act I of this Giselle performance and posted them on YouTube here and here. It is apparent from these bits, from Hallberg’s breakthrough performance of Albrecht last year, and from his various published comments that he thoroughly enjoys dancing with Osipova and that she challenges him to strive to a higher plane. This is all good because being a happy dancer makes it easier to be a thriving dancer. And the dance world has a vested interest in seeing Hallberg continue to thrive.
That said, no one has yet referred to Hallberg-Osipova as a partnership. Nor is it likely that they will ever be referred to as one in the vein of Bruhn-Fracci, Nureyev-Fonteyn, or Bocca-Ferri. They don’t particularly compliment one another physically nor do they share stage temperaments that work magically together the way the above mentioned pairs did. They are, simply put, two very talented but very different dancers doing their jobs very well.
After conquering the Bolshoi in Moscow, Hallberg journeyed up to Saint Petersburg to perform in the Mariinsky Ballet’s Sleeping Beauty opposite principal Alina Somova. Our favorite audience member was on the job again and uploaded three wonderful video snippets of Hallberg dancing on the Mariinsky stage here, here and here. He looks spectacular in his circle of coupe jetes which the audience interrupted with applause. In another clip, we have the opportunity to see Hallberg perform a series of gorgeous side to side assembles at the traditionally slower tempo which we don’t often see in this country.
His Sleeping Beauty partner, Ms. Somova, is a lightening rod for controversy, if ever there was one. The Mariinsky has seemingly decided that she has qualities that warrant her jumping rungs up the organization/repertory ladder in spite of technical deficiencies and in spite of the existence of more competent dancers who have been toeing the Mariinsky corporate line for years and waiting patiently for their opportunities.
Somova’s deficiencies are of the type that no one understands why they are not being addressed. Exhibit A - she has a proclivity for inappropriately throwing her leg up to her ear and beyond in the Petipa classics. Exhibit B - her fouette turns make her look like a polio victim. Exhibit C - her mugging grins at the audience drive people up the wall. Exhibit D - her grand jetes typically split beyond 180 degrees giving her jumps a dropped crotch look. Exhibit E - her long acrylic fingernails are professionally unbecoming. And yet, Haglund has observed a soft, lovely, charismatic quality and a sincerity in Somova’s dancing that are very, very appealing. This past New Year’s Eve when the Mariinsky Ballet televised a program that included Somova in Paquita, Haglund was pleasantly surprised at her restraint and tidiness. She really seemed to have improved since the Mariinsky’s visit to City Center several months earlier when she delivered appalling performances. Not all things had improved, mind you, but enough improved to drive the interest to see more.
Haglund is curious to know if the Aurora with whom Hallberg danced was the Somova who came to City Center or the Somova who we saw on New Year’s Eve or some other Somova. Blondness aside, the physical pairing of Hallberg and Somova is appealing. Their stage temperaments are similar. She doesn’t overpower him the way his most common partners at ABT do. Reports are that our hometown kid seems to have done well from the Russian perspective and that he and Somova were called before the curtain a half dozen times following the performance. So we shall wait and see what develops.
But Hallberg hadn’t yet completed his itinerary. He then maneuvered his way across the border into the Republic of Georgia to dance in a gala at the Georgian State Opera and Ballet Theater in Tbilisi. The ballet company there is directed by Nina Ananiashvili who presented Hallberg with the International Prize Star during his visit. During the gala he performed Ashton’s Dance of the Blessed Spirits and a Swan Lake PdD.
In a span of three weeks, Hallberg was welcomed with opened arms by two competing Russian ballet companies in Moscow and Saint Petersburg and then charmed his way into the Republic of Georgia to dance there. Secretary of State Clinton should do so well in her diplomatic efforts in that region.
In any event, welcome home to Hallberg. The spring season at the Met cannot come soon enough. We can’t wait to see you.