A look here, port de bras there, the timing is off as they prepare to jeté in unison, they need to start again, just a few beats back.
David Hallberg, 36, and Natalia Osipova, 32, are in the studio running the famous bench scene in Giselle over and over with ballet mistress Irina Kolpakova—their only rehearsal before dancing lead roles in the American Ballet Theatre production, which they’re dancing together tonight only.
The exhaustion is palpable as they pause between reps, breathless and sweaty, but they choose to laugh during hiccups, teasing each other before hitting the choreography full throttle, no residue from the minute prior. Between her limited English and his little bit of Russian, they find a common language in dance and musical cues, his mischievous Albrecht, her trusting Giselle. Two principal dancers making magic in a ballet about heartbreak, and forgiveness.
Their first-ever partnership in a 2009 performance of Giselle was a lucky accident. Osipova was dancing as a guest artist with ABT and her intended partner was injured ahead of the show. Hallberg subbed in. Everything that follows reads like a storybook romance.
The pair subsequently worked together for productions of The Firebird, Romeo and Juliet, and The Sleeping Beauty, before being torn apart by distance and injury. It’s dramatic, but as Osipova tells it a beautiful ballet partnership is comparable to love at first sight. And tonight, the “lovers” reunite on the Met stage, where it all began.JANE GAYDUK: David, it’s been a difficult few years for you, recovering from a long injury, and then getting injured again on stage. What are the emotional and physical challenges of rehabilitation?
DAVID HALLBERG: I think that the most important is that when I was injured, I really missed dancing with Natasha. It was like for these two and a half years, the goal was to dance with her again. The rehabilitation was arduous. I mean it was really difficult. It was really taxing. So much went wrong in the rehab, but then when I went down to Australia [to work with Australia Ballet’s premier medical department], everything kind of came together finally and I have to say one of the goals that I had was to dance with Natasha again.