They’re finally here, back in London to wow audiences once again with their scintillating dancing. The darlings of the ballet world, Natalia Osipova and Ivan Vasiliev last appeared together in the capital two summers ago, and a few months later sent shock waves like the aftermath of an earthquake around the dance community when they announced that they were leaving their alma mater, the Bolshoi Ballet, to join the Mikhailovsky Ballet. There, in St Petersburg, the couple quickly made their mark, dancing continuously both classical ballets and body-slicing contemporary works. They have also been given free rein to accept invitations to guest perform all over the world, which has increased their repertoires, techniques and fans. Now they have opened the Mikhailovsky Ballet’s two-week season here with Giselle, which will be followed by Don Quixote and Laurencia.

Giselle, one of the oldest Romantic ballets, is packed with emotion and glorious dancing and tells of love and betrayal, and later, forgiveness. The first act abounds with colourful sets, costumes and choreography, while the second act is literally “otherworldly”, dark and mysterious where spectre-like Wilis – dead maidens who were thwarted in love – force any male who dares to come into their woodland at midnight, to dance himself to death. The ballet, when done convincingly, touches the heart of the observer. And this opening performance certainly did.

Vasiliev and Osipova, partners both on stage and off, naturally convince of devotion and young love. Their glances and actions, and his attentive support, turn them wholeheartedly into the characters we see before us. Known here more for their exuberant fiery dancing, it was a revelation for some to see them so clearly interpret the gentle romantic choreography with such refinement and good taste. As the Count (usually called Albrecht), Vasiliev is an impetuous, affable teenager, hopelessly in love with the lovely young peasant girl. He is charming to Giselle’s mother and all her friends, and is admiring of her dancing. He is naturally devastated when his true fiancée, in all her rich costuming and glamour, stops off at the cottage for rest and refreshment. His ploy of being a country bumpkin falls apart and later, distraught at Giselle’s demise, he takes all the blame onto his own young shoulders. Vasiliev was convincing throughout. Totally involved, his acting is natural and compelling and his dancing effortless and emotive. He sails into the air, turns on the spot ending slowly and with control, and offers beaten brises where his legs stay glued together until they separate for landing.

But the ballet belongs to Giselle, and Natalia Osipova was perfection. She ensnared us from her very first entrance – wide-eyed and bubbling with joy at the thought of seeing her young love – to her final moments, where, with calm demeanour and silky soft bourees, she leaves this earth and him forever. (Goosepimples galore at this moment!) Osipova has a brilliant natural technical talent. Fleet and light of foot, she evidences amazing control in the challenging slow unfolding arabesques, and she jumps as though on a trampoline – bouncy and high with little contact with the ground. Her eloquent feet move swiftly and she has a way of mystically stretching out the music, putting in more beats, tiny jumps, and lingering turns – all of them unhurried and showing the clarity of her footwork – while still keeping to the tempo.

Her acting was mesmerizing. Seemingly a young girl of sunny personality, she soon shows her fragility when her heart troubles her. Assuring her Count that she is fine, she rejoins the dancing but with a slower pace than usually seen, which was more realistic. Her mad scene was powerful and believable. Her wide staring eyes, spidery fingers that ran up her arm, the pathos with which she re- enacts the “he loves-me-he-loves-me-not” petal plucking, and the eerie glances upwards at unseen spirits, sent shivers down the spine. But more was to come in Act II. Here Osipova was a boneless wisp, light as thistledown with liquid jumps that made her floating tulle tarlatan suspend her in the air. It was a truly exceptional performance.

This production of Giselle, created in 2007 by Nikita Dolgushin who sadly died last year, is pleasant to look at and has some nice little touches. The company showed it is well drilled and has several good dancers with technical finesse. However, the acting was automatic with textbook gestures and mime, which made an obvious huge gulf between them and the principals. As the Queen of the Wilis, Ekaterina Borchenko was imperious and cold-hearted, evidencing good strong jetes and turns, but seemingly outwitted by the persistence of Giselle, in her goal to save her lover, to countermine her regal authority.

Appreciative of the splendid performance, the audience in the packed Coliseum auditorium rose to their feet to cheer the two young star dancers at their many curtain calls – and they deserved every cheer they got.