Leading international dance stars Natalia Osipova and Ivan Vasiliev take to the Coliseum stage this week, with Solo for Two. The pair, known affectionately as ‘Vasipova’, are famous for their dazzling classical ballet performances. But, they also excel in the more contemporary choreographies of this triple bill.

Osipova and Vassilev in Cherkaoui's <i>Mercy</i> © Gene Schiavone
Osipova and Vassilev in Cherkaoui's Mercy
© Gene Schiavone
Opening the evening is Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui’s Mercy. The piece’s theme – battered woman turns husband’s violence into love – is highly questionable, but its first duet highlights Osipova and Vasiliev’s synchronicity and togetherness onstage. Vasiliev appears to hit and manipulate Osipova without even touching her. His every movement is reflected instantly in her body – bending backwards as her hair is pulled and contracting her stomach as she is punched – even though the dancers are several inches apart. To choral music by Heinrich Schütz, the choreography’s narrative is unpleasant, but Osipova and Vasiliev’s precision impresses. The rest of Mercy makes less sense, with a tormented male solo, a duet in which Osipova walks over Vasiliev's body and he worships her feet, and a bizarre man-hypnotises-woman sequence. Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui’s choreography has several interesting moments but Mercy doesn’t fit together as a whole.

 In Ohad Naharin’s Passo, Osipova stands alone onstage, gradually curling her upper body into a crouching position. With bare legs and feet, her fine muscle definition is clearly visible as she performs a multitude of slow and sustained movements to Autechtre’s accompanying soundscape. Vasiliev soon joins Osipova, imitating her carefully constructed poses but freezing as she continues moving. With a change in music, to the old English folk song Greensleeves, the two then dance together. Shifting between uncomfortable walks in a crouched, almost foetal position and soaring jumps, the duet is a captivating expression of pain and beauty. Both dancers are a delight to watch, but Osipova’s impeccable elevation and musicality makes her stand out in particular.

Osipova and Vassilev in Pita's <i>Facada</i> © Doug Gifford
Osipova and Vassilev in Pita's Facada
© Doug Gifford
                                                                                                              Arthur Pita’s Facada (portuguese for 'stabbing') closes the evening in style. Accompanied by traditional Fado music and original compositions by Frank Moon and Phil King, it explores the tale of a jilted bride. A Lady in Black (Royal Ballet Principal Character Artist Elizabeth McGorian) opens the piece. Standing centre stage in pencil skirt and stilettos, she pulls out a knife and proceeds to use its blade as a mirror to apply lipstick. Osipova then enters and contentedly runs and skips around, dressed in a white wedding dress. Her happiness is rapidly diminished however, when, as she approaches her nervous-looking Groom (Vasiliev), he screams and runs away. Bereft, the sobbing Bride’s tears are collected by the Lady in Black and used to water some plants.This is just the beginning of Pita’s wonderfully innovative, humorous, tragic and engaging creation. Danced to perfection by the star couple, with brilliant supporting performances from McGorian and musician Frank Moon, I was enthralled throughout. There are even some of Vasiliev’s turning ‘tricks’ woven cleverly into the choreography, and Osipova shines too in a final aggressive and impassioned solo on her Groom’s grave. Pita is definitely a choreographer to watch.                                                                                
Osipova and McGorian in Pita's <i>Facada</i> © Doug Gifford
Osipova and McGorian in Pita's Facada
© Doug Gifford
                                                                                                                  As for Osipova and Vasiliev, Solo for Two demonstrates their amazing chemistry and unique partnership. The latter is evident whether they’re dancing abstract contemporary works or narrative ballet classics, and even the end of their real-life romance last year doesn’t seem to have dampened their onstage passion. I’d definitely like to see them perform more programmes together, and lucky for me, they’ve already confirmed that future shows are being planned.