Natalia Osipova

It was after midnight last June when Natalia Osipova, a principal ballerina in the Bolshoi Ballet, was mugged as she was leaving Lincoln Center on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. Most of her fellow dancers were already at home asleep, but Osipova, then a guest artist with New York’s American Ballet Theatre, had just finished several hours of practice at the Metropolitan Opera House. The thieves got away with little more than her pointe shoes—highly coveted collector’s items—but Osipova, she of the gravity-defying jump and infinite stamina, quickly recovered and performed in The Sleeping Beauty days later. The incident was greeted in dance circles as further proof of the young star’s endless work ethic. “If I’m not dying in class, working, working, rehearsing,” the 24-year-old Moscow-born dancer says of her tireless training, “I can’t give all of myself to the audience, and then they wouldn’t have the feeling that this is something very special.” Osipova is currently finishing work on Reflections, a program of new works from some of ballet’s sharpest contemporary choreographers that will reunite several Bolshoi-trained prima ballerinas in California at the Orange County Performing Arts Center in January. Despite having only joined ABT as a guest artist in 2009, Osipova has come to think of the storied company as her second home. Here, she has been coached by the legendary former ballerina Alessandra Ferri, partnered by the dashing principal David Hallberg, and welcomed by choreographer Alexei Ratmansky, ABT’s artist in residence and a champion of Osipova’s since her days at the Bolshoi Ballet Academy. “It was true happiness for me to work with ABT,” she explains, calling New York her favorite city, despite her run-in with its dark side. Besides The Sleeping Beauty, Osipova danced in the company’s production of Romeo and Juliet this past summer. So what’s next? “I hope the Bolshoi Theatre will give me the chance to dance those roles in my own company,” she says.