Standing ovations greeted super-star classical ballet dancers, Natalia Osipova and Sergei Polunin, at the conclusion of Silent Echo, the final ballet in the Auckland Arts Festival triple bill of contemporary works commissioned by Osipova to help her explore new ground.

Created by British choreographer Russell Maliphant to electronica by Scanner, Silent Echo draws on Osipova's crystalline precision and clarity, extreme extensions, and ability to spin on a dime. Polunin's feral grace and sensitive partnering are also featured.

The dancing opens with short bursts of movement, each dancer in their own spotlight, prowling around the stage as pulsing sound marks passing time.

The sequences increase in length, complexity, and speed, and the spotlights merge to create a zone of illumination.


The sound starts to break down, and just as it becomes static, the dancers are spinning so fast they begin to blur.

Elegant solo sections follow, and the extended duet which closes the work features some spectacular lifts.

In Qutb (Axis), choreographed by Belgian choreographer Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, and set to Sufi music, Osipova dances with the lithely fluid James O'Hara and the statuesque Jason Kittelberger.

Apart from a brief period of independence, marked by a stunning breakout solo by O'Hara, the three dancers are inextricably linked, creating clumps and strange sculptural forms as they climb upon one another.

However the third work, Run Mary, Run by Portuguese choreographer Arthur Pita, is set to dismal teenage love songs by the Shangri-las.

Narratively undeveloped and socially regressive, it does nothing at all to add lustre to the status of these dancers. A strange choice for this programme.