Ballet review: Russian Seasons of XXI Century, London Coliseum


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The Independent Culture

Some shows just seem to be doomed. On opening night, the Russian Seasons of XXI Century dropped one production due to injury, then added an unscheduled interval while they tried to fix the lighting. Technical hitches aside, it was a ramshackle night of dubious revivals and recorded music. The bright spot was British-born guest star Xander Parish, dancing with bold conviction.

Russian Seasons of XXI Century is essentially a Ballets Russes tribute act. Director Andris Liepa has revived or reinvented works commissioned by Diaghilev in the early 20th century. The sumptuous designs of Bakst and Golovine are skimpily recreated, with approximate scenery and shiny artificial fabrics. The sound system is tinny, the stagings thin. Productions are danced by the Kremlin Ballet, with guests from other companies.

Ilze Liepa was scheduled to dance a new work Cleopatra – Ida Rubinstein, inspired by one of the early Diaghilev ballets. When she was injured, it was hastily replaced by Scheherazade, with Parish as the Golden Slave lusting after Yulia Makhalina’s vampish Zobeide.

Parish, born and trained in Britain, danced small roles with The Royal Ballet for five years before being headhunted by the Mariinsky Ballet – a very rare example of a foreigner joining the celebrated St Petersburg company. Since then, his career has taken off, with acclaimed performances in leading roles. Parish’s guest appearance comes a week after Sergei Polunin, another ex-Royal dancer, returned to London, and days after Alina Cojocaru joined English National Ballet, following her own sudden departure from The Royal Ballet. It’s a lot of fine dancers for one company to lose.

Watching Parish now, even in this programme, there’s no doubt that he’s one who got away. His lines are lyrical and clear; he spins in the air, and flows out of the turn into a perfect pose. The jumps are high and strong, with beautifully pointed feet. Parish’s Mariinsky repertory has tended to be lyrical, but here he plays “exotic” roles, the Slave and the fantasy figure of Le Spectre de la rose. The elegance is still there, but he brings real authority to these new roles, dancing the curling lines and flourishes with attack.

In The Firebird, the Kremlin Ballet’s Alexandra Timofeeva and the Bolshoi Ballet’s Mikhail Lobukhin were emphatic but characterful. The corps dancers, perhaps embarrassed by their costumes, looked lost.

Until 20 July; box office: 020 7845 9300