Four years ago, in a Royal Ballet performance of The Sleeping Beauty, there came the entrance of the cavaliers attendant on the fairies at Aurora’s christening. Not the most exhilarating of moments, but – as the Lilac Fairy’s partner – we saw a young dancer boasting cleanly placed movement and beautiful feet. “Xander Parish” said the programme and, almost before we could absorb the fact, came the news that he had accepted an invitation from Yury Fateyev, acting head of the Mariinsky Ballet, to go to St Petersburg. There have been happiest reports of Parish’s progress, and now he is back briefly in London as guest artist – and the only matter of interest – in the unlikely Russian Seasons of the XXI Century, which occupies the Coliseum this week.
Large clouds darkened Tuesday’s premiere: Ilze Liepa was injured, and the scheduled tribute to Ida Rubinstein in Cléopâtre was cancelled, though other Diaghilevan exhumations loomed. That the lighting developed first-night nerves was unfortunate; no less so the over-amplification of the recorded scores to which the Kremlin Ballet performed. Even less fortunate were the versions of The Firebird (in an optimistic “original” decor, but with a fine Tsarevich from Mikhail Lobukhin), of Le Spectre de la rose in a madcap impersonation of Bakst design and Fokine manner, and a hilarious Scheherazade, better identified as You Can’t Trust Those Eunuchs, They’ve Got No Scruples. My long experience of this repertory in honourable stagings made me feel pretty cross, not least with the interpolation of a later and fatuous duet in Scheherazade.
It was Xander Parish as Scheherazade’s Golden Slave, but improbably costumed as the Spirit of the Rose, who gave the evening its value. He is revealed as a prince in exile, a true premier danseur, ideal in physique, elegant in manner, resourceful in drama – or such drama as was offered in these dim circumstances – his technique well-rounded, his line eloquent. He seemed unfussed by the nonsense in which he was trapped and showed rare dignity when a vampish Scheherazade forced her quaint attentions on him. Parish, a fine artist, justified a desperate evening.