In Xander do did Kubla Khan
There were a few problems hindering Les Saisons Russes opening programme at London’s Coliseum. First was the cancellation of Patrick de Bana’s new production for the company, Cleopatra, due to the injury of lead dancer Ilze Liepa and second was a lighting problem that prompted a long delay and an unplanned interval. Without knocking Cleopatra, its absence may well have proved a blessing in disguise, for instead we got homecoming hero Xander Parish as a rollicking Golden Slave in Michel Fokine’s Orientalist fantasy Scheherazade.
Boy has Parish matured to stunning effect since he left The Royal Ballet to become a fixture at the Mariinsky. With limbs that stretch out forever he possesses grace, elegance and a powerful stage presence that somehow seems to radiate through those around him as well. His Slave was a scintillating mix of wild eroticism, loving tenderness and passionate yearning. Ably abetted by the flirtatious sexuality of Yulia Makhalina’s Zabeida, together they somehow drew the hogwash tale of a slave’s forbidden relationship with a Sultan’s favourite wife to a remarkably emotional conclusion. A spellbinding performance.
The other work that the duo appeared in, Fokine’s Le Spectre de La Rose, is a far more delicate affair. Parish has to struggle past Leon Bakst’s god-awful rose-bedecked costume but he danced beautifully and displayed some lovely spinning jumps. Equally, Makhalina’s Young Girl blossomed convincingly into a woman through restrained mime and some sweetly sprung footwork.
If Fokine’s The Firebird has proved one thing in its 103 year history it is that ballerinas are not very good at throwing apples. That aside this was a pretty enticing performance which generated a tangible sense of primeval chaos during the duel between the Firebird and Koschei the Deathless. Alexandra Timofeyeva’s Firebird was less spiky than is usual which leant her a warm appeal and she relished beating everyone on stage to a pulp with her blasts of magic. Mikhail Lobukhin’s Prince Ivan and Natalya Balakhnicheva’s mightily cute Princess held the central love story together well and the corps of hand-maidens wove their human chains with charm, despite the encumbrance of their heavy blond wigs.
Considering Les Saison Russes’ dedication to restoring Sergei Diaghilev’s original productions this show could have been a painfully earnest look at ballet from 100 years ago. Instead it was a vibrant evening with plenty of terrific dancing. And while the schedule’s become a little confused with the cancellation of Cleopatra there remains several opportunities to catch Xander Parish and his Russian friends before they finish on 20 July 2013.
Tickets for Les Saisons Russes are available from the eno website.