Last night, on the stage of The Royal Opera House which he left eight years ago, Xander Parish was promoted to Principal Dancer of the Mariinsky Theatre.
The Mariinsky are in London for a three week run of five different programmes until 12 August. Last night saw Parish as Siegfried in Swan Lake. The 31-year-old dancer from Hull joins Kimin Kim of South Korea as the company's only Principal Dancers from outside the former Soviet Union.
Xander Parish joined the Mariinsky as a Coryphée in 2010 after twiddling his thumbs for five years at The Royal Ballet. He was 23, frustrated with his spear-carrying duties and itching to dance. It is easy to criticise Monica Mason – then director of The Royal Ballet – for not having spotted his potential, but hindsight is available to everyone, looking into the future is often just a gamble with no guarantees. It was the Mariinsky's Yuri Fateyev, coaching at The Royal Opera House, who thought he could see a future star in Parish and invited him to St Petersburg. Parish took the risk and left London, and the gamble paid off… handsomely.
Parish told The Times that when he resigned from the company not everyone thought it was a smart move.
I think a lot of them thought I was naive, that I would get there and never make it.
He didn't unpack his suitcase for three weeks, thinking that he might be on a plane back home within days.
I saw a very young, very talented and beautiful dancer who needed to work hard to be a big star. I thought, this is my type of dancer because he had nice height, nice body, nice face, but he was not strong enough. He was so weak. He can do nothing. He was looking [like] Bambi.
In my interview with Parish last year, he said,
Many dancers have potential to leave the corps de ballet; the thing that determines who does is often where you are and when, and who spots your potential: in other words, being in the right place at the right time and having a director who sees something in you! This is what allowed me to leave the corps de ballet.
I don't think I had a particularly developed jump before I'd been trained in the roles I'm now dancing. I needed to work hard on those solo roles to develop in that area which is what Yuri Fateyev, my director, allowed me to do.
The Mariinsky Ballet has an understanding built into its history that to turn a young dancer into a leading dancer, one has to give that dancer stage experience and a lot of coaching. Of course, not every dancer in the Mariinsky's corps becomes a principal, but from joining the company, on day one, the artistic staff have already evaluated which dancers have the necessary potential.
Graham Spicer is a writer, director and photographer in Milan, blogging (under the name ‘Gramilano') about dance, opera, music and photography for people “who are a bit like me and like some of the things I like”. He was a regular columnist for Opera Now magazine and wrote for the BBC until transferring to Italy.
His scribblings have appeared in various publications from Woman's Weekly to Gay Times, and he wrote the ‘Danza in Italia' column for Dancing Times magazine.