The highlight of Les Saisons Russes would have undoubtedly been Cleopatra, but due to the injury, this ballet has been cancelled and replaced with Schéhérazade for the company's week-long run at the London Coliseum. Director Andris Liepa makes an awkward onstage announcement of casting and other information before each work, promoting the merits of the replacement ballet in particular, and referring to it as the 'Avatar' of the early 1900s.
Indeed, Schéhérazade is appealing, telling the story of a Sultan and his unfaithful concubine Zobiede, who releases the Sultan's male slaves for an enormous party/orgy while he's out hunting. There is plenty of opportunity for celebratory dancing and the lead female is performed superbly by the Mariinsky's captivating Yulia Makhalina. Costumes and sets are also wonderful, filled with bright colours and glamour.
Unfortunately, the programme's other works, also choreographed by Michel Fokine, are much less alluring. Le Spectre de la Rose is the story of a young girl who, after coming home from her first ball, dreams that she is dancing with a male-incarnation of a rose. Fokine wanted the ballet to display the journey to adulthood – the girl falls asleep young and naïve and awakes a woman. But also dancing in this role, Makhalina is unable to capture the innocence of her character, and as much as we love British dancer Xander Parish, who performed as the Rose, the ballet left us cold.
In The Firebird, Alexandra Timofeyeva (pictured) is technically adept but doesn't display the title role's gorgeous avine qualities. The rest of the production is similarly half-hearted with the corps de ballet particularly poorly rehearsed.
The idea of a Russian season of works, paying tribute to the genius of Diaghilev and his Ballets Russes, is a good one. But the execution needs much greater refinement.
Les Saisons Russes du XX1e Siecle is at the London Coliseum until Saturday 20 July. Tickets priced £15-75 are available from the Coliseum website. Londonist received a complimentary ticket to review this performance.