Ballet dancers who fled Russia reunite on California stage

COSTA MESA, California, November 11 (Reuters) – Xander Parish is a British-born ballet dancer who was a principal dancer with the Mariinsky Ballet in St. Petersburg, Russia.

Then, in February 2022, Russia invaded Ukraine. Within a month, Parish was gone. Other international dancers living in Russia also fled, leaving their lives, jobs and belongings behind.

Now, dancers from the Mariinsky, the Bolshoi and other elite Russian companies are reuniting for a night of performance Saturday in Costa Mesa, California.

“Each of us here in this group has an absolutely unique story, yet it is bound by a thread through this shared experience of leaving Russia and having what we loved there… but now coming together again.” It’s like a closed circle.” Parish told Reuters.

American Adrian Blake Mitchell and his Slovak girlfriend Andrea Lassakova, both former dancers of the Mikhailovsky Ballet, also fled Moscow shortly after the invasion. Mitchell said they were in “extremely uncomfortable and worrying circumstances.” He declined to elaborate further.

The artists’ shared experiences become tangible when they dance together, Mitchell said.

“The group of dancers is just so special, you know. Not many projects like this have been done under the circumstances, which adds such a new layer and makes it so much more emotional and so much more meaningful and impactful,” he said.

Christine Shevchenko is with the American Ballet Theater and lives in the United States, but was born in Odessa, Ukraine and said being part of the production was important to her.

“I’ve always been a firm believer that the arts, whether it’s ballet, opera or music, always bring people together,” Shevchenko said.

Although the corps de ballet will only be together for one night, Parish already has plans for more.

“We sold out in 10 days, which is really fantastic, so all of a sudden we want to develop this project and bring in more repertoire and expand what we can perform together and show more people what we love with more performances in the future,” he said said.

“Reunited in Dance” will be performed at the Renee and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall in Costa Mesa. The venue is inviting a separate audience to watch the show for free via a live stream outside of the building.

Reporting by Rollo Ross; writing from Rosalba O’Brien; Adaptation by Leslie Adler

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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