Ballet dancer

The British ballet dancer who fled St Petersburg with his Russian wife is back on stage in Georgia

A British ballet star who fled her role as principal dancer of the prestigious St Petersburg Mariinsky Ballet when war broke out has revealed he has finally performed again.

Xander Parish, 36, from North Ferriby in East Yorkshire, quit his role in a production of Giselle at the historic dance company and left for Estonia with his new Russian bride in tow in March – and n hasn’t been on stage for three months.

The artist, who joined the company in 2010 after being offered a place with the Royal Ballet aged 18, said when Russia launched its attacks on Ukraine he could not continue to appear on a Russian stage “until peace comes”, telling social media: “We must observe from afar rather than being in the middle.”

However, this week the British dancer revealed he was invited to perform in Romeo and Juliet in the city of Tbilisi, Georgia, reuniting with fellow Mariinsky Ballet performer Laura Fernandez Gromova.

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British star Xander Parish, 36, had been a principal dancer with the Mariinsky Ballet in St Petersburg since 2010 but made the decision to leave Russia in March. This week he revealed he had danced once again, after receiving an invitation from the Georgia State Ballet (pictured with dancer Laura Fernandez Gromova, left and, right, State Ballet of Georgia conductor Gavriel hehe)

The dancer, born near Hull in East Yorkshire, fled to Estonia with his Russian wife, Mariinsky dancer Anastasia Demidova in March (The couple pictured during a Zoom ballet session during lockdown)

The dancer, born near Hull in East Yorkshire, fled to Estonia with his Russian wife, Mariinsky dancer Anastasia Demidova in March (The couple pictured during a Zoom ballet session during lockdown)

Parish was the first British director of the Mariinsky Ballet in St Petersburg - and had danced with the company since 2010 - but made the decision to leave Russia when the country attacked Ukraine.

Parish was the first British director of the Mariinsky Ballet in St Petersburg – and had danced with the company since 2010 – but made the decision to leave Russia when the country attacked Ukraine.

He wrote on Instagram: “Last night in Tbilisi – Romeo and Juliet with the State Ballet of Georgia. Thank you for the invitation Gavriel Heine and for giving me a wonderful meeting with Laura Fernandez Gromova as my Juliet and as our Maestro!’

He added, “It’s great to be back on stage!” A big thank you to Laura & Gavriel for the wonderful performance and thank you also to the whole company for their warm welcome!’

Parish and his wife Anastasia Demidova, born in the Siberian city of Tomsk, said in March the couple had made the decision to leave the country “due to the terrible crisis”.

He told his social media followers after making his decision: “Tonight I was supposed to play Giselle at the Mariinsky Theater, but instead, due to the terrible crisis, I made the difficult decision to leave Russia, at least until peace comes. My heart goes out to the people of Ukraine, near and far.

He added: “I am grateful to the wonderful ordinary Russian citizens, the majority of whom have treated me so kindly. I pray for peace to come and for the wounds to be healed by the grace of God.

On Instagram, Parish thanked the Russians

On Instagram, Parish thanked ‘ordinary’ Russians for their kindness, but said they ‘must watch from afar rather than be in the middle of’ the ‘terrible crisis’ (photo of Romeo and Juliet performed by the Ballet Mariinsky at the Royal House Opera in 2014)

The historic St. Petersburg ballet company currently employs 14 foreign dancers. After being a child ballet star, Parish took up a principal dancer position in 2010. Her sister Demelza currently dances at the Royal Ballet in London.

Talk to The Sunday Times in March he said his parents in the UK influenced the couple’s decision not to stay in Russia as Putin unleashed war on neighboring Ukraine.

He told the newspaper: “My mum and dad really decided for me. They were happy to see me flourish in St. Petersburg.

“But when it happened, my mum was very keen for me to take some time off and go for the time being. I’m not saying I will never go back.

British ballet star Xander Parish, 36, has been a principal dancer with St Petersburg's Mariinsky Ballet since 2010, but made the decision to leave Russia in March following Putin's attacks on Ukraine (Xander Parish in the role of Prince Siegfried in Swan Lake at the Royal Opera in July 2017)

British ballet star Xander Parish, 36, has been a principal dancer with St Petersburg’s Mariinsky Ballet since 2010, but made the decision to leave Russia in March following Putin’s attacks on Ukraine (Xander Parish in the role of Prince Siegfried in Swan Lake at the Royal Opera in July 2017)

The couple are now applying for a visa for Demidova, whom Parish married nine months ago, so they can reside in the UK until the conflict ends.

Several dancers from the Mariinsky Ballet have spoken out in recent months about the conflict. Yekaterina Chebykina, a soloist, posted on social media: “It was impossible to imagine what is happening now… I am Ukrainian.

“My hometown is Kyiv. During these seven days, I learned of various statements addressed to me and my country.

“You can tell me anything, but I know better than anyone what’s going on in my hometown, because my relatives are there, relatives, friends I’m in contact with 24/7.

‘I will not call anyone to any action. Everyone must live according to their conscience. I can only say one thing, nothing can justify war!!!’

The star said talking to his parents in the UK decided to leave Russia, saying:

The star said speaking to her parents in the UK decided to leave Russia, saying: “My mum was very keen for me to take some time off and leave for the time being.” I’m not saying I will never go back.

Vladimir Shklyarov, 37, principal dancer of the Mariinsky Ballet and principal guest of the Royal Ballet, posted: “I am against the war in Ukraine! I am for the people, for the peaceful sky above your heads.

“Politicians should be able to negotiate without shooting or killing civilians, for that they have been given a tongue and a head.

“My grandfather, Anatoly Filimonovich, graduated from school in Ukraine with a gold medal, my great-grandmother Sonya lived all her life in Kyiv. It is impossible to watch all that is happening today without tears…’

He said plaintively, “I want to dance…I want to love everyone, that’s the purpose of my life…I don’t want wars or borders.

“I can only say that with every fiber of my soul I am against war,” she said in a moving message on Telegram

Meanwhile, another Bolshoi prima ballerina also denounced Putin’s attacks in Ukraine, saying she was “ashamed” of Russia.

Olga Smirnova, 30, has shown her opposition to the invasion of Ukraine – where she has family.

“I can only say that with every fiber of my soul I am against war,” she said in a moving message on Telegram. ‘Probably all the other Russians [person] has relatives or friends living in Ukraine.

The St Petersburg-born star, who has two performances scheduled this month, said her grandfather was Ukrainian – “and I’m a quarter Ukrainian”.

Olga Smirnova, 30, has spoken out against the invasion of Ukraine - where she has family

Olga Smirnova, 30, has spoken out against the invasion of Ukraine – where she has family

In a courageous, frank and sincere attack on the war, she said: “We continue to live in the 20th century, although nominally in the 21st.

“Political problems in a modern civilized society should be solved exclusively by peaceful negotiations. I never thought I would be ashamed of Russia. I have always been proud of the talent of the Russian people, of our cultural and sporting achievements.

“But now the line is drawn between before and after.

“And it hurts that people are dying, while others are deprived of a roof over their heads or forced from their homes.”

“And who would have thought a week ago that all of this would happen to us, because even if we are not at the epicenter of hostilities, we cannot remain indifferent to a global catastrophe.”