The United Ukrainian Ballet travels to Australia to present Swan Lake
He fled to western Ukraine where his family and relatives are, although Ukrainian forces recently recaptured the entire Kharkiv region.
In July he traveled to the Netherlands and joined other displaced dancers from his country in the United Ukrainian Ballet.
The former star dancer of the Dutch National Ballet, Igone de Jongh, offered to be their artistic director and the dancers were able to take refuge in the Royal Conservatory in The Hague where they still live and rehearse together. It was handed over to the company, with the support of local businesses and the Dutch government.
“On August 19, for the first time in six months after the start of the war, I took the stage with the United Ukrainian Ballet,” he says. “For six months I didn’t know if I would ever go on stage because the war showed that life can be very short.”
Her dance companion, soloist Vladyslava Ihnatenko, 19, is also from Kharkiv but was in Odessa when the war started, having been a member of the Odessa National Opera and Ballet Theatre. His evacuation was much faster, leaving with only a few personal effects, including his precious pointe shoes.
“I woke up to explosions and couldn’t believe this was real and happening for real,” Ihnatenko says. “I picked up a minimum of my stuff. For ballet, I only had one pair of pointe shoes. I went to my friend’s house in Lviv and on March 8 we crossed the border to Poland.
“My whole family stayed in Ukraine. My parents are in Kharkiv now and I really worry about them. I call them every day, not just to talk but to make sure everything is okay and our house is safe.
She traveled to the Czech Republic, Italy and Germany before heading to The Hague to join her fellow Ukrainian dancers.
“For me, dancing is the clearest way to express my feelings and emotions,” she says. “As a dancer you can create the best speech about things you love, appreciate, inspire, fear and despise. Every day you fight to be able to demonstrate this full spectrum and create your own vision of self-expression.
On tour in Melbourne, Sydney and Adelaide with a traditional version of Tchaikovsky Swan Lake is an experience she may not have expected, but she sees it as a way to share her country’s culture, to exchange traditions and life experiences.
“As dancers we can fight and our language is the movement of the body and the emotions,” she says. “The main goal for me is to make people understand that beauty and love for your country is much stronger than hatred and anger. And I think all Ukrainian dancers are now directing their pain and anger towards the struggle for truth, love and the joy of living.
The United Ukrainian Ballet will perform Swan Lake at The Plenary in Melbourne from October 21-23, with performances in Sydney from October 28-30 and Adelaide from November 9-13.
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