The National Ballet of Ukraine brings hope and the life-affirming power of dance

Ukrainian National Ballet: Nadyia Ukraine arrives in Vancouver.

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National Ballet of Ukraine: Nadyia Ukraine

When: February 5-7 at 8 pm

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Where: The Performing Arts Centre, 777 Homer St., Vancouver

Tickets: From $65.25 at ticketmaster.ca

The National Ballet of Ukraine is considered one of the highest-ranked ballet companies in the world. Before the outbreak of war in February 2022, the company presented 16 productions a month at the Taras Shevchenko National Opera in kyiv, Ukraine.

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Nowadays, the number of productions depends on the circumstances of the war.

The company has also downsized a bit, says Liudmyla Movlenko, Ukraine’s head of personnel and foreign affairs.

“Before the war, we had 150 people in our company,” he said during a Zoom call in September of last year. “In total we had more than 1,000 people in the theater, 600 were artists. Now, after the war, we have less. “Some artists had to go abroad because they were worried about the safety of their children and some people lost their apartments and houses.”

Movlenko is Ukraine’s first lady Olena Zelenska’s official representative on the tour. The tour is part of a fundraising campaign for the Olena Zelenska Foundation, instigated by the First Lady of Ukraine and other beneficiaries to provide essential humanitarian services on the ground in Ukraine.

ballet ukraine
The National Ballet of Ukraine performs at the Center for Performing Arts from February 5 to 7. Photo by Inara Prusakova, courtesy of the National Ballet of Ukraine/Olena Zelenska Foundation

On the 15-city Canadian tour beginning Jan. 15 in Quebec City, the National Ballet of Ukraine will perform excerpts from ballets such as Le Corsaire and Don Quixote, while highlighting Ukrainian culture through traditional dance.

“We are excited to represent what Ukrainian ballet is right now,” dancer Mykyta Sukhorukov said at the September call.

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The program, he says, includes pure classical ballet, Ukrainian folk dance and some contemporary works.

At the time of our interview, the tour was still months away.

“We’re trying not to think about what might happen before then,” he said. “We just go from point to point. “We just worked and worked and worked.”

Dance and other art forms have a role to play in times of war, he says.

“In Ukraine, when we perform in kyiv, the audience can come to the theater and forget for two hours about all the disaster around them. It is very useful for people because after almost two years of war, they really want good emotions. Ballet, theater and opera are places to give you this.”

One of Sukhorukov’s pieces on the program is a pas de deux set to music by Myroslav Skoryk, a Ukrainian composer. In addition to composing for ensembles and soloists, Skoryk was artistic director of the kyiv Opera from 2011 to 2016 and composed music for more than 40 films.

The company hopes audiences will come out to experience Ukrainian dance and culture, especially at a time when people may be experiencing war fatigue and the country is in danger of losing international support.

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“I would like to invite all Canadian audiences and especially the Ukrainian diaspora, the Ukrainian community to our performances,” Movlenko said. “It is one of the best programs we have ever prepared for our foreign tours. “We have brought together the best soloists and the best dances to bring our soul, our talents and our inspiration to the Canadian public.”

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