Based in northwest Arkansas, Ozark Ballet Theater seeks support for Ukrainian dancers


The Ozark Ballet Theater has launched a fundraiser to help five Ukrainian ballet dancers who were in the United States when war broke out in their home country.

The dancers are part of the tour of the Russian ballet company RBTheatre entitled “Swan Lake”. Their show will end on April 9 in San Diego.

The war in Ukraine will prevent these dancers from returning home, so they need a place to stay, said David Sanders, executive director of the ballet company.

They need money to support themselves and their families in Ukraine.

“They have nowhere to go,” Sanders said. “And their families are still in a dangerous place.”

Sanders posted a fundraising effort on NWA Gives. He hopes the campaign will raise $2,000 a month for each dancer to live on for 10 months and send money back to their families.

Fayetteville’s Mount Sequoyah Center offered housing for 10 months, as needed, Sanders said. Dancers will use the center’s Ozark Ballet studio to continue training, he added.

“All the guys from Ukraine are trying to find a job in the United States so that they can help their loved ones back in Ukraine and provide for them,” dancer Kirill Kruglov said Tuesday afternoon via Facebook Messenger.

Kruglov, 27, comes from kyiv and his family stays in this city.

Dancers are looking for jobs as ballet artists or ballet teachers, Kruglov said.

Sanders said dancers — like professional athletes — need to train at least three hours a day to stay in shape, which might not fit into a traditional work schedule.

He added that most theater seasons end for the summer, so dance jobs are scarce.

“This summer they need to support themselves and stay in shape to be ready to dance when the next season starts in September,” Sanders said.

“For me in general, this period is difficult because every day I worry about my loved ones,” Kruglov wrote. “We are in contact with them every day. It is difficult to live in the city now. The city is not very calm now.”

He reported constant air raids and rockets flying into some homes.

“It is recommended not to go out,” he said.

No one in Kruglov’s family was injured. He said they had food, medicine and everything they needed. But he wants to help them financially as prices rise during the dispute.

Kruglov explained that his mother, father, grandmother and sister lived in an apartment in Kyiv, and that’s where they planned to stay.

Martial law has been imposed in Ukraine and men are not allowed to leave the country, Kruglov continued. And his mother doesn’t want to leave without his father, he says.

“There are still many civilians in Kyiv; they don’t want to leave their homes or can’t for various reasons,” Kruglov said.

Sanders’ wife, Katie Stasse, trained for five years in Orlando, Florida, with the Fedotov family of Ukrainian dancers, says Sanders’ NWA Gives post. Stasse and Sanders have danced with Ukrainian artists during their careers.

“Without the knowledge, kindness and patience of these dancers, Ozark Ballet Theater simply would not exist,” Sanders wrote.

When the Russian invasion of Ukraine began, Sanders contacted RBTheatre, offering help to the dancers. He was contacted by five, he said.

Sanders said he got a job in Dallas for one. Another will dance in May in the Ozark Ballet Theater’s performance of “The Firebird.”

The Fayetteville theater is in the early stages of planning a gala, with the money raised going to dancers and their families, Sanders said.

Hannah Lee of Canopy Northwest Arkansas said the organization is not currently working with any Ukrainian refugees.

“But we would certainly extend to any Ukrainian refugee family the same warm welcome that we extend to all refugee families,” Lee said Tuesday afternoon in a text message.

Patty Henson Sullivan, executive director of the Ozark Literacy Council, said the agency worked about four years with Vitaliy Demidov, a former factory worker in Ukraine, and his wife. They came to the United States in the early 2000s as part of a peace-oriented Rotary International program, Sullivan said.

The couple lived part of the year in Ukraine and part in the United States, but they are here full time now, she said.

Sullivan reported that one of the Demidov sons is an engineering student at the University of Arkansas, but another fights in the war.

Their daughter-in-law and grandson are in a refugee center in Slovakia, she said.

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