THEY may not have wielded guns to defend their homeland.
But the dazzling dance moves that members of the Kyiv City Ballet brought to the stage of the Royal Theater last night proved to be extremely effective ‘weapons’ in their own right.
The final number in an evening of short dance pieces from their repertoire was “Boys from Kyiv” – a rousing Cossack-style routine full of cheeky, macho squats and leg kicks.
It was a “battle” between two teams of male dancers – one dressed in yellow, the other in blue, to make up the colors of the Ukrainian flag. It was funny, it was arrogant, it was defiant – a dancing ‘v’ sign for Putin and anyone who thinks war is a good way to solve problems.
This prompted a standing ovation from a packed house that continued on and on as members of the ballet company took the stage for their final bows – and continued as the curtain fell. raised and lowered several times.
Shouts, whistles and thunderous applause were accompanied by blue and yellow flags and ribbons waving in the audience. The message: We are with you and the war cannot be allowed to win.
Standing ovation at the Theater Royal last night. Photo: Tom Arber
It was the end of an evening of decidedly unusual, wildly imaginative ballet, which had been by turns funny, touching and – just sometimes – unnerving.
Things started with what the ballet company’s general manager, Ivan Koslov, called a “ballet lesson.”
The entire troupe was on stage as Ivan led them through a series of practice and warm-up routines, practicing arabesques, pirouettes, plies and throwns.
It was a chance to get a “behind-the-scenes” look at the hours of effort, drill and routine it takes to perfect ballet moves – and it was also surprisingly fun.
Ivan proved to be a natural showman, winking at the audience and leaving the stage with his fingers pointedly crossed when he asked his troupe to tackle a particularly difficult routine.
It was the perfect appetizer. Then came the interval. Part two began with the reading of messages of support for the stalled ballet troupe, based in Paris since the Ruissia invaded their country on February 24 – including one from the Archbishop of York, Stephen Cottrell, who said It is through the performances of our brothers and sisters on stage tonight, showcasing the best of their rich cultural heritage that many will be uplifted by their talent and sheer determination to carry on in the midst of such adversity. .”
Then the actual dancing began.
Defiant: Vladyslav Dobshynskyi in Thoughts. Photo: Tom Arber
First, a scene from Swan Lake – all the sweet sweetness mixed with pain, as the ballerinas twisted their arms like birds’ wings or the long necks of swans.
This was followed by Thoughts: a stark and muscular contemporary ballet piece in which a single spotlight-lit male dancer – Vladyslav Dobshynskyi – leapt and writhed across the stage, his twisting body seeming to express both anger, indignation and challenge.
Dancers from the Kyiv City Ballet at the York Theater Royal in a scene from Swan Lake. Photo: Tom Arber
There was an extraordinary “dying swan” routine from ballerina Kristina Kadashevych, her arms expressing miracles or agony as she floated brokenly across the stage; and a funny, bawdy routine to Theodorakis’ “Zorba the Greek” in which a dancer dressed as a lusty Greek god chased a ballerina made up like a Greek nymph, all in lighting reminiscent of a harsh Mediterranean sun. His sassy slaps and demure refusal to take no for an answer prompted peals of laughter.
Bawdy: Aelita Shevchuk and Nazar Korniichuck. Photo: Tom Arber
Then came that blue and yellow challenge dance – and the accompanying standing ovation – which closed the evening.
What do you do if you are a ballet troupe stranded abroad when someone invades your country? You dance, defiantly, just like that. Great.