Ukrainian dancers maintain a cheerful mood during the war

Ukrainian dancers maintain a cheerful mood during the war


How war in Ukraine rages, dancers from the country’s most famous ballet company use their skills to perform.

Armed with pirouettes, pliés and jetes, dancers such as prima ballerina Olga Kifiak-Von-Kreimer use their skills to showcase Ukrainian culture. Ballet has long been one of Moscow’s most respected cultural exports, but many of the best dancers are from or trained in Ukraine.

“We are dancing in defiance of Russia,” said Kifiak-Von-Kreimer, whose brother died fighting against Russia. “It’s very difficult. But we are Ukrainians. We are unbreakable.”

Some dancers even went to the front, especially since the theaters were closed in the first months of the war. Oleksandr Shapaval, lead dancer of the National Ballet of Ukraine, was an inimitable artist who performed 30 different roles over 28 seasons. In September 2022, he died as a result of Russian mortar fire.

The father of two is remembered as a “courageous romantic”, a teacher and a friend.

“It was very difficult, I think, for the whole troupe,” said Nikita Suharukou, who replaced Shapaval as principal dancer.

Now Suharukou is playing the main role in the romantic comedy Don Quixote, which is causing laughter among the Kiev audience. American volunteer Paige Wien attended the performance and said that it emphasizes the resilience of the Ukrainian people.

“A lot of people back home … asked me if Kyiv was destroyed, and I said ‘Absolutely not,'” Vien said. “Continuing is truly the Ukrainian spirit. It’s really incredible to see that people continue to just not exist, but live.”

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