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"Forest Song" will triumphantly ring out over the enraged "Swan Lake"

The war gave Ukrainians the opportunity to promote their unique culture

The Russian propaganda machine worked continuously, in particular, to ensure that such iconic classical ballets as "The Swan Lake" and "The Nutcracker" were associated with "great Russia", so that the "great Russian ballet" had "undeniable" primacy in the world and in the future served as a "fig leaf" for all the crimes of its crazy country.

Since the beginning of the full-scale war, there have been no performances of "The Swan Lake" and "The Nutcracker" on the posters of state Ukrainian theaters to the music of the Russian composer Tchaikovsky, whom Putin in the fall of 2022 documentarily (according to the "Concept of Humanitarian Policy of the Russian Federation Abroad") "approved" as one of the markers of Russian culture.

The war, at a very terrible price, nevertheless opened opportunities for Ukrainians to present their unique culture. Now we have no right to waste this chance to show the whole world the authenticity of our culture, its diversity and richness.

Strokes for a portrait of Ukrainian ballet

Ukraine has its own glorious ballet history. Let's mention only a few names of representatives of different generations.

Serge Lifar, who was called the "god of dance", who began his career as a ballet dancer, performed in his native city of Kyiv and considered himself a Ukrainian all his life. In 1947, Serge founded the Institute of Choreography at the Grand Opera in Paris, taught a course in the history and theory of dance at the Sorbonne, was the rector of the University of Dance, professor at the High School of Music, and honorary president of the National Dance Council at UNESCO.

Valery Kovtun is one of the most titled Ukrainian artists and choreographers: laureate of the Shevchenko Prize, winner of the award named after Wacław Niżyński of the French Academy of Dance, etc. It was he who staged one of the masterpieces of Ukrainian ballet art - the philosophical parable "Lily" based on the works of Taras Shevchenko.

Aniko Rehviashvili, the first woman in the position of the art director of the ballet troupe of the National Academic Opera of Ukraine, managed to work very fruitfully for the Ukrainian ballet for six years before her untimely death. She authoritatively asserted: "Ukrainian classical and neoclassical ballet is distinguished by greater emotionality and special expressiveness of the dance." Her ballets "The Vienna Waltz", "Lady with Camellias", "Daphnis and Chloe", "Julius Caesar", "Polovtsian Dances", "Snow Queen" and many, many others gather full halls both in Ukraine and abroad.

In 2018, under the leadership of Aniko Rehviashvili, the ballet troupe of the capital city’s theater went on tour to Paris for the first time since the restoration of Independence, after a break that lasted since 1964. It is worth noting that in one of the world's ballet centers there was a breakthrough in the perception of Ukrainian culture, in particular the Ukrainian ballet school. In Paris, our artists experienced a real triumph! The capital of France welcomed the Ukrainian ballet to a full house, and saw off with the conclusion of new contracts and invitations for the following seasons.

According to one of the world's leading ballet masters Oleksii Ratmansky, who grew up and studied in Kyiv, legendary Maya Plisetskaya used to say: "I always knew that Ukrainians are different - they have better voices and more beautiful legs."

Wartime ballet

Among the five ballet companies of the National Academic Opera and Ballet Theaters of Ukraine, four continue to work today: in Kyiv, Lviv, Odesa, and Dnipro. Unfortunately, there is no such opportunity in Kharkiv, which is under constant shelling.

The enemy is trying to demoralize us. However, we hold on and strengthen our resilience. Everyone is holding the internal front as best they can. It is also held by our artists who inspire us and support our spirit.

As the prima ballet dancer of the National Academic Opera and Ballet Theater of Ukraine Anastasiya Shevchenko said: "Art is a kind of treatment for people. It was always like that. We are on stage, and the audience is in the hall, and we are all transported together to the world of dreams and fantasies. Art exists for the people to distract themselves, at least for an hour, from the destructive information flows and from the terrible reality into which the war dragged them."

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But at what cost to artists does this happen?

Artists have to continue working, despite chronic stress, constant rocket fire, lack of light in the studio, at a temperature of about 15 °C and separation of families...

When the National Academic Opera and Ballet Theatre of Ukraine resumed its work, there were only 30 artists out of 160 in the ballet troupe. However, this did not hinder the creative process: just like that, in the first days of summer, the premiere of the ballet-concert "Dancing Strauss" (choreographer-director Viktor Lytvynov) took place and in September, the one-act ballet "Doctor Faustus" directed by Viktor Ishchuk was presented.

As the head of the press service of the National Academic Opera and Ballet Theatre of Ukraine, Lana Roxy, says: "When I looked into the dressing rooms, the artists were busy reading Telegram channels and crying. However, later, despite everything, they got up, wiped their tears, applied make-up and ran to the stage to give joy. I believe that the troupe of the National Academic Opera and Ballet Theatre of Ukraine should be given the collective Hero of Ukraine award!".

I absolutely share the view of the head of the theater's press service, because, in addition to the fact that the artists make people happy with their performances and create a good mood, representatives of the ballet troupe are also involved in volunteering. As an example, we can mention ballet dancer Olesya Vorotnyuk, who joined the ranks of the Territorial Defence Forces in the first days of the full-scale invasion, and now, having returned to the stage, devotes all her free time to volunteering. Apart from that, artists are also fighting at the front: in September, an outstanding ballet soloist, Honored Artist of Ukraine, teacher Oleksandr Shapoval died near Maiorsk in the Donetsk region...

A healthy alternative to the Russian occupation of ballet

For almost a year, Ukraine has persistently demanded a boycott of Russian culture and its numerous symbols. The officials of our state are asking to do this at least for the period of the bloody war.

As Ukraine's Minister of Culture and Information Policy Oleksandr Tkachenko rightly points out in his numerous blogs-appeals to domestic and foreign audiences: "Russian culture is both “Potemkin villages and missile warheads.” However, even now, there is a general seasonal focus on the performance of certain works of Russian origin, such as, for example, "The Nutcracker" ballet marathons. In addition, today, experienced Russian propagandists professionally "wrap" everything in "tradition", encouraging the whole world to endlessly chew the same "cultural gum".

In this context, Ukraine has a healthy ballet alternative, such as "The Snow Queen" and "The Forest Song".

On the eve of New Year's holidays, the National Academic Opera and Ballet Theatre of Ukraine presented an updated performance of "The Snow Queen". The musical component of the ballet initially included, in addition to music by Edvard Grieg and Jules Massenet, fragments of works by Russian composers (Tchaikovsky, Lyadov and Glazunov), but with the beginning of a full-scale invasion, it was decided to remove the music of the titular representatives of the culture of the aggressor country and replace it with the works of Jacques Offenbach and the Strauss dynasty.

Александра Злуницына/

In addition, of course, one cannot but mention the unique ballet "Forest Song" to the music of Mykhailo Skorulskyi, universal for all seasons of the year. The ballet of the same name is based on the plot of one of the best works of Ukrainian literature, Lesya Ukrainka's extravaganza drama. It is a fairy-tale plot that is understandable to everyone, charming music, high skill of the artists and the very canvas of the performance plus luxurious scenery. Thus, thanks to all these details, our ingenious national product can become a real cherry on top of the Ukrainian ballet art.

The main performer of the role of Mavka, prima ballerina Tetyana Lyozova believes: "It is very important to promote our Ukrainian works. For obvious reasons, the unique Ukrainian culture has become the focus of the concentrated attention of the world. Now we have to take advantage of this chance, it is important to do it in memory of the many victims of this terrible war. "Forest Song" is a ballet about the victory of truth over lie, freedom over slavery, and virtue over evil."


So, it's time to pay attention to the Ukrainian repertoire, to the ballets born in modern Ukraine to the music of Yevhen Stankovych, Yury Shevchenko, Viktoria Poleva, Ivan Nebesny and others. Thus, our society should try to continue to return culturally and mentally to its native European environment.

In addition, we should remember: art is one of the strongest antidotes in this civilizational war.

Read this article in russian and Ukrainian.

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