THE climax of a packed and exciting week for dancers in North Dorset came on Sunday night when stars of Kyiv City Ballet and some of the students with whom they had been working joined Palida Choir and young Ukrainian singers and dancers for a programme showcasing the life of a dancer.
The visit by the exiled Ukrainian ballet company, cut off in Paris when the Russian forces moved into their country, and now finding a temporary home in Zagreb in Croatia, was organised by the Shaftesbury Refugee Group. It included a reception, workshop visits to schools and discussion meetings with local residents in Shaftesbury and Gillingham, all aimed at both welcoming the dancers and the now resident Ukrainians in the region and expanding local knowledge of the cultural lives of their “guests.”
The culmination of the sold-out evening at The Exchange was a performance of the famous Dying Swan by Kristina Kadahevych, and in literally dozens of interpretations I have seen over the years, I have never seen this poignant work more movingly or beautifully accomplished.
The evening began with short sequences by five groups of dancers, the youngest only five years old, who train with Tiffany Longley-Wolff at TLW Dance in Shaftesbury. Tiffany explained the process and practice involved in the development of a dancer, and every one of the students demonstrated her words for the audience, to rapturous applause by the audience. They were followed by performances by young Ukrainian dancer Anastasiia Lobanovska, an apprentice at the Royal Academy, and then members of the Kyiv Ballet company.
The second half was a celebration of Ukrainian culture, including a demonstration of traditional Cossack dance and movement by Avrora and Severian Predmiestina and Demian Starostin, and folk music from Larysa Sotnykova and Oksana Khorunzha. One of their songs is now banned in the Crimea and other areas annexed by the Russian invaders. Lina Kostenko’s poem Everything in the World Must Be Experienced was performed, in Ukranian and English, by Liudmyla Oliinychenko.
The two main sections of dance from the stars of the ballet company sandwiched songs from the Palida Choir, run in Shaftesbury by Karen Wimhurst and here assisted by a Ukrainian music teacher now resident in the town, and her daughter, the singer Marta Shevchenko. The spectacular dance finale came from Yevhenii Sheremet with the solo from Le Corsair. The evening ended with a rendition of Ukraine’s national anthem.
The event was hosted by Shaftesbury mayor Virginia Edwyn-Jones, who courageously managed a greeting in Ukrainian, much to the delight of the performers and the many refugees in the packed audience. It all ended at 9.15, and at 5am on Monday morning the visitors left to fly back to Croatia, after a richly rewarding week for all involved.