Ukrainian dancers, trapped abroad, get Paris residency

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The dancers are torn between body and mind — physically on stage in Paris but in spirit back home in Kyiv.

In other circumstances, the Kyiv City Ballet’s residency at the Théâtre du Chatelet would be a dream come true, but the stranded company of young dancers feels little but heartbreak.

“We are both physically and emotionally exhausted,” Ekaterina Kozlova, the company’s deputy director, told The Associated Press. “Everyone in the ballet is worried about their families, loved ones, friends, colleagues at home. It’s been very difficult.”

The Théâtre du Chatelet, in the heart of the French capital, offered them the stage on Tuesday for the last show of a French tour that has left the company stranded after the war broke out in Ukraine.

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The dance director of the Paris Opera along with some of her company’s best joined them for an open class before performing together a medley of ballet classics, with excerpts from Russian composer Pyotr Ilych Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake and The Nutcracker.

Ukrainian dancers of the Kyiv City Ballet company acknowledge applause in front of Ukrainian flag projected onto a screen at the end of a performance, at the Theatre de Chatelet, in Paris, Tuesday, March 8, 2022. 

Ukrainian dancers of the Kyiv City Ballet company acknowledge applause in front of Ukrainian flag projected onto a screen at the end of a performance, at the Theatre de Chatelet, in Paris, Tuesday, March 8, 2022. 
(AP Photo/Thibault Camus)

Being given the opportunity to train and dance was for many a chance to focus on “something other than the conflict in Ukraine,” Kozlova said.

One of the dancers will be headed to the Ukrainian border in the coming days to pick up her young daughter who was accompanied out of the country.

Only a part of the company was travelling around France performing a shortened version of The Nutcracker for young audiences — most of the dancers in Paris are in their early 20s. Many of the ballet’s star dancers stayed behind, waiting to join their friends after they reached Paris.

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The Kyiv City Ballet danced to a full house in Paris for the last show of a French tour that has left the company stranded after the war broke out in Ukraine. 

The Kyiv City Ballet danced to a full house in Paris for the last show of a French tour that has left the company stranded after the war broke out in Ukraine. 
(AP Photo/Thibault Camus)

“Most of our artists are stuck in Ukraine,” Director Ivan Kozlov told the crowd.

The city of Paris and the ballet community have helped find temporary accommodation for the Ukrainian dancers who say they wish to continue dancing in France and elsewhere. The Chatelet theater offered the entire group a residency, although Tuesday’s last-minute performance is their last for now.

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All proceedings from their performances will go to nongovernmental organizations collecting and shipping humanitarian aid to Ukraine and neighboring countries.

The dancers described being physically and emotionally exhausted. Being given the opportunity to train and dance was for many a chance to focus on something other than the war.  

The dancers described being physically and emotionally exhausted. Being given the opportunity to train and dance was for many a chance to focus on something other than the war.  
(AP Photo/Thibault Camus)

Ukrainian dancers have also sought refuge elsewhere. The Romanian National Opera offered six ballet dancers fleeing from the war in Ukraine a chance to work with their ballet corps, and some of them could be performing in a month.

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