At the headquarters of the National Dance Company (CND), in Madrid, the ballet teacher speaks to his students in two languages. In addition to the use of Spanish, he uses English to make room for men’s drills with a “boys” and does the same with women releasing a Ladies. Only in this way can Ukrainians Kateryna Chupina, Yelytzaveta Semenenko and Anastasiia Kovalevska understand the basics of the instructions, which together with four other compatriots entered the CND trials through the program. Emerging talents. By taking advantage of this initiative, young women can continue to cultivate their talents and develop as professional dancers despite the fact that the Russian invasion of Ukraine cut short their careers with the National Opera Ballet of kyiv.
Chupina, Semenenko and Kovalevska joined the program from March 9. The renowned dancers Anastasiia and Denis Matvienko put them in contact with Joaquín de Luz, director of the CND, so that they could pursue their artistic activity outside their country. But before, all of them have lived their particular odyssey to escape from a territory at war, an experience from which Kovalevska in particular suffers when he recalls. “My city, Makariv, was occupied by the Russians. I spent a week in a basement, then armed soldiers came in and threw me out,” says the dancer. She left Ukraine for Poland by car with her mother, her aunt and her little brother. They came to Italy, where their mother stayed.
A long car journey was also the escape route for Semenenko, who, together with his sister, took “three or four days” to reach Ukraine’s western border through “rutted roads and forests”. Chupina, meanwhile, left Kyiv on a “refugee train”, in which she says she spent about twelve hours unable to sit down due to the number of people present. The three dancers agree that they were received with great affection in Spain, but they do not forget the invasion that is ravaging the land they left behind. “We live between two realities: that of a country at peace and that of another at war. I think a lot about our soldiers,” summarizes Chupina.
Gone are also her male colleagues at the National Opera, who joined the efforts of the Ukrainian military to halt the Russian advance. Up to 160 people made up the team of ballet dancers who, when the war broke out, were rehearsing for the performance of Swan Lake and the bayadera. The National Opera of Ukraine, founded in 1867, has already gone through other crises, such as the fire that destroyed its entire headquarters in 1896. On the other hand, in 1911, the Prime Minister of Russia under Tsar Nicolas II , Pyotr Stolypin, was murdered while performing a work by composer Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov.
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The three Ukrainian dancers are housed in an apartment that a friend of Joaquín de Luz has made available to them. The director of the CND assures that his entity will continue to be concerned about the future of young women, although he warns that their current situation with the program Emerging talents it is temporary and that for longer-term solutions “we will have to see what is being done from above, from the Government”. Meanwhile, Chupina and Semenenko will continue their training before ballet performances Gisele, which will take place on May 18, 20 and 21. Both, with Kovalevska, work hard dragging a fatigue that goes far beyond what any repetition can generate.