(La Teste-de-Buch) “Keep smiling” and continue to dance despite the war: after two months of touring France, the dancers of the Grand Ballet de Kyiv gave their last ballet on Wednesday evening near Arcachon, before performing facing an uncertain future.
Before the performance of Swan Lake on the stage of the Cravey Theater in La Teste-sur-Buch, the twenty or so young dancers of the troupe warmed up by chaining movements at the barre, whipped steps and other arabesques, except for one detail: the telephones placed on their feet or even clasped in the hand.
At the slightest respite, they scroll through social networks with images and videos of ongoing fighting in the country, in a heavy atmosphere.
“We do not feel well, we are stressed, anxious. We are really very worried about everything that is happening in Ukraine, ”says Vladislav Bondar, 25, who plays the wizard Rotbarth, one of the main roles in Tchaikovsky’s ballet.
“My relatives are in an area where everything is calm and they are safe. Thank God. From time to time they hear gunshots, explosions”, continues the dancer with a youthful appearance for whom it is now “very difficult to concentrate to dance when you hear the news”.
The “anguish”, Ksenia Dronova, whose family lives in Donetsk in the Donbass, now lives with it. “My family stayed at home and cannot leave, I have a disabled brother who needs insulin. He holds on. He survives, ”says the slender 26-year-old ballerina, who plays several roles.
“On stage, I have to dance properly, keep my concentration and I have to keep smiling even if I don’t feel like it,” she admits, looking sad.
Aid from the Palais Garnier
When the war broke out, everyone decided to end the tour in France. Except for a couple who left alone to join their six-month-old child, kept in Ukraine by their relatives.
“It’s really not easy for them, you have to concentrate to dance well, but this effort diverts them from the situation in Ukraine,” said Yuri Kovalev, who manages the tour of the Grand Ballet, created five years ago by the soloist Aleksander Stoyanov.
At the end of the show, everyone will leave the Arcachon basin towards Beauvais airport to take a flight to Warsaw where a producer has organized a tour of ten performances in Poland “to support them”.
After ? The big void. The dancers interviewed say they do not want to return to their country, at the request of their families, and continue to dance in Europe. Vladislav Bondar evokes the idea of going to Germany to join another troupe; Ksenia Dronova would like “to have refugee status in Europe even if, for the moment, nothing has been decided”.
In Paris, the Opéra Garnier has offered to help them with accommodation or financial aid.
The raised fist
For their last performance at La Teste-de-Buch, the full house greets the troupe’s entry on stage to loud applause.
Like Anne-Marie Rech, from Arcachon. “The French are very supportive of these people. We identify with their problems, with the current situation in the face of such injustice”.
Families also came with drawings and flags from Ukraine.
“The spectators flock and come to express their support to us”, underlines Yuri Kovalev. “The dancers are grateful, it touches their hearts”.
At the end of the show, hand on heart, the troupe sang the Ukrainian anthem. The first ballerina Kateryna Didenko, who embodies the two main roles of Odette, the swan princess and her evil double, repeatedly greeted the audience with tears in her eyes and a proud raised fist.