Keeping the flag flying: Kyiv City Ballet

Peacock Theatre, London
September 26, 2023

On February 23, 2022, Kyiv City Ballet left Ukraine for a three-week French tour. Next day, Russia invaded and their flight turned out to be one of the last out of Kyiv. They have not been back since, finding a temporary home in Paris.

A Tribute to Peace, a mixed-bill of excerpts, proved pleasant if undemanding. The small ensemble work tremendously hard, everyone appearing multiple times. That and other circumstance probably explains why the dancing was variable. The supportive audience applauded enthusiastically but most things felt a little old-fashioned and too often lacking in spark or excitement, even in the big virtuoso pas de deux. Of necessity, staging is basic.

Most interesting of the fifteen excerpts and pieces danced, were the unknown. The undoubted highlight of the evening was Servant of the Muse by Volha Kastsel a duet filled with tricky lifts, all smoothly executed by the excellent Kateryna Floria and Artem Shoshin. It also got the best of the projected backdrops too, a gorgeous sort of blue, abstract, cubist affair. Floria was also a sweet and sincere Giselle in an excerpt from that ballet’s Act II.

The pair reappeared together and came up trumps again in the second half in Shoshin’s very appealing Next to You, in which she slowly warms to his advances. Top marks for the very chic costumes, too: striking red jackets (hers with a very long slit up the back, over black briefs for both

Kyiv City Ballet in Men of Kyiv
Photo Andy Weekes

Amidst the largely traditional offerings, a dose of fun and laughs came with Alla Rubina’s Sirtaki, a delightful parody of Greek traditional dance featuring two god-like figures. It’s filled with gentle slapstick and knowing glances. Kristina Kadashevych and especially Yevheniy Sheremet had great fun with it.

An duet by Kadashevych and Vladyslav Bosenko from Ivan Kozlova’s title work, A Tribute to Peace worked less well, however. As pleasant as the choreography is, it inevitably struggles somewhat to match the power and majesty of Elgar’s Nimrod variation.

In general, the men outdid the women, letting rip as much as they could on the Peacock’s relatively small stage. Against a backdrop of a cornfield and blue sky, Mykta Chudovsky certainly soared in a solo from Boris Fenster’s Taras Bulba.

La Bayadère popped up three times, best of which was the Indian Dance, which the men again filled with energy. The Ali and Medora pas de deux from Le Corsaire felt strangely flat, however, although Vladyslav Bosenko was clearly struggling for space.

Other excerpts came from Alberto Alonso’s Carmen, Vakhtang Chabukiani’s Laurencia (in which Stella Fedorovych sparkled) and Marius Petipa’s Talisman. The Dying Swan died again, although at least this time it was at a gloomy lakeside.

The show concluded brightly with a picture postcard shot of Kyiv, and Men of Kyiv by Pavlo Virsky, founder of the Pavlo Virsky Ukrainian National Folk Dance Ensemble way back in 1937, leading it right up to his death in 1975. It’s a very traditional offering from the men of the ensemble, half dressed in yellow shirts, half in blue. What else? It’s bright, upbeat and dynamic, with chances for all to show their individuality and virtuosity. It was a great way to round the evening off. Just a shame it was over a little too quickly.