‘Dance for Ukraine’ – world's finest Ballet Principals come together in show of solidarity

21 March 2022, 14:44 | Updated: 21 March 2022, 17:50

Dance for Ukraine charity gala at the London Coliseum
Dance for Ukraine charity gala at the London Coliseum. Picture: Elliott Franks

By Sophia Alexandra Hall

The London charity gala was directed by former Royal Ballet stars Ivan Putrov and Alina Cojocaru.

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Principal dancers of The Royal Ballet, English National Ballet and Paris Opera Ballet came together on stage at the London Coliseum last Saturday to ‘Dance for Ukraine’.

The sold out charity gala on 19 March was directed by former Royal Ballet stars, Ivan Putrov (Ukraine), and Alina Cojocaru (Romania), who trained together as children in Kyiv.

Putrov explained, “Alina Cojocaru and I began dancing as children and throughout the years we’ve travelled around the world, later joining the Royal Ballet and dancing as principal dances together.

“We have so many loved ones and people who looked after and cared for us back in Ukraine, back in Kyiv; so like the rest of the world, we feel that we need to do something.

“And so we're doing what we do best, which is what we know, to dance and to produce.”

Read more: Ballet dancers from Kyiv National Opera join military to fight for Ukraine

Ivan Putrov rehearses for Dance for Ukraine Gala at the London Coliseum on 19 March
Ivan Putrov rehearses for Dance for Ukraine Gala at the London Coliseum on 19 March. Picture: Getty

The charity gala was put together in less than 2 weeks; a production of this scale would normally take at least 6 months. Putrov said it was “wonderful” to see all the quick responses from the dancers and musicians agreeing to perform in the gala.

“Our gift of art, which we use all the time, is now being used to save lives.” he said, “I feel it’s very important to not be silent, and that's what we're doing.

“Unlike, of course, so many of our friends in Russia might not be able to raise their voice - except those brave ones, of course. We admire them, but at the same time, not everyone can say what they want because they are compromised.”

The cast featured dancers from multiple countries including Argentina, France, Mexico, Italy, USA, UK, Japan, Brazil, Ukraine, and Russia.

“I feel it’s very important to show that Russian doesn't equal aggression,” Putrov said on the inclusion of Russian dancers in the gala, “Russian doesn't equal Putin. Russia doesn't mean that they dance in their name.”

Read more: Russian ballet and music performances cancelled as arts venues voice support for Ukraine

Ballet stars to raise humanitarian funds for Dance For Ukraine gala in London

Performing alongside the dancers were musicians from the ENO Orchestra and the ENO Chorus. Amongst the Chorus was the Ukrainian soprano, Inna Husieva, a 2021/22 Young Artist at the National Opera Studio.

“I sang in this concert because it was dedicated to supporting my country - Ukraine, which is now fighting for its future,” Husieva told Classic FM, “I was born in Donetsk...and have lived in Kyiv since 2009. I'm not just watching the [war on the] news and know some information; this is my life.

“All my relatives, friends and colleagues are in Ukraine and are fighting for their lives and future.”

Husieva sung the soprano solo Pie Jesu from Fauré's Requiem during Saturday’s performance. “I raise my voice in support of my country in every possible way,” she said, “and I will sing wherever I can...using [my voice and talent] as an instrument of truth and peace, as well as acquaint people with Ukrainian culture and music, with our history, to help my people and my country Ukraine.”

The conductor for the evening was Alexander Ingram, a former resident conductor of the English National Opera.

“Ivan and Alina asked me to conduct the gala two weeks before the performance,” Ingram told Classic FM, “I leapt at the opportunity to conduct the show for them because they are friends of mine and because every time I thought about what was happening in Ukraine it made me simply incandescent with fury.

“The gala felt like a rare opportunity to convert some of that rage into something truly positive and perhaps contribute in some way to the saving of devastated lives.”

A “huge effort” went into preparing musically for this gala. “Everyone we asked wanted to take part,” Ingram said,“but almost everybody was already working on that saturday evening!”. The orchestra and musicians were joined by generous volunteers and had just a few hours of rehearsals before the main event.

A Ukrainian flag hangs from the facade of the London Coliseum
A Ukrainian flag hangs from the facade of the London Coliseum. Picture: Getty

Ingram was also part of selecting the music for the event, and he “begged Ivan and Alina” to put Triumph of Love from Glazunov’s Raymonda in the programme.

“I love it intensely,” the conductor told Classic FM, “It's one of the most life and humanity-affirming pieces of music ever written, and ....it's by a Russian.

“It seemed to me supremely important to end the evening on a note of passionate faith in the values of decency, compassion and humanity in the face of brutal violence and aggression - and incidentally to make the point that the great art and artists of russia are not, and never will be in the slightest degree diminished by the events occurring in Ukraine.”

Dance For Ukraine was produced by the dance charity, Inspiration in Motion. Net proceeds went directly to the Disaster Emergency Committee (DEC), Ukraine Humanitarian Appeal.

All of the dancers donated their services and the English National Opera waived their rental fee for the London Coliseum. The ENO Orchestra, ENO Chorus and friends also volunteered to musically support the evening.