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

4 March 2022, 13:46 | Updated: 4 March 2022, 14:14

Metropolitan Opera perform national anthem of Ukraine

By Maddy Shaw Roberts

As Russia continues to invade Ukraine, ballet dancers are among the Ukrainian artists and musicians taking up arms.

Two dancers from Ukraine’s leading opera company have hung up their ballet shoes to join the armed forces after Russian President Vladimir Putin launched an attack on Ukraine last week.

Images have circulated online of a principal dancer and ballerina at the National Opera of Ukraine in Kyiv, in camouflage holding weapons.

Principal dancer Oleksii Potiomkin, who has been telling his story on Instagram, is currently fighting in Kyiv. His story went viral after Ukrainian American writer Natalia Antonova, who has written for The Guardian, posted about the dancer on Twitter.

Read more: 24-year-old Ukrainian leads Met Opera in moving national anthem

“The dude on the left is Oleksiy Potyomkin. The dude on the right is also Oleksiy Potyomkin,” her post read.

“The ballet dancer has joined up, like many people from all walks of life in Ukraine.”

Potiomkin has danced the prince role in the Kyiv Opera company’s Nutcracker at the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées in Paris, France, and has been first soloist with the Royal Winnipeg Ballet of Canada and the Ochi International Ballet in Nagoya, Japan.

Lesya Vorotnyk, a ballerina in the company, has also taken up arms following Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s call for “everyone who wants and has the capacity” to fight, as Russia continues to invade Ukraine.

In a speech on 24 February, President Zelensky rallied his citizens and said Kyiv would issue weapons to anyone who wanted to use them.

“We are already handing out weapons, and will hand them out to defend our country to everyone who wants and has the capacity to defend our sovereignty,” he announced.

Zelensky also called for international support, offering to supply weapons to “friends from abroad” willing to join the fight. “We will fight for as long as needed to liberate our country,” he promised.

Read more: Ukrainian operatic baritone sings national hymn at 10 Downing Street in ‘call for peace’

Yuriy Yurchuk sings Ukrainian national hymn outside 10 Downing Street

Vorotnyk and Potyomkin are two of many artists from Ukraine’s flourishing music industry who have left their families and professions to protect their country against the invasion.

Andriy Khlyvnyuk, the lead singer of rock band BoomBox, said he would “take [his] kids to a safe house” and fight for his country, after Vladimir Putin launched an attack on Ukraine last week.

“Musicians are peacemakers,” he told EuroNews, but “now it’s not time for playing guitars. It’s time to take the rifles.”

Some artists are using their platforms to report on the war through their social channels.

Svyatoslav Vakarchuk, lead singer of the Ukrainian rock band Okean Elzy, has been posting videos on Facebook in which he is seen visiting wounded soldiers in hospital, wearing a bullet-proof vest, and delivering food and fuel to Kyiv in his car. The band also held an impromptu concert on Kyiv’s glass bridge to show solidarity with the Ukrainian capital.

Other artists, meanwhile, are using music to raise money to help those displaced by the conflict. Olga Korolova, one of Ukraine’s leading techno DJs, donated her most recent gig fee to the Ukrainian Army and charities helping those displaced in the conflict, and launched a YouTube fundraiser titled #prayforukraine, in place of her usual music videos.