Last night, Svetlana Zakharova's Gala Ballet without Borders took place on the Bolshoi stage in Moscow. Ballet stars danced in support of young dancers in war-torn Ukraine. This politically sensitive event was Zakharova's idea: she is Ukrainian and also a People's Artist of Russia, completing her training in Kiev and now a prima ballerina of the Bolshoi Theatre, so her feet are in both camps.
The Kiev School was one of the best ballet schools in the former Soviet Union, where I studied for five years. It is my alma mater, where I made my first steps, where my journey began,
she told RIA Novosti.
When I was 15, I left the school and continued at the Vaganova School in St Petersburg. Then I joined the Mariinsky and now the Bolshoi Ballet.
Recently she returned to the school when she was in Kiev to perform Giselle and was shocked to see in what state the building was, with a leaky roof and little heating during the cold winters. The school was built 80 years ago, but there has been no maintenance for the last three decades.
I just couldn't ignore this. Children should learn in good conditions and, of course, nothing should threaten their health. So I had the idea of a charity event to help raise money to repair the Kiev School. I am grateful to my colleagues, former graduates of the Kiev school, and now international stars, who responded to my invitation to take part in the gala. I'm very grateful to the Bolshoi Theatre which provided its main stage for the evening.
The gala is taking place while relations between Russia and Ukraine are at an all time low, and Moscow-backed separatists are battling government forces. However, Zakharov marched ahead with her project and assembled an impressive roster of names: Alina Cojocaru (English National Ballet), Nina Zmievets and Sergey Volobuev (Boris Eifman Ballet Theatre), Ivan Putrov (UK), Leonid Sarafanov (Mikhailovsky Theatre), Natalia Osipova (Royal Ballet), Iana Salenko and Dean Tamazlacaru (Berlin State Ballet), Denis Rodkin (Bolshoi Theatre) and Patrick de Bana (France).
It's necessary to help children, no matter what country they live in,
Osipova, who's Russian, said,
I came to support them, how could I refuse? I remember how terrible it was to enter a dance studio in winter and shiver.
The gala opened with Zakharova in Carmen Suite. In the second part she danced with Patrick de Bana in his piece Digital Love. To end the programme Zakharova and Sarafanov performed the pas de deux from Le Corsaire.
The event was sold out, but although it had been hoped to raise $300,000 the organisers now expect to end up with less than half of that because of the depreciated ruble.
The poster depicts a ballerina in yellow and blue – the colours of Ukrainian flag.
Graham Spicer is a writer, director and photographer in Milan, blogging (under the name ‘Gramilano') about dance, opera, music and photography for people “who are a bit like me and like some of the things I like”. He was a regular columnist for Opera Now magazine and wrote for the BBC until transferring to Italy.
His scribblings have appeared in various publications from Woman's Weekly to Gay Times, and he wrote the ‘Danza in Italia' column for Dancing Times magazine.