It was a perfectly judged occasion, devoid of histrionics, its impact all the more powerful for that. When the extraordinary mezzo-soprano Ksenia Nikolaieva, standing alone against the Coliseum stage curtain, belted out the first few notes of the Ukrainian national anthem it was as if an electric current had shot through the standing audience.
And then the curtain went slowly up to reveal members of the ENO chorus, who joined the Ukrainian singer for the final verse of the anthem. Like the ENO orchestra, conductor Alex Ingram, and all the participating dancers, they too gave their services free.
The gala was organised by dancers and impresarios Ivan Putrov, who’s Ukrainian, and Alina Cojocaru, who's Romanian, but trained in Kyiv from the age of nine.
In simple, heartfelt speeches before the beginning of the show proper, Alina Cojocaru stressed the gala was in support of democracy and human rights, while Ivan Putrov spoke of the mix of fragility and strength of human life, and announced they’d already raised £140,000 apart from what had been donated to the Disasters Emergency Committee.
The show itself was a combination of gala staples, the kind that have audiences shrieking their excitement, and more pensive, poignant works subtly underlining the occasion.
In the former category, there was – of course! – the pas de deux from Le Corsaire, which gave the flamboyant English National Ballet principal Francesco Gabriele Frola the chance to show off his technical prowess, alongside Royal Ballet principal Mayara Magri.
Dance for Ukraine. Mayara Magri and Francesco Gabriele Frola in Le Corsaire. Photo: Elliott Franks
There was also Balanchine's vibrant Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux, the sheer pleasure and flow of dance beautiful conveyed by the Royal Ballet’s Marianela Núñez and Reece Clarke; and the cod-Spanish pas de deux from Don Quixote in Carlos Acosta’s version danced by Birmingham Royal Ballet’s Miki Mizutani and Mathias Dingman. All predictably brought the house down.
In the second category two pieces stood out as particularly appropriate for the occasion. Natalia Osipova, the only Russian to dance in this gala, performed Ashes, a short solo choreographed by her life partner Jason Kittelberger. Barefoot, dressed in a simple dark shift, Osipova brought us a woman overcome by contradictory feelings of grief, anger, incomprehension, her uniquely expressive body communicating more than words could possibly say. Ashes was not created for this gala, but it might as well have been.
Dance for Ukraine. Natalia Osipova in Ashes. Photo: Elliott Franks
The programme opened with an extract from Liam Scarlett’s No Man’s Land, created for ENB’s commemoration of the centenary of World War I. It’s a heart-breaking pas de deux where a woman, danced by the Ukrainian Katja Khaniukova, remembers her fallen lover, danced by Aitor Arrieta. The moment when she raises her hands to his face and finds herself cradling empty air is truly harrowing. Both dancers did it perfect justice.
Alina Cojocaru herself dazzled in an extract from John Neumeier’s Lady of the Camellias, alongside the stunning Paris Opera Ballet Étoile Mathieu Ganio.
Dance for Ukraine. Alina Cojucaru and Mathieu Ganio in Lady of the Camelias. Photo: Elliott Franks
Other pieces were a little hit and miss, but it would be churlish to pick holes in what was a powerful, dignified, at times joyous occasion. Kudos to Putrov and Cojocaru for organising such a polished show at short notice, and for hitting absolutely the right tone. Bravi!
Also dancing for Ukraine were: Javier Torres (Northern Ballet), Alison McWhinney and Fernando Carratalá Coloma (ENB), Fumi Kaneko and William Bracewell (The Royal Ballet), Rebecca Bassett-Graham and Salvatore De Simone (Company Wayne McGregor), Luca Acri (The Royal Ballet), Emma Hawes and Junor Souza (ENB), Marianna Tsembenhoi (Ukrainian member of The Royal Ballet’s Aud Jebsen Young Dancers Programme).
To donate to the Ukraine appeal visit Disasters Emergency Committee.
|What||Marquee TV Dance for Ukraine review|
|Where||Marquee.TV | MAP|
17 Apr 22 – 24 Apr 22, Available on demand once a ticket's been purchased
|Website||Click here to book|