Tag Archives: ballet

A Night to Remember

Long before the final curtain dropped, you could sense what was coming. It was in the tone of the applause that broke out periodically In appreciation of virtuosic solo performances, not unlike the applause of knowledgeable jazz audiences for solos in the middle of longer pieces.

Last evening, we were privileged to witness the stunning performance of Giselle by the United Ukrainian Ballet company in its United States premiere. The core story, set in medieval times, is simple enough. A peasant girl with a weak heart is fooled by a desirous nobleman passing himself off as an ordinary man. The man is already engaged to marry the daughter of the Prince. A woodsman, also smitten by Giselle, discovers the nobleman’s sword and reveals his identity to Giselle. The girl cannot believe the revelation at first but, as the truth sinks in, she descends into despair and dances herself to death as her heart gives out.

In Act Two, the nobleman finds Giselle’s grave in the woods. He too is in despair at the loss of his love. The Wilis then appear, all in white. They are apparitions of girls who have died when betrayed by their lovers on the eve of their weddings.Any man caught by them between midnight and dawn will be forced to dance until he dies.  Giselle is now one of them, but she saves the nobleman, whom she still loves, by delaying his death until sunrise forces the Wilis to withdraw. She, of course, disappears with them.

Last night, Giselle’s (Iriyna Zhalovska) descent from joyous dancing maiden into overwhelming grief was portrayed with astonishing changes in her appearance and demeanor as she danced furiously in the growing realization that she had been betrayed. The stage presence of Kateryna Derechnya was stunning as the cold-hearted Myrtha, Queen of the Wilis. The corps de ballet created a perfect illusion of joyous country dancing in the village and later as the ethereal and intimidating Wilis.

As said at the beginning of this post, the momentum to inevitable conclusion grew as the ballet unfolded. When the curtain fell, there was a short period of silent anticipation. When it rose again, the audience went crazy, immediately on their feet, yelling, whistling, and applauding with enthusiasm appropriate to the remarkable performance we had seen.

First on stage were the two principals. They produced a now familiar blue and gold Ukrainian flag. Then as the entire cast and crew assembled on stage, there was mostly silent respect as they dancers and crew sang, hands on hearts, the Ukrainian national anthem.  One of the flags they held had writing on it: Make Dance Not War. When they finished, more extravagant applause.


Tragically, the genocidal attack by Russia on Ukraine continues. The appearance of the United Ukrainian Ballet company in Washington is nothing short of a miracle. You can, for a short time, read about the company and its dancers, its history, and their extraordinary survival story here: https://bit.ly/3YlIhEP Don’t skip over the “Message from the Producers” that tells the story of the company’s escape from the Russian attack.

Other reviews are here: https://unitedukrainianballet.com/press/  Unfortunately, by the time you read this, there likely will be only one performance remaining at the Kennedy Center and it is, I am happy to note, Sold Out, as well it should be.

I have not found a list of future performances but surely there will be more. If you can, don’t miss it. It may break your heart as it did Giselle’s, but you will be better for it.

Ballet in Hawaii – Oh Yes!!

You probably recall the experience of being invited to the home of a relative or friend to see the “slides” of their vacation somewhere. If you were fortunate, enough alcohol was served to get you through the seemingly interminable photos of places you hadn’t been and people you didn’t know, but you were sure a grand time was had by all. And how can I gracefully get out of here? If the internet had existed back then, the “slide show” would surely have been a popular meme.

I recall that because I did it, mostly to relatives who, I had convinced myself, were interested in what we had seen and done on the many trips I took for business and pleasure. I now doubt they were interested but tolerant enough.

That said, if you have followed this blog for long, you know that I occasionally post photos of places and sights that I think are worth sharing. The good news is you don’t have to look.

But I hope you will look at these few shots because they represent the future of ballet in Hawaii and these young people are genuinely amazing and deserving of support. What? Ballet in Hawaii? Indeed.

Our recent, twice postponed (pandemic) vacation/anniversary/wife’s birthday trip to Honolulu let to a surprising and inspiring discovery. As usual, we had planned many elements of the trip, but we found ourselves on the first day with … no plan! We had expected to be jet-lagged and not much into activity, but upon looking for something to do, we came upon https://ballethawaii.org. Their final studio performance was the next day, so we bought tickets and took an Uber to the studio.

What a wonderful surprise! These young and gifted people put on a show to remember. Short pieces involving different members of the group and covering the full range of classical and modern themes. Their commitment to the discipline of ballet was evident in the quality of their dancing and their obvious enthusiasm for this difficult art form.

These are two professional shots of the group that they kindly shared with us.

Below are a few of the shots I took. I wanted to capture some of the dancing, but the setting was too intimate for me to be clicking away while they did their thing.

You can see the Performing Ensemble up close here: https://ballethawaii.org/performing-ensemble/  Note them well. Someday, we’re sure, we’ll be seeing some of these names in major dance companies around the country.

Strong At Every Position

The title of this post is a phrase often used in sports journalism to describe a team that has highly rate players in every position on the starting team. It is a gross understatement as it applies to the American Ballet Theater dancers and others involved in producing Don Quixote last night at the Kennedy Center. The program can be seen here: https://bit.ly/3J4cFeI

The evening began when Devon Teuscher, principal dancer with ABT, emerged on stage to announce that the evening’s performance was dedicated to Ukraine and its fight for independence. She then invited “those who are able” to stand for the playing of the Ukraine national anthem. The audience roared its approval and virtually everyone was on their feet. A wonderful moment.

The performance that followed was extraordinary as well. From the spectacular stagecraft to the dancing itself, words almost fail. The ballet has three acts, the middle one being somewhat slow but with elegance that reminded me of scenes from Swan Lake. The first and third acts were just high-energy explosive displays of artistry, discipline and skill. The unison of the dancing groups was surreal.

The leading role of Kitri, the heroine whose affections are the subject of the main “contest” for her hand in marriage, was performed by Christine Shevchenko, a native of Ukraine, making the evening’s dedication even more poignant. Her extraordinary biography is here: https://bit.ly/3u2yvek and last night she lived up to her credits, dominating every scene in which she appeared. Phenomenal in every way. That is not to take away from the other dancers. Everyone was exceptional in their assigned parts.

The evening ended with another surprise. Shevchenko, having taken her bows with the others, ran off stage and returned with the Ukraine flag, producing another roar of approval from the standing crowd. This is the photo, hurriedly taken with a cell phone to capture the unexpected moment.

New York City Ballet company is coming to the Kennedy Center in June. That too will be spectacular. There are likely seats left. Get yours before it’s too late!