Feb 14, 2024

Principal Dancers for Grand Kyiv Ballet Find Strength in Performing Together Despite War in Ukraine

One moment principal dancers of the Grand Kyiv Ballet, Oleksandr (Alex) Stoianov and Kateryna (Katya) Kukhar, a couple with two children, were in separate counties working and planning to return to Kyiv to reunite with their family soon. The next moment, they were answering a call that came in at 5 AM from their 6-year-old daughter’s nanny. She was crying. War had broken out and bombings had started. 

From continents away, the couple worked tirelessly to coordinate an evacuation for their nanny, daughter, and the family dog. It wasn’t easy. They called everyone they knew until they found a friend who was evacuating and could help the trio escape. With airports closed and the roads crowded by evacuees, the trip which would have normally taken hours instead took three days. Their son, who had been on a ski trip in the mountains of Ukraine, had to walk more than eight hours to get to safety. 

Alex describes that time saying, “These days were the most terrible in our lives!” 

Now, with their friends and family scattered to different parts of the world, the couple and their children are making a life in Seattle. When asked about the impact of the conflict with Russia, Alex said, “All plans were disrupted, we all had to look for a new life, a new reality. (Our) children are torn away from their home, they are looking for new friends and building a new life. This is not easy! This is a forced relocation. This is not what we wanted, but we are ready to overcome difficulties…” 

Building that new life has been made somewhat easier by the support the couple has had from friends in the ballet world. It was Vera Altunina, the artistic director at the International Ballet Academy in Washington state, who helped find the family a place to settle after fleeing the conflict in their home country. 

Alex, who started the Grand Kyiv Ballet as an artistic home for dancers displaced by war, noted that, “theater operations have been disrupted. But despite this, the entire ballet world is united and we all help each other.” 

Part of building a new life has been continuing to perform. Katya says, “Ballet helps you break away from reality and for a moment be transported to another world.” 

For the couple, who dance together in the tragically beautiful romance, “Giselle”, performing side by side is even more meaningful. 

Alex notes that, “in such a difficult time, when all plans have changed and absolutely everything has been disrupted, when there is war in our country, it is very important for us to be together.” 

“Dancing with him, it’s my soul, he’s my body,” said Katya in an interview with the Seattle Times.

Together, the dancers hope that their performances can serve as a cultural victory against Russia. They want people to learn that Ukraine is not only strong and brave people, but also talented people with a great history and great art.” 

To see that art firsthand, you can see the couple perform “Giselle” on stage at the Crown Theatre in Fayetteville, North Carolina on March 7 at 7 PM. This French ballet is considered a classical masterpiece and features exquisite music and stunning choreography. 

Tickets are available for purchase at the Crown Box Office, at the Fort Liberty MWR Leisure Travel Office, or online at Ticketmaster.com

The dancers, as part of their mission to spread their culture and love of ballet, are also offering special opportunities for groups of dance students to meet them after the performance. If you are a dance instructor who is interested in this opportunity, please contact Cheyenne Crowe-Gordon.

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