The Grand Kyiv Ballet Goes To Boston

Viva Reimers ‘24 / Emertainment Monthly Marketing Merchandise & Events Coordinator

Kateryna Kukhar and Oleksandr “Alex” Stoianov are the lead dancers of the Grand Kyiv Ballet, which was established by Alex and tours Ukrainian dancers worldwide. A crucial point to remember about the Grand Kyiv Ballet is that they fundraise money to send back to Ukraine. If you ever wish to experience an exceptional performance that also contributes to aid efforts in Ukraine, I suggest attending their show.

On February 23, the Grand Kyiv Ballet performed the ballet Giselle at the Emerson Colonial Theatre. While speaking with both Kateryna and Oleksandr, I asked them to tell me one word that describes this ballet performance: 

“Betrayal” says Kateryna.

“Love” nods Alex.

The dancers glide gracefully across the stage, their movements fluid and precise, conveying emotion and storytelling through every step and gesture. With impeccable poise and control, they effortlessly execute intricate footwork, leaps, and pirouettes, captivating the audience with their talent and artistic expression. Something that sets these artists apart from other ballets I’ve seen is their commitment to emotional portrayal on stage. 

If I had to give their performance of Giselle a one-word description, I would say it was about grief. In Giselle, the emphasis lies on grieving over losing someone as a main plot point, despite being a love story. Before Giselle (Kateryna) died, succumbing to madness was her grieving process. Her troubled mind and erratic movements showed how she dealt with the truth; she was just grieving over the fact that her lover was not who she thought he was. Albrecht (Alex) greived Giselle’s death at her grave, his sorrow palpable in the silent cemetery. Both Giselle and Albrecht mourned a death during this play, which leads me to believe it is about grief.

“We have performed this performance over 500 times, but I still cry a little bit when [Kateryna] dies. It’s a very powerful moment.” says Alex.

He was able to convey this emotion as the audience was faced with his glossy eyes on stage. More emotion can be seen before and during Giselle’s descent into madness. Shaky hands, shocked expressions, and a look of betrayal were some things Kateryna executed perfectly. I was able to understand what Giselle was feeling due to this flawless performance. But what makes the Grand Kyiv Ballet different from any other ballet? 

Viva: How do you bring a Ukrainian influence to your ballet? 

Alex: All theaters and countries have different interpretations. We have different dancing schools than the United States and France. Different places will use different body movements and use other emotions. Costumes, decorations–everything is different. It’s the same performance but everything is different. 

Kateryna: Unlike other countries, classical style for our Ukrainian [dance school], you have to dance with your legs more so than your hips. There are small style differences.

*Quotes have been edited for length and clarity

It’s clear that, although dance is a universal language, it still differs place-to-place based on the cultural influences. This sentiment is vividly portrayed in the performance where traditional Ukrainian elements seamlessly intertwine with the classic narrative.

The Grand Kyiv Ballet stands not only as a beacon of artistic mastery but also as a testament to the power of cultural preservation and altruism. Led by Kateryna and Alex, this organization not only mesmerizes audiences with their hypnotic performances, but also helps their home country through fundraising efforts. Their recent performance of Giselle at the Emerson Colonial Theatre showcased not just their technical expertise but also a deep emotional resonance, with themes of love, betrayal, and grief portrayed on stage. Through their dedication to their craft and their community, the Grand Kyiv Ballet embodies the transformative power of ballet and its ability to exceed boundaries while making a meaningful impact on the world. For those seeking not only an exceptional artistic experience but also a chance to support a noble cause, attending a performance by the Grand Kyiv Ballet is an opportunity that should not be missed.

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