Kyiv City Ballet dancers arrive for fundraising show at York Theatre Royal UPDATED 14/6/2022

The Kyiv City Ballet company arrives at York Railway Station on Monday night with York Theatre Royal chief executive Tom Bird, back, centre, in blue and yellow Ukrainian colours. All pictures: Ant Robling

KYIV City Ballet will give their first British performance since Ukraine came under bombardment from Russia at a sold-out York Theatre Royal tonight (14/6/2022).

Visas rubber-stamped, a combination of Eurostar and LNER delivered the Ukrainian dancers from their temporary base in Paris, with Theatre Royal chief executive Tom Bird on board the evening train from London.

Led by general director Ivan Koslov and his wife, assistant director Ekaterina Koslova, the exiled troupe made their way immediately to a Civic welcome at York Mansion House before taking a City Cruise on the Ouse.

“It’s a huge honour to be hosting Kyiv City Ballet at York Theatre Royal,” says Bird. “This is the company’s first UK appearance since their city came under attack, and we are proud that York is able to stand in solidarity with Kyiv by supporting these extraordinary dancers for this one-off visit.”

Kyiv City Ballet assistant director Ekaterina Koslova and general director Ivan Koslov at York Mansion House

Bird personally invited Kyiv City Ballet to perform in York after learning of the company being stranded in France, where they had flown to Paris to perform on February 23, only to learn that their country had been invaded by Putin’s forces.

The dancers still went ahead with that night’s performance, and whereas mobile phones usually would be prohibited in the environs of the stage during a show, they were left on in the dressing rooms by the troupe, as relatives rang from home as the performance progressed.

At the invitation of the Mayor’s office, the dancers have been based in Paris ever since that night, one “lost in a fog” before the full enormity of what was unfolding was apparent.

“It’s been very hard to be away from home, but people around here in Paris are helping us a lot,” says Ivan, speaking by Zoom from the French capital.

Cards from well wishers on the York Mansion House railings to greet Kyiv City Ballet on their arrival

“We’re staying in hotel accommodation, everyone under one roof. Our group right now is 38, with the dancers, ourselves and a costume mistress.”

Ivan says “right now” because the number has decreased since that day of arrival in France, after some men in the troupe decided to head home to serve the Ukrainian cause.

The rest have remained in France, where they have been raising awareness and relief funds through performing in Paris and other cities too. “The Mayor of Paris has generously given us a residency at the Theatre de Chatelet since March 6, right in the heart of the city,” says Ekaterina, or Katya, as she introduces herself.

“It means we have a place to continue to rehearse and choreograph works, and it keeps our spirits up as it’s good that we can be together.”

Kyiv City Ballet dancers Ilona Moskalenko, left, and Diana Potapenko at York Mansion House

Ivan adds: “We’re able to go to classes at their theatres as well as having the possibility of doing our own classes. As a ‘cultural exchange’, it’s a very good experience for our dancers; they can see how Parisian dancers train. They’ve invited us to their studios and some choreographers have proposed to choreograph works with us, but it’s too early to be able to do that.”

During their French exile, Kyic City Ballet have performed “almost everywhere”, latterly in Toulouse, Lyon and Saint Marlo.

“In regular times, we’ve always been welcomed by the public very nicely, but now it’s an even better, warmer welcome, with so much applause and everyone staying and continuing to cheer at the end, helping to keep spirits up,” says Ivan. “Sometimes we’ll see Ukrainian flags too.

“It can be difficult to focus on working, but we’re dancers, not fighters; we’re helping in the one way we can.”

The Kyiv City Ballet company on the steps of York Mansion House with Town Crier Ben Fry; York Theatre Royal chief executive Tom Bird; Sheriff of York Mrs Suzie Mercer; Lord Mayor of York Councillor David Carr and Lady Mayoress Mrs Lynda Carr

Now comes the chance to perform in York. “We received a message inviting us to York Theatre Royal, and very quickly we arranged a phone call and were very excited to confirm the show,” says Katya. “Our performance in York is one of the only things we’ve all been talking about.”

Ivan cannot recall if he has ever been to York previously. “You know the dancer’s life: you leave the hotel, rehearse, do the show, come back to the hotel, move on,” he says.

Katya is more definite. “I haven’t been to England, though I’ve wanted to come for as long as I can remember,” she says.

“We’re in discussion to do more shows here, but it’s already been a real logistical challenge to do so much in such a short time. We don’t have dates to announce yet but we have plans to return to the UK and we hope York will be the first of many performances.”

Kyiv City Ballet dancers Nazar Korniichuk and Anastasia Uhlova reading the messages on the York Mansion House railings

Given that the Russian invasion shows no sign of abating, Katya cannot turn her thoughts to the day when she might return home. “I’m rehearsing every day with our dancers, focusing on that, and, for me, the most important thing is what we can bring through our dancing,” she says.

Thoughts turn to tonight, when 100 per cent of ticket sale proceeds will be donated to UNICEF’s Ukraine Appeal from a two-and-a-half-hour special performance split into two parts.

“The first part will be a ballet class, which will be showing the audience how we  normally prepare for a performance,” says Katya. “Ivan and I will be on stage with the dancers, showing how we warm up, why we do certain movements, and we’ll do questions and answers too.

“The second part will be made up of excerpts from our repertoire, both from classical ballets, Swan Lake and The Nutcracker, and from pieces that we’ll be performing next season.”

The Kyiv City Ballet company on board the City Cruise on the River Ouse on Monday night

Look out for a premiere tonight: “One of the pieces is being choreographed by one of our dancers, Vladyslav Dobshyinskyi, who will perform a solo from his new work,” says Katya.

Kyiv City Ballet can but pray for the day when they set dancing feet on Kyiv soil once more. In the meantime, here in York, will be another chance to raise money for those in need back home.

The Yorkshire ballet community is playing its part too: Leeds company Northern Ballet are providing the dance floor for tomorrow’s performance, York Dance Space, the ballet bars.

Come Wednesday morning, the Kyiv City Ballet troupe will be heading to Manchester Airport to fly to the southwestern French Basque coast to perform in Biarritz that night.

Kyiv City Ballet at York Theatre Royal, tonight (14/6/2022), 7.30pm. SOLD OUT

More Things To Do in York and beyond as city welcomes Ukrainian dancers and bees buzz. List No. 86, courtesy of The Press

Poised for Theatre Royal performance: Kyiv City Ballet dancers, heading from Paris to York

FROM Ukrainian dancers to the ukulele, hairdryer music to German comedy, a new but ancient story to medieval street plays, Charles Hutchinson has a fiesta of ideas for venturing out.

Cultural/political event of the week: Kyiv City Ballet, York Theatre Royal, Tuesday, 7.30pm, sold out

AT the invitation of Theatre Royal chief executive Tom Bird, the dancers of Kyiv City Ballet are to perform in Britain for the first time since taking up temporary residence in Paris after Russia invaded Ukraine. All ticket sale proceeds from the sold-out show will be donated to UNICEF’s Ukraine Appeal.

Under the direction of Ivan Kozlov and Ekaterina Kozlova, a company dance class will be followed by excerpts from  Swan Lake and The Nutcracker, contemporary pieces and a premiere. 

To bee or not to bee: The Mind Of A Bee is the subject of Lars Chittka’s online talk on June 14 at 8pm at the York Festival of Ideas

Festival of the week: York Festival of Ideas, today to June 24

UNDER the banner of The Next Chapter, more than 150 free in-person and online events promise to educate, entertain and inspire in a festival of speakers, performers, panel discussions, family fun activities and guided tours.

Topics span archaeology to art, history to health and politics to psychology, from the natural history of slime to female Rugby League players; secret Beatles lyrics to the mind of a bee; Holgate Mill to Frankie Howerd. Head to yorkfestivalofideas.com to download a brochure.

Thomas Truax with The Hornicator, left, and Mother Superior, two of his wonderfully weird instruments

Double bills of the week: Songs Under Skies, Mayshe-Mayshe & Thomas Truax, Monday; Testament and Maddie Morris, Wednesday, National Centre for Early Music, York, both 7pm

SONGS Under Skies takes over the gardens of St Margaret’s Church, Walmgate, for the third time for two nights of outdoor live music by four musicians making their NCEM debuts.

Mayshe-Mayshe, alias Alice Rowan, blends dreamy art-pop with rich storytelling, her songs incorporating choral vocals, vintage synths and the occasional hairdryer. Thomas Truax, an American musician with a mad scientist’s brain, utilises weird self-made instruments in songs about insects, trees, technology and all things lunar.

Lyrical rapper, human beatboxer and composer Testament is joined BBC Radio2 Young Folk Award winner Maddie Morris, from Leeds, whose protest songs address LGBTQ rights, feminism and trauma issues. Box office: 01904 658338 or ncem.co.uk.

Formidable on four strings: George Hinchcliffe’s Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain

Anarchy in the Ukulele? George Hinchcliffe’s Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain, York Theatre Royal, Wednesday, 7.30pm

QUESTION: Who is to blame for the worldwide phenomena of ukulele orchestras and ukulelemania? The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain, that’s who!

Led by George Hinchliffe, these independent rock-stars of the “bonsai guitar” promise entertainment, joy, fun, strum and artistry on four strings on all manner of cover versions from the pop, rock and musical worlds beyond. Box office: 01904 623568 or at yorktheatreroyal.co.uk.

How the land lies: Storyteller Alexander Flanagan Wright deep in thought in the the field behind Stillington Mill

Storytelling premiere of the week: Alexander Flanagan Wright, Monster, Work In Progress, At The Mill, Stillington, near York, Thursday and Friday, 7.30pm. UPDATE: 13/6/2022: POSTPONED UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE. Ticket holders will be refunded.

A BLOKE in a fancy suit is stood in the Nevada desert. A warrior holding the head of Medusa is stood on top of a hill. The sky is lit bright with the neon lights of Vegas. We are trying to set foot in places no-one has ever been.

So runs the introduction to Alexander Flanagan Wright’s Monster, wherein he sets out to tell a story about finding places that we should never have found, about the difference between discovery and ownership, and the need to be a hero.

“Some of that story happens now. Some of it happens millennia ago. All of it is to do with people,” he says, welcoming instant feedback at the story’s close. Box office: atthemill.org.

Roarsome! The Tyrannosaurus Rex rocks up in Dinosaur World Live

Children’s show of the week: Dinosaur World Live, York Theatre Royal, June 17, 4.30pm; June 18 and 19, 11am and 2pm

DARE to experience the dangers and delights of this interactive family show for age three upwards as intrepid explorers discover a prehistoric world of remarkably lifelike dinosaurs in a mind-bending 50-minute Jurassic adventure whose arrival in York just happens to coincide with the big-screen opening of Jurassic World Dominion.
Watch out for the flesh-eating, giant Tyrannosaurus Rex and the supporting cast of a Triceratops, Giraffatitan, Microraptor and Segnosauris. A 15-minute meet and greet post-show offers the chance to be up close and personal with these creatures. Box office: 01904 623568 or at yorktheatreroyal.co.uk.

Wringing endorsement for German comedian Henning Wehn

Comedy top-up? Just say Wehn: Henning Wehn, It’ll All Come Out In The Wash, York Barbican, Friday, 8pm

HENNING Wehn, Germany’s Comedy Ambassador and former marketing ideas man for Wycombe Wanderers Football Club to boot, plays York Barbican for the first time since his impatient Great Yorkshire Fringe gig in July 2019, Get On With It!

On his return, Wehn gives everything a good rinse as he wrings sense out of the nonsensical. “An unbiased look at a certain virus might be inevitable but I have no agenda,” says Wehn. “I just happen to be always spot on. It’s a curse.” Box office: yorkbarbican.co.uk.

Duran Duran: Playing the stately pile of Castle Howard

Open-air gig of the week: Duran Duran, Castle Howard, near York, Friday, supported by Dry Cleaning; gates open at 5pm

FRESH from one outdoor engagement by the Buckingham Palace gates with guest guitarist Nile Rodgers at last Saturday’s Platinum Party At The Palace, Duran Duran play another in Castle Howard’s grounds.

The Birmingham darlings of New Romantic synthpop will be complementing last weekend’s brace of Notorious and Girls On Film with such Eighties’ favourites as Planet Earth, Save A Prayer, Rio and Hungry Like the Wolf. Could last October’s 15th studio album, Future Past, feature too? Tickets update: still available at castlehoward.co.uk or ticketmaster.co.uk.

Taking the chair: Paul Morel in Oddbodies’ one-man King Lear

Shakespeare shake-up of the week: Oddbodies’ King Lear, Helmsley Arts Centre, June 18, 7.30pm

ARMED with only a drum, a guitar, a knife and a chair, Oddbodies’ inventive, irreverent one-man account of Shakespeare’s King Lear is told from The Fool’s point of view by writer-performer Paul Morel.

Directed by John Mowat, he brings all the characters from this sad and sorry tale to glorious life, from the bipolar Lear to the bastard Edmund, haughty Goneril to poor deluded Gloucester, oily Oswald to sweet Cordelia and mad Tom, in a fast, funny, poignant and ultimately heart-breaking production full of physical ingenuity and visual flair. Box office: 01439 771700 or at helmsleyarts.co.uk.

2022 York Mystery Plays artistic director Tom Straszewski, pictured with Jess Murray, who is directing The Appearance Of Jesus To Mary Magdalene for the Guild of Media Arts and Guild of Scriveners

Street plays of the month: Guilds of York present York Mystery Plays, York city centre, June 19 and 26, 11am onwards; The Mysteries In The Market, Shambles Market, June 22 and 23, 7.30pm

EIGHT plays from the York Cycle of Mystery Plays will be wheeled around York city centre on wagons for Sunday performances, processing from College Green (free) to St Sampson’s Square (free), St Helen’s Square (free) and King’s Manor (ticketed).

Those plays include York Guild of Building’s Creation To The Fifth Day; the Company of Butchers and Riding Lights Acting Up’s The Crucifixion and Death Of Christ, the Guild of Media Arts and Guild of Scriveners’ The Appearance Of Jesus To Mary Magdalene and the Company of Merchant Adventurers’ The Last Judgement, directed by Alan and Diane Heaven, no less.

In addition, a selection of five plays will be staged in special Midsummer midweek performances at the Shambles Market (ticketed, limited to 100). Box office: yorkmysteryplays.co.uk.

Stranded in France, Kyiv City Ballet’s first show since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine at York Theatre Royal on June 14 has sold out

Poised: Kyiv City Ballet are heading to York Theatre Royal for one night

KYIV City Ballet’s first British performance since Ukraine came under attack from Russia at York Theatre Royal on June 14 has sold out.

One hundred per cent of ticket sale proceeds will be donated to UNICEF’s Ukraine Appeal from the two-and-a-half-hour special performance that will be split into two parts under the direction of Ivan Kozlov and Ekaterina Kozlova. A class from the Kyiv City Ballet company will be followed by excerpts from ballets such as Swan Lake and The Nutcracker. 

York Theatre Royal chief executive Tom Bird personally invited Kyiv City Ballet to perform in York after learning of the company being stranded in France, where they were on tour as the war broke out in Ukraine. The dancers have stayed there ever since, given that it is too unsafe for them to return home to Ukraine.

“We are proud that York is able to stand in solidarity with Kyiv,” says York Theatre Royal chief executive Tom Bird, who has invited Kyiv City Ballet to the Yorkshire city

“It’s a huge honour to be hosting Kyiv City Ballet at York Theatre Royal,” says Bird. “This is the company’s first UK appearance since their city came under attack, and we are proud that York is able to stand in solidarity with Kyiv by supporting these extraordinary dancers for this one-off visit.” 

City partners in York have come together to make this fundraising performance a reality. Make It York, City of York Council and York BID are all supporting the Theatre Royal with organisation and logistics to bring Kyiv City Ballet to the city. 

Eurostar and LNER have stepped in to arrange the company’s return travel from France to York; Visit York members Elmbank Hotel, Malmaison, Middletons, Sandburn Hall, The Grand, The Principal and York Marriott have offered to accommodate the company and crew during their stay, while City Cruises and Bettys will be providing additional hospitality. A Civic welcome awaits at Mansion House.

Class act: Kyiv City Ballet will combine a dance class with excerpts from Swan Lake and The Nutcracker in June 14’s fundraising show

First Bus will support on the visa costs to bring the company to York; remaining costs and company fees for the performance will be covered through corporate sponsorship. 

Sarah Loftus, managing director of Make It York, says: “We are so proud of our city pulling together to bring the Kyiv City Ballet to York. This is a special opportunity to celebrate world-class performers, while raising vital funds for the people of Ukraine. The generosity of businesses and residents in York has made this possible.”

Councillor Darryl Smalley, executive member for culture, leisure and communities, says: “In what are incredibly dark times, it has been heartening to see York’s response as the city has come together to show our support and solidarity with our Ukrainian friends here in York and in Ukraine.

“Art has a unique way of uniting people and that’s certainly what we need more now than ever ,” says Councillor Darryl Smalley as he welcomes Kyiv City Ballet to York

“From donations and heart-warming signs of solidarity to housing refugees, it’s clear that we as a city are united and ready to do all we can to stand with Ukraine and its people.

“Art has a unique way of uniting people and that’s certainly what we need more now than ever. I’m grateful to all those involved for their support in setting up this amazing event. It will certainly be an emotional and wonderful evening for a crucial cause.”

Andrew Lowson, executive director of York BID, says: “It is always good to hear of high-quality cultural offerings coming to York, but for our city to attract the Kyiv City Ballet will feel really special.

“We are so proud of our city pulling together to bring the Kyiv City Ballet to York,” says Sarah Loftus, Make It York’s managing director

“Many of us feel helpless on how we can support Ukraine, but I know residents and businesses will want to show support and solidarity, as well as celebrate the visit of a world-renowned group of performers.” 

Adam Wardale, chair of Hospitality Association York (HAY) and general manager at Middletons Hotel, said: “The members of HAY are incredibly proud to be able to offer Ukraine’s Kyiv City Ballet performers accommodation throughout their stay in York.

“This is a fantastic opportunity to support Ukraine, showing solidarity while also celebrating the arts.”

Kyiv City Ballet: York to host first UK appearance since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine