Russian Ballet Theatre calls for unity as it “dances for peace”

Published: Feb. 25, 2022 at 10:22 PM EST
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - The Russian Ballet Theatre is an independent organization that got its name from the style of ballet it performs onstage. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has hit home for many of its performers.

”They walked out from the stage and the news hits. And what we saw was a lot of crying, and calling home, and worrying about getting parents out of the danger zones,” said Gulya Hartwick, a producer for the RBT.

Hartwick was born and raised in Latvia and her first language is Russian.

”My parents are currently in the center of Kyiv. They are hiding in a bunker,” said Olga Kifyak, who is from Kyiv and a prima ballerina for RBT.

English is also not Kifyak’s first language and Hartwick helped translate for her. Besides her parents, Kifyak has a brother in Ukraine. She has been in contact with her parents, who have been sharing what’s going on since the invasion began.

RBT is full of performers from around the world, with some, like Olga, having ties back to Eastern Europe. With the current situation, stepping on the stage has been hard.

”It hurts to see what’s happening. It hurts to see our loved ones crying and suffering and being in fear,” said Hartwick.

“I would love to be in Kyiv and Ukraine and with my country,” said Kifyak.

What’s helping the RBT through this time is the love and support they have for each other, while using their performances as a way to be united.

“The mission of arts altogether is to unite people and that’s exactly what we do. That’s the message that we sent with our performances, we dance for peace.”

Hundreds piled into the Jefferson Center to see Friday night’s “Swan Lake” performance. Jefferson Center leaders are happy to be able to host the RBT.

“The performing arts have always been about celebrating community, and bringing people together, and we feel the Russian Ballet is an example of that and we are grateful that they are going to be in our building,” said Kimberly Billings, patron services manager at the Jefferson Center.

For more information on RBT, you can find its website here and Facebook here.

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