Exiled Kyiv City Ballet given Paris residency

Kyiv City Ballet is used to being away from home, often touring for nine months of the year. But having arrived in France just a day before war broke out back home, its dancers suddenly became exiles overnight.

Exiled Kyiv City Ballet given Paris residency
Ukrainian dancers of the Kiev City Ballet acknowlege the audience at the end of their performance at the Theatre du Chatelet in Paris. Photo by Christophe ARCHAMBAULT / AFP

Paris authorities have given them refuge with a residency at the city’s Chatelet Theatre.

The team tries to put on a brave face, though their eyes are often reddened with emotion.

The most wrenching aspect is that the company has been cut in two, one half having remained in Kyiv while some 30 dancers came to France for a children’s version of “The Nutcracker”.

“The others will try to join us,” said Ekaterina Kozlova, deputy director of the troupe that she founded in 2012 with her husband.

Ukrainian dancers of the Kiev City Ballet warm up on stage as part of a training class with French dancers of the Opera de Paris. Photo by Christophe ARCHAMBAULT / AFP

“We feel that now it is especially important for us to share the beauty of ballet. We tell our dancers before going on stage that they have a unique opportunity to share their voice,” she added.

In a unique evening at the Chatelet this week, the troupe performed and led a dance class alongside their colleagues from the Paris Opera to raise money for the Red Cross.

They received a long ovation, especially when they changed into T-shirts in the blue-and-yellow colours of the Ukrainian flag for a rendition of the traditional folk piece “Men from Kyiv”.

There was also a moment of high emotion when they sang the national anthem in front of a projection of the flag.

But behind the scenes, it was harder to stay positive.

“It’s very difficult. Several times a day, someone starts crying because they have received bad news or scary news or no news,” Kozlova said.

“We have a young mother who has her daughter in Ukraine. Everyone is stressed, emotionally drained.”

Everything had started so well, with the company excited to be back on the road after the Covid-19 pandemic.

“We arrived in Paris on February 23rd and we were so happy, we love being in Paris. We were planning on being here a few weeks then going back home,” said Kozlova.

But the very next day, they awoke to an avalanche of text messages and missed calls from family and friends.

“Since then, we’ve all been in a state of shock,” she said.

For dancer Vladyslav Dobshynskyi, 23, it is hard to tear his mind away.

Dancing can offer momentary distraction, he said, “But it’s not possible to forget. Even when you’re on stage, you worry about your loved ones.”   

Olga Posternak, 34, performed a pas-de-deux from Swan Lake with Paris Opera principal dancer Paul Marque.

But her mind is always on her husband and brother back home, safe for now somewhere near Lviv in western Ukraine.

“We call our families day and night,” she said.

Kozlova said they were determined to keep touring around Europe and the world, and have already lined up appearances in the French cities of Nantes and Tours.

She said she was “overwhelmed” by the generosity of France, which has included offers of housing from individuals and organisations, and dance shops who have provided them with pointe shoes and leotards.

And above all, they rely on each other.

“In Ukraine, we say that where we have family, we are at home. And in this troupe, we feel like a big family”.

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Paris street art legend Miss.Tic dies aged 66

Miss.Tic, whose provocative work began cropping up in the Montmartre neighbourhood of Paris in the mid-80s and made her a pioneer of French street art, died on Sunday aged 66, her family told AFP.

Paris street art legend Miss.Tic dies aged 66

Radhia Novat grew up in the narrow streets in the shadow of Sacre-Coeur basilica, the daughter of a Tunisian father and a mother from Normandy in western France, where she began stencilling sly and emancipatory slogans.

Her family said she had died of an unspecified illness.

Other French street artists paid tribute to her work.

On Twitter, street artist Christian Guemy, alias C215, hailed “one of the founders of stencil art”. The walls of the 13th arrondissement of Paris – where her images are a common sight – “will never be the same again”, he wrote.

Another colleague, “Jef Aerosol” said she had fought her final illness with courage, in a tribute posted on Instagram.

And France’s newly appointed Culture Minister, Rima Abdul Malak, saluted her “iconic, resolutely feminist” work.

Miss.Tic’s work often included clever wordplays — almost always lost in translation — and a heroine with flowing black hair who resembled the artist herself. The images became fixtures on walls across the capital.

Miss. Tic with some examples of her work. Photo by Bertrand GUAY / AFP

“I had a background in street theatre, and I liked this idea of street art,” Miss.Tic said in a 2011 interview.

“At first I thought, ‘I’m going to write poems’. And then, ‘we need images’ with these poems. I started with self-portraits and then turned towards other women,” she said.

Miss.Tic also drew the attention of law enforcement over complaints of defacing public property, leading to an arrest in 1997.

But her works came to be shown in galleries in France and abroad, with some acquired by the Paris modern art fund of the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, according to her website.

And cinema buffs will recognise her work on the poster for Claude Chabrol’s 2007 film “La fille coupee en deux” (“A Girl Cut in Two”).

For a spell she was a favourite of fashion brands such as Kenzo and Louis Vuitton.

“So often it’s not understood that you can be young and beautiful and have things to say,” she told AFP in 2011.

“But it’s true that they sell us what they want with beautiful women. So I thought, I’m going to use these women to sell them poetry.”

Her funeral, the date of which is still to be announced, will be open to the public, said her family.