Overseas ballet dancers go away Russia over struggle with Ukraine | Life

SANTA MONICA, Calif. (AP) — Ballet dancers Adrian Blake Mitchell and Andrea Lassakova moved to Russia years in the past to chase their dream of performing with the very best in a rustic the place folks reside and breathe ballet.

But days after Russia invaded Ukraine, the couple uprooted their lives and left behind their prized jobs with the distinguished Mikhailovsky Ballet Company in St. Petersburg.

Mitchell, who’s American, and Lassakova, who’s from Slovakia, are among the many dozens of overseas dancers who’ve left Russia because the struggle began in February. The two at the moment are within the U.S., making ready for a efficiency in Southern California.

They say the struggle is certain to take Russian ballet again to the isolation of the Soviet period.

“Most of our buddies are worldwide. They left, and I don’t suppose they’ll come again quickly,” Lassakova said.

Amy Brandt, editor in chief of Pointe, an American online magazine about the world of ballet, said there were likely fewer than 100 foreign dancers working in Russia when the war started. But based on social media posts and hiring announcements by dance companies outside Russia, most have left, she said.

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Russia opened its ballet world to the West within the many years after the Soviet Union’s collapse. In 2011, American ballet dancer David Hallberg turned the primary foreigner to be named a principal dancer on the storied Bolshoi Ballet.

But in current weeks, Russian ballet firms have skilled backlash over the struggle. The Bolshoi Ballet and Mariinsky Ballet firms, Russia’s most famous ballet establishments, carried out within the United States yearly as a part of their worldwide tour, however already performances scheduled for this yr have been canceled.

“It feels like we’re going backward in time in a lot of ways,” Brandt said.

Mitchell and Lassakova lived in Russia for seven years but decided to leave the country in early March after Russian troops invaded Ukraine and as rumors of martial law, financial collapse and the loss of liberties loomed. They hired a taxi and hurriedly left with their dog for Estonia.

While in Russia, the pair didn’t involve themselves in politics, despite seeing many pro-democracy protesters marching outside their apartment. But once across the border, and now in the U.S., the dance partners have been vocal about their opposition to the war.

“We had a difficult situation. But what’s happening to the people of Ukraine is just the most tragic, terrible thing I could imagine,” Mitchell stated throughout an interview at Westside Ballet studios in Santa Monica, California, the place he was as soon as a pupil and the place the couple will carry out subsequent month to lift funds for the college.

Mitchell believes dancers, both Russian and the few foreign ones who remain, may oppose the war but fear the consequences of protesting.

“You hear very few Russian dancers speaking out, but many of them want to leave because they want to be able to speak out,” he said.

Russian ballerina Olga Smirnova quit the Bolshoi Ballet last month to protest the Russian invasion. She now dances with the Dutch National Ballet.

Since arriving in the U.S., Mitchell and Lassakova have been traveling the country, doing benefit performances and giving talks in support of Ukraine.

They are presently rehearsing at Santa Monica’s Westside Ballet for a efficiency of Russian choreographer Oleg Vinogradov’s “Barber’s Adagio.”

It’s a ballet Mitchell and Lassakova performed in St. Petersburg. Now they fear they may never dance in Russia again.

“Russian ballet is definitely going to be totally isolated,” Mitchell stated. “Isolated from the West.”

Associated Press author Olga R. Rodriguez in San Francisco contributed to this report.

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