Russian, Ukrainian ballet stars to dance together in Naples

NAPLES, Italy (AP) — A Ukrainian ballerina who fled the war in her homeland and a Russian ballerina who quit the Bolshoi Ballet over the Russian invasion rehearsed on a stage in Naples ahead of a sold-out benefit performance Monday night to raise funds for the Red Cross and champion the cause of peace in Ukraine.

Naples’ San Carlo Theater billed the event “Stand with Ukraine — Ballet for Peace.”

Despite that description, the prospect of Russian dancers dancing on the same stage with Ukrainians reportedly angered Ukraine’s consul in Naples. The Italian daily La Repubblica quoted the consul as telling fellow Ukrainians in the southern Italian city to shun the performance.


Among the stars in the event is prima ballerina Olga Smirnova, who left the Bolshoi last month and is now dancing with the Dutch National Ballet. Another headliner is Anastasia Gurskaya, a top ballerina in Kyiv’s Opera, who fled the fighting in Ukraine.

“I think it’s important in this situation, in this time, to be together on the stage. To do little things, the smallest things, what we can do for Ukraine,” Smirnova told reporters in the theater ahead of the final rehearsal. “This is the main goal for all of us. That’s why we are here, that’s why we are dancing tonight.”

Fellow prima ballerina Gurskaya said her performance is one way to help Ukraine.

“My life is upside down now. And I’ve never been in Italy in this city, and I’ve never danced with stars like today, with world ballet stars, and I am so excited about it. And I don’t know why this happened to me,” the Ukrainian dancer told The Associated Press. “I am really happy I am here and I can help and support my country with my dancing today.”

The theater’s artistic director, Alessio Carbone, hailed Smirnova’s participation.

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