Edinburgh Festival Fringe: Ukrainian ballet dancers set to star in the Fringe
Dancers with a Ukrainian ballet company have told of their relief and excitement at making it to Edinburgh to perform in one of the biggest Fringe venues after being offered the chance to appear just three months ago following the outbreak of war.
The 13-strong Freedom Ballet collective will be taking to the stage at the EICC after its dancers travelled from the Ukraine, Poland, Hungary and Romania.
Part of the Pleasance programme, the company will mark its 20th anniversary during the Fringe’s 75th anniversary season with its “intimate and sensual” performances.
Instigated by long-time Fringe producer Toby Gough, the run of shows until 28 August will be Freedom Ballet’s first appearances outside of the Ukraine since the global pandemic and the outbreak of war earlier this year.
Its male performers have been given special permission by Ukraine’s Ministry of Culture to leave the country and perform at the Fringe.
Some of the ballet dancers are staying on the cruise ship berthed in Leith Docks which is being used to accommodate Ukrainian refugees who have travelled to Scotland.
Freedom Ballet, which has previously staged around 5000 performances in more than 30 countries, will be performing an updated version of its show Wardrobe, named after the stage set at the heart of each performance, in the 1300-capacity Lennox Theatre.
Producer and promoter Artyom Badalyan said: “The performances really shows the experiences of each dancer and how they have lived their lives.
"The show is a collaboration between dance, theatricality, emotion and technique.
"We had started planning to go back on tour for the first time since coronavirus when the war came. These are our first performances outside the Ukraine.
"We were approached just months ago over the possibility of coming to Edinburgh. It was not easy, as the logistics kept changing all the time. A month ago I didn’t think it was going to happen, but we had a lot of help from people and the group is really famous in the Ukraine.”
Dancer Igor Kuleshyn said: “We’re really hoping to fill every seat in the venue. We have so much to tell and so much to show the people in Edinburgh.
“It was very hard to be able to come to Edinburgh. Every day the men in Ukraine are waiting for their call to defend our country. But we’re very glad to be here and very thankful for our Ministry of Culture.
"It’s a great feeling to be here after the last few years of the pandemic and then the war. We are so hungry to show our talents, our skills and our feelings.”
Dancer Pavel Bondarenko said: “We have wanted to come to Edinburgh for many years as the festival is so big and famous. We really wanted to bring our performances to a wider audience.
"We were not really confident about being able to come here because of the war and the fact that the men in the company could not leave the country, but the Ministry of Culture gave us special permission.
"We really wanted to come here with all our hearts. We all still can’t believe that we are all and to have this opportunity to perform.
"We are going to try to see as many shows as we can while we are in Edinburgh.”