Arts Review

Forest Song and Don Quixote - Grand Kyiv Ballet

Forest Song and Don Quixote by The Grand Kyiv Ballet Of Ukraine @ QPAC Concert Hall

July 2nd, 2024

 

There is very little good news coming out of Ukraine of late and tonight’s performance by the Grand Kyiv Ballet Of Ukraine was heavily overshadowed by the specter of war. “A dictator has destroyed our country, people, cities and our theatres but our culture and Ukrainian spirit will never be destroyed.” These words, written and spoken by artistic director Oleksandr Stoianov precede this evening’s spectacle. 

 

Unfortunately, much of the world knows Ukraine only for its ongoing war with Russia, which began with the latter’s invasion in February 2022. This war has resulted in no end of death, destruction and displacement but tonight the audience is reminded that behind the headlines there lies a country rich in tradition, a tradition of song, dance and music. No more is this more evident than in the Grand Kyiv Ballet Of Ukraine’s portrayal of Lesya Ukraina’s Forest Song.

 

Composed over seventy-five years ago, Forest Song has never been performed outside of Ukraine, until now. Recently The Grand Kyiv Ballet Of Ukraine has toured Forest Song, alongside their adaptation of Miguel Des CervantesDon Quixote across Australia and New Zealand. Forest Song is a tale of unrequited, but by no means unreciprocated, love. It is heavily rooted in pagan traditions, the Slavic culture’s reverence for the forest and the mysticism that location invokes. 

 

Forest Song is the story of Lushka and the forest creature Mavka, who form an unlikely romance when the former is scouting a place to build a house with his uncle. Following the seasons, the pair’s love blossoms in spring, grows in summer, falters in autumn and, ultimately, ends in betrayal in winter; before the pair are reunited and bonded in the afterlife. Rich in the traditions of Ukrainian culture and folklore, Forest Song features traditional Ukrainian costumes and Cossack dancing which celebrates the idiosyncrasies of a nation yet to be properly understood in the west.

 

For Don Quixote, the company performs a small portion of Cervante’s epic masterpiece. Don Quixote and his companion Sancho Panza travel to Barcelona, then find themselves embroiled in a marital dispute between Titri, her lover Basilio and Titri’s father Lorenzo, who wishes for Titri to marry the nobleman Gamache. Far more light-hearted and comic than Forest Song, Don Quixote transports the audience to 17th-century Spain with its palazzo backdrop and vibrant costumes.

 

As someone who has very little experience with ballet, I was quite struck by its spectacle and the physicality of the performance. Dancers performed jetés, leaping elegantly across the stage, while the series of en pointe fouettés captured the attention of the audience by demonstrating a mixture of elegance and athleticism. My partner, who has a background in ballet, advised that the male dancer’s performance of grand allegro was particularly spectacular, while I was struck by the beauty and emotion portrayed by Viktor Tomashek and Marta Kaliandruk, the soloists in Forest Song.

 

Personally, Forest Song was the standout, not that Don Quixote was not enjoyable, but seeing The Grand Kyiv Ballet of Ukraine perform a traditional Ukrainian ballet adds a particular resonance to the proceedings. Currently, Ukrainian culture is under threat and the world needs to see firsthand how proud Ukrainians are of their heritage to understand the lengths they will go to defend it. Poignantly, at the end of the night, the audience was asked to stand for Ukraine’s national anthem, a solemn reminder of the struggles that still lay ahead, tempered with an optimism that, eventually, good will triumph over evil.

 

Nick Stephan

 

 

Forest Song and Don Quixote by the Grand Kyiv Ballet

Concert Hall, QPAC

2nd July 2024

 

Dr Gemma Regan

 

 

It was a packed house of excited ballet fans that greeted the Kyiv Ballet of Ukraine with raucous applause after the Artistic Director Oleksandr Stoianov announced that the Ukrainian culture and spirit will never be destroyed. He promised they “will dance with all our hearts and soul for you!”

 

The Grand Kyiv Ballet world tour is a charity tour to support war-torn Ukraine with financial support from the Swedish and Norwegian Royal families and the President of Ukraine.

 

Forest Song has been performed as a Ukrainian folk story for over 75 years, with the Grand Kyiv Ballet the only company to perform it outside of Ukraine.

 

Forest Song is a fated love story between a forest Nymph Mavka (Marta Kaliandruk) and a human, Lukash (Viktor Tomashek). The traditional music was composed by local Mikhall Skorulyskyi and sadly played as only a soundtrack rather than by a live orchestra.

 

The simple forest set was adorned by the bright traditional Ukrainian costumes of fashion designer Malta Verbitskaya, with coloured billowing skirts, highlighting the twirling dances. It was danced skillfully, although most of the scenes had less intricate ballet moves than would be expected for an international ballet company.

 

Some parts of the story were also confusing, despite the narration and the constant pauses for applause every few minutes were distracting. Daniil Kish, as the Fire character, was the most interesting. Spiralling and twisting in a red catsuit and casting a red-lit hue as he roamed the forest.

 

The large cast formed a traditional village scene in Italy for the infamous Don Quixote with some very tall female dancers amongst the smaller ones. Zak Tidswell from the UK was good at the slapstick dance and overacting as Don Quixote, as was Vladyslav Yevtushenko, as his comical side-kick Sancho Panza.

 

The street scene monopolised the second half as various cast members did their dance. The men dancing the more traditional Kopek style was the most entertaining. The choreography, however, was quite monotonous throughout the two stories, with similar storylines and nowhere near enough show-stopping moves. At times, it was much more of a pantomime than a ballet.

 

However, both stories were well received by the Brisbane audience with constant applause throughout the show. There was also a wave of appreciation culminating in solidarity when the Ukraine flag was waved at the close. 

It is a unique opportunity to see Forest Song and the Kyiv Ballet of Ukraine, and I recommend you grab the chance as they tour around Australia. Overall, the Kyiv Ballet of Ukraine did not quite hit the promised highs with an uninspiring display of balletic moves which did not showcase the obvious talent of the Ukrainian dancers.  

 

A unique opportunity to watch a folk story in traditional costumes outside of Ukraine

 

It was a packed house of excited ballet fans that greeted the Kyiv Ballet of Ukraine with raucous applause after the Artistic Director Oleksandr Stoianov announced that the Ukrainian culture and spirit will never be destroyed. He promised they “will dance with all our hearts and soul for you!”

 

The Grand Kyiv Ballet world tour is a charity tour to support war-torn Ukraine with financial support from the Swedish and Norwegian Royal families and the President of Ukraine.

 

Forest Song has been performed as a Ukrainian folk story for over 75 years, with the Grand Kyiv Ballet the only company to perform it outside of Ukraine.

 

Forest Song is a fated love story between a forest Nymph Mavka (Marta Kaliandruk) and a human, Lukash (Viktor Tomashek). The traditional music was composed by local Mikhall Skorulyskyi and sadly played as only a soundtrack rather than by a live orchestra.

 

The simple forest set was adorned by the bright traditional Ukrainian costumes of fashion designer Malta Verbitskaya, with coloured billowing skirts, highlighting the twirling dances. It was danced skillfully, although most of the scenes had less intricate ballet moves than would be expected for an international ballet company.

 

Some parts of the story were also confusing, despite the narration and the constant pauses for applause every few minutes were distracting. Daniil Kish, as the Fire character, was the most interesting. Spiralling and twisting in a red catsuit and casting a red-lit hue as he roamed the forest.

 

The large cast formed a traditional village scene in Italy for the infamous Don Quixote with some very tall female dancers amongst the smaller ones. Zak Tidswell from the UK was good at the slapstick dance and overacting as Don Quixote, as was Vladyslav Yevtushenko, as his comical side-kick Sancho Panza.

 

The street scene monopolised the second half as various cast members did their dance. The men dancing the more traditional Kopek style was the most entertaining. The choreography, however, was quite monotonous throughout the two stories, with similar storylines and nowhere near enough show-stopping moves. At times, it was much more of a pantomime than a ballet.

 

However, both stories were well received by the Brisbane audience with constant applause throughout the show. There was also a wave of appreciation culminating in solidarity when the Ukraine flag was waved at the close. 

 

It is a unique opportunity to see Forest Song and the Kyiv Ballet of Ukraine, and I recommend you grab the chance as they tour around Australia. Overall, the Kyiv Ballet of Ukraine did not quite hit the promised highs with an uninspiring display of balletic moves which did not showcase the obvious talent of the Ukrainian dancers.  

 

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