Ukrainian artists in Ireland at war at home – The Irish Times

In the Ukrainian city of Dnipro, a block from the river, the Shevchenko Theater building is almost palatial in its detail. An elaborate façade features three colossal panels carved in low relief, each depicting a key scene from classic Ukrainian plays. Rather than a place, a country’s theater history is written in stone.

After the Euromaidan protests in 2014, actor Alina Chornodub starred in the Shevchenko Theatre’s production of the 1918 fantasy play The Forest Song by Ukrainian playwright Lesya Ukrainka. Playing a mavka, Chornodub, a female spirit known from Ukrainian folklore to lure men to their deaths, Ukrainka interweaves the legend with a new story of female sacrifice, rejection, and eventual transgression.

„It’s an incredible story. When I first joined Shevchenko, I dreamed of playing this role,” says Sornodub, who arrived in Ireland after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last year. Dnipro’s political establishment changed after Euromaidan, with the EU replacing pro-Russian parties. Chornodub’s CV was read as a sign of a changing tide, with politicians looking for ties.

After The Forest Song, he appeared in the theater’s production of By the Sun Rises, The Devour the Ice, a fin-de-siècle melodrama by Marko Gropivnitsky that ultimately offered a cross-sectional portrait of Eastern continental society. Not unlike the 19th-century Anton Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard, except where the play sympathizes with the fading tsarist era, Grobyvnitsky’s play taps into the oppressive regime of Ukraine.

What happened in Dnipro in the 2010s seems prescient. Shevchenko had long maintained a policy of performing all his plays in Ukrainian; Later, other theaters in the city began to join in rejecting Russian-language shows — a shift across the country again after Vladimir Putin ordered his „special military operation” there. „This is a very important step, and the fact that the theaters switched to the Ukrainian language did not stop the audience. On the contrary, in my opinion, more people started coming to the theaters because it had a greater impact on strengthening the Ukrainian national spirit,” says Sornodub through a translator.

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The Shevchenko Theater is operating despite Ukrainian cultural sites being targeted by the Russian military – UNESCO said last week. Verified damage For 255 sites. Among the destroyed structures were the beloved Railway Workers’ Science and Technology Cultural Center in Lyman and, shockingly, the Mariupol Theater, which had been turned into a bunker for the city’s vulnerable residents.

Chornodub, who lives with a host family in Dublin, runs drama classes for Ukrainian children. She also wants to act here. „I’m trying to improve my English as soon as possible.”

Choreographer Julia Artemenko spent a decade creating contemporary dance in Kherson. Inside Dance Studio A center for teaching many forms of dance. When he brought the Kherson choreographer Anton Safonov from Kiev, their two dance troupes performed in a triple bill in one of the city’s libraries. „It was the first real evening of contemporary dance in Gerson,” says Artemenko, who now lives in Ennis, Co Clare.

Recognizing the importance of such artistic exchanges, he worked hard to import models of performance from outside Gerson, including a kind of outdoor, site-based dance route that reshaped the city’s residents’ relationship with their home. (None of his dance productions have been staged in Gerson’s purpose-built venues. „The academic theater was untenable, but we didn’t need to go there because it’s so big. I think it’s perfect for contemporary art. Be more intimate,” he says.)

Among these procession dances was the Red Line, which separates pedestrians from commercial areas on the Ukrainian sidewalk. The production raised questions about Kherson’s urbanity and who the city is for: “Sometimes we see the red line moving to allow people to sell more. Ukraine had a lot of it. Cities shouldn’t be like this because there is already little space for people to move around.

All such productions are so spectacular that they are largely self-financed by Artemenko and depend on ticket sales. “I don’t feel supported by the government. We had the opportunity to do what we did, but we had to figure it out on our own,” he says.

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Dancers are imaginably sensitive to the way trauma lives in the body. „Something broke inside me in an instant,” he says, recalling waking up in the morning to the attack at the airport near his home. A week later Kherson was under Russian control.

At Ennis, Artemenko began taking movement-based practices that held the body together. She goes jogging and yoga classes in the morning. He got in touch with its owner, Laura Ilis Breakthrough Dance StudioNow she is teaching again.

„It’s important for me to work and do something,” says Artemenko, who wants to learn more about the dance scene in Limerick and Dublin and connect with other artists.

Ukrainian actor Masha Galeva has found solace by taking her host family’s dogs to Wicklow Beach. Originally from the landlocked city of Kharkiv, she had never lived near the sea before arriving in Ireland last year.

Galeeva Kharkiv acted for nine years at the award-winning Sorvantsi Youth Theater — „It worked like a professional theater, we were treated like professionals,” she says — and starred in daring plays like Flying Love, a tale of teenage limbo and depression. By Robert Oreshnik. In Cork, there is no Sorvantsi Theatre.

He moved away from the theater to focus on a career in marketing, but his connection to the media reignited in Ireland. „When the world’s on fire, you realize what’s really important to you,” he says. Before moving to Wicklow, he lived in Longford, where he helped with preparations Backstage theaterIncluding contemporary drama by Root, Luke Casserly and Shauna Mae Breen Luminaria, a play by Fionnuala Gygax for young audiences. „Every month or two I try to indulge myself in something,” he says.

Ireland is now also home to some aspiring Ukrainian artists. Veronika Shipiro and her family were forced to leave their home town of Kremenchuk after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. „They left everything behind. Even her pointe shoes had to be replaced when she came to us,” says artistic director Lindsey Ashe-Brown. Irish National Youth Ballet, of which 12-year-old Veronica is now a member. He appeared in its production of The Nutcracker last December and is rehearsing this week for an appearance in Frederick Ashton’s ballet Les Badineurs, or The Skaters, on its stage set on a frozen pond. Veronica, who lives in Celbridge, Co Kildare, said: “I find dancing on skates really fun. He has a scholarship at the institute, thanks to a private donor. The grant ends this month; Ashe-Brown hopes a new funder will come forward.

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A fellow young artist, Dana Sidorenko, appeared Dublin Youth Theatre Debut One Act Festival last month. Dana, who lives in Gormanstown, Co Meath, says her role – an anxious teenager in the fallout from a serious incident at school – was useful for working through her own feelings of fear and unease. „At the end she delivers a monologue that is so close to me that every word resonates with me.”

Dana was from Chernihiv, one of the first battlefields of the war when it was besieged by the Russian army. Many parts of the city were destroyed by bombing. He acted in an amateur theater company there, including an adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale The Snow Queen. She played Gerda, its young heroine. „I like her because she is kind, strong and knows the ways of the world. Gerda never gives up and finds a way out of a difficult situation,” Dana says.

Such backsliding now seems less of an option than the demand of all displaced Ukrainians. The story of the country’s theater is written on the walls of Shevchenko, but it is not the only place where it is engraved. Masha Galeva misses her friends and colleagues from Kharkiv, but remains hopeful. „We’re all over the world, but we still have the theater in mind.”

Irish National Youth Ballet There is a quadruple bill of Paquita, Schubert Impromptu, Les Patineurs and An Choill Helix TheatreDublin 9, Thursday, May 18 and Friday, May 19

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