By KERSTIN SOPKE, Associated Press
BERLIN (AP) — Dancers who fled Ukraine — and Russia — due to war have found a temporary new home at Berlin’s top ballet company, which helps with training space, housing and even shoes.
Around 200 dancers in total, many of whom are considering fleeing to Germany, have asked the capital’s famed State Ballet for help.
Christiane Theobald, the company’s acting artistic director, said Wednesday that it was crucial that these refugees maintain their regular practice, even if they don’t have public performances at the moment.
“The important thing is that daily training can be completed, because training is like brushing your teeth,” she told The Associated Press. “And the tragedy is that if you have phases where you can’t do it at all, then you can never make up for that.
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At the same time, Theobald said she has contacted other business leaders across Europe to see if she can help find new jobs for uprooted dancers.
“What we need now, of course, are positions in ensembles, and those who come…are mostly classically and highly classically trained dancers,” Theobald said.
Although there are around 70 dance ensembles in Germany, not all of them focus exclusively on classical dance like most Eastern European companies, but often practice modern dance as well. New dancers will therefore have to adapt to study and get used to the different styles of Western Europe.
On Wednesday morning, more than 30 dancers were practicing their moves in a gym in Berlin, including eight refugees, including two Brazilian dancers who had recently fled Russia.
Many arrive in Berlin with nothing and now receive plenty of practical help from the Berlin ensemble – from dancing shoes to accommodation.
“You have to imagine, these are people who have left everything behind, they have very little with them. It starts with the pointy shoes,” Theobald said.
Because the situation is so dynamic, with many dancers reaching Berlin and then some moving quickly to other destinations, the company said it was difficult to say exactly how many had already received help.
Among those fleeing Ukraine are people from all over the world who used to dance in ballet companies there. Russians no longer want to be exposed to the increasingly oppressive regime of President Vladimir Putin.
The State Ballet’s principal dancer, Iana Salenko, herself from Ukraine but who arrived in Germany in 2005, also helped the newcomers. Through her personal network, she tried to get them to audition in ballet companies across Europe, but also showed them opportunities in other fields of employment such as opera.
“Of course it’s not just me – many other managers in Europe are trying to help this group,” the 38-year-old said.
More than 3.5 million people have flocked to Europe to escape war, and almost everywhere they have been greeted with an outpouring of aid and solidarity.
Germany has registered nearly 240,000 Ukrainian refugees, although the actual numbers are expected to be much higher since they do not need visas to enter the country and the federal police only keep records of arriving refugees. by train or bus. Those arriving from Poland by car are usually not registered.
Salenko, the lead dancer, also shared the refugees’ concerns about their families back home during the war. While she and her mother are safe in Berlin, she worries about her father and brothers back in Ukraine and talks to them daily, just like the dancers who recently fled to Berlin.
Theobald said that although there were dancers from many different nations practicing together in Berlin, including Ukrainians and Russians, there were no tensions within the ensemble as a result of the war.
Salenko also pointed out that the war failed to divide the dancers, but rather brought them together as they tried to maneuver the horrible situation.
“This situation, I think it brought us closer, more together,” she said.
Kirsten Grieshaber in Berlin contributed to this.
Follow AP coverage of the war at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine
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