In the past few weeks, Berlin Culture has organized a number of Solidarity Nights with Ukraine under threat. It is also a means of dealing with one’s own helplessness, to bear the incomprehensible and to become an actor and helper. HAU now shows a theater from Belarus, a scene of violence and oppression that will soon be forgotten.
What Iana Salenko created with “Ballet for Life” reaches another dimension. With over 1,200 people, Admiralspalast is fully occupied, and a program with top European dancers will be on stage, organized in a few days, led by the first Ukrainian-born soloist of the Berlin State Ballet.
Iana Salenko opens the party with a piece designed by Arshak Ghalumyan for this historic moment. Glomian and Salenko dance “Empty Hug”. longing crumbs It’s for someone who doesn’t exist, maybe he’s no longer alive. It’s also a hand outstretched to the audience.
It begins with the national anthem
This Thursday evening, two months after the start of devastating Russian attacks on the neighboring country, unknown things are happening from the well-protected cultural landscape. The Ukrainian national anthem is performed by opera singers Viktor Rudd and Maria Viksnina. She picks the turban, a giant multi-stringed lute. The master’s student at UdK is the only musician in the world who has mastered this Eastern European musical instrument in a classical way; It was also previously played in Russia, Poland and the Baltic States. Visitors rose, to views of the Kiev national anthem across the screen, and a huge blue and yellow flag fluttered in the wind.
On stage, next to the podium, are the flags of Ukraine and the Federal Republic of Germany. Long applause when Kyiv Ambassador Andrei Melnik entered the hall. He is the patron of “Ballet for Life” and carries the compliments of Ukrainian First Lady Olena Selinska. There is talk of the power of music when there are no words. And about art, which is the opposite of war: “Art is life.”
In Mariupol they still play Chekhov
Melnyk has a calm way of saying difficult things. It reminds us of the Mariupol theater where hundreds of civilians were killed by Russian bombing. In mid-February, says the ambassador, Chekhov’s play was still on the program. Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, Russian literature was of course the dominant discipline in the Mariupol Theater. It also calls Vladimir Nabokov, who fled to Germany before the October Revolution and later emigrated to the United States via France. A path many Ukrainians must now follow into exile.
Melnik says that Russia is destroying its culture: it has called Russia a great cultural nation. And one can add: Russia has developed the traditions of ballet like no other country.
Then Oleksandr Shpak, producer of the relief ceremony, demanded a minute of silence for the victims of the war in Ukraine. And the crowd rises again. Anyone not familiar with such sentiments from our quiet and often sarcastic everyday cultural lives will quickly understand. You have to adapt to a different world, regardless of whether the Federal Chancellor announces a turning point or not. She is there.
Serious and funny
It helps if the dance speaks an international language. It is pleasantly surprising how ballet is presented here. It can be seen in the work of choreographer Christian Spock of the Zurich Ballet, who will soon take up the position of Staatsballett Berlin. It’s illustrated in Dawn Solo with Katerina Chalkina, former Béjart Ballet Lausanne director: a short piece, like most shows in Ballet for Life, violent and intense. A young woman wakes up to the howling of a siren, her body is trying to adapt to the new situation, the danger.
Highlights, pluses. In addition to Gustav Mahler’s Abyss and Monterverde’s Tears, Iana Salenko has chosen a number of performers such as pas de deux “La Esmeralda” with Yolanda Correa of Staatsballet Berlin and Young Gyu Choi of the Dutch National Ballet: a circus-ready Spanish fire with long jumps and acrobatic dancing. Shori Yamamoto (Gauthier Dance/Theatrehaus Stuttgart) performs the “ABC” of the world of dance with dazzling comedy and charming subversion: ballet is also a world of orders and regulations. But Yamamoto is faster.
Iyana Salenko puts an end that gives little hope. Wearing a blond wig and dress-up, she swings across the stage and performs Marlene Dietrich’s “In den Kasernen” song. It resonates for a long time. “On brothers of men, they shoot there. / That’s the way it always was and never ends.”