Dancing despite war – From war-torn Ukraine to the big ballet stage | DW Documentary

Dancing despite war – From war-torn Ukraine to the big ballet stage | DW Documentary

Dancing despite war – From war-torn Ukraine to the big ballet stage | DW Documentary

In Ukraine, the talented young dancer Danylo is on the verge of a breakthrough. Then, war breaks out. In Mainz, Germany, dance teacher Irina Starostina takes the 16-year-old in. A former ballet dancer in Kyiv, Irina promises to help him succeed at the highest level.

“Danylo’s father called me and asked: ‘Can you save us? If he doesn’t train, then that’s it.‘” Irina didn’t hesitate: “I didn’t think for half a second about whether I would take him.” She brought Danylo from Kyiv to Germany and is now doing everything she can to ensure that his years of training were not in vain. He lives with her at the dance school so that he can complete six hours of training a day. But the dangerous escape from Ukraine under fire has left its mark.
Irina herself used to be a dancer in Kyiv. Now, she runs one of the few ballet schools in Mainz that train young dancers at a world-class level. She calls them “my children” and takes them to elite international competitions. Her network, built during her days as a celebrated international dancer, spans the globe. Irina’s classical dance training program takes eight years to complete. Only her very best students — aged ten to 18 — are allowed to train with her, for up to six hours a day.
Irina is currently paying particular attention to the young dancers who were destined for an international ballet career in Ukraine and whose dreams are now in danger of being buried under rubble. At the same time, she is working tirelessly to organize aid deliveries for her war-torn native country. But next up is the big international dance competition in Spoleto, Italy. Danylo is expected to win there and show the world that Ukrainian dancing is unstoppable. Will Danylo manage to overcome the trauma of war to realize his dream of a dancing career?

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Video Transcript

Enina wants to help both him and his talent danila 16 years old has fled the war in Ukraine we call this the Holy Temple this space helps us live our lives here we forget everything else can danila forget his War experiences and dance and soft slowly slowly yeah I see a lot of

Force force is stupid we don’t need force force it’s War the former ballerina from Kiev is supporting Ukraine however she’s able to danila is her greatest hope I’d like to make him into something special passion and Relentless practice towards a common goal again will win in all

Categories but will they win at an international dance competition in Italy with ‘s help will danila make it to the top despite the War danila mov now lives in a suburb of Mines Germany a former ballet student at the Kiev National Opera he fled Ukraine when Russian bombs began falling on his home when the war broke out my father came into my room at 5:00 in the morning

He got me out of bed saying wake up son the war has begun at first I thought it was a joke what war what’s this all about there were bombs then a second strike hit I was up and by the third strike I thought the windows would be blown out of the

Pains that everything would be destroyed after that something needed to be done I had to act I talked to my father about it and he called enina who said yes he can come stay with me so I got on a bus and I came here at Irina starostina ballet school

Everyone is on their feet today last night buses from Ukraine pulled into the school Courtyard why you tomorrow they’ll set off for the war zone everybody pitches in including irina’s ballet students for several weeks now the school director has been stockpiling material donations in the Seller what’s in these boxes yeah that’s that’s feed for children that’s children’s things here stuff for women for men enina stosa collects supplies to order people write to her personally straight from the war zone hospitals ask for medical equipment children’s homes for shoes often it’s the dancers who are

Driving out to reach Ukraine’s smallest Villages it’s a huge undertaking for Ina’s helpers danila takes it in his Stride he says it’s like practice for him because he also has to lift and carry the girls it’s good training here he came from such a difficult situation himself he’s experienced it all and doesn’t talk much about it but I know he’s been deeply affected and I can say he’s young but

He’s doing a great job he works very hard at his ballet and how he copes with it all as a Young Man is really amazing the bus now an aid transport vehicle will be filled with as much as possible break time no rest though for danila and his 14-year-old dance partner

Florentina they still have afternoon rehearsals for a dance competition in 4 weeks time Danilo an exceptional Talent comes from a dance Dynasty his father and I danced together at the theater his grandmother was a star in Ukraine his father called and asked can you save us because if he can’t train then that’s

It he said I can only sent him to you this is his own child then a 15-year-old boy I didn’t think about it for a second and said Yes the dream of a great career at ena’s renowned ballet school it’s what every student is going after the former star ballerina from Kiev is one of only very few teaching talented young dancers Classical Ballet at a world class level the Pudu from Swan Lake is a duet usually danced only by adult

Soloists the duo trains for six hours each day puberty has effectively been called Off we find ourselves in the midst of puberty with a lot to achieve we have to make the leap from a child bone structure to adult bone structure muscles that were just carrying children’s bones must now suddenly support much heavier bones if we then concerned ourselves with the problems of puberty we’d never

Master our profession ballet isn’t for everyone the teacher knows the choreography of almost all the classics by heart but of course from a female dancers’s perspective today inen is getting support on the male perspective via FaceTime from a kazak friend of hers also a star dancer he’s performed Swan Lake hundreds of times Little things when does he have to stand behind his partner wears her point of balance down to the millimeter then the duet goes smoothly in four weeks time he’ll be displaying his talent in front of an international jury for Danilo and Florentina the Swan Lake and Don kote Duets represent a great

Challenge we have to build you up bit by bit so that you’re in top shape in time for the competition in your physicality and your morale morale is not a problem with you thank God but the physical aspect is what we’ve got to focus On Happ But it’s a lot of fun to dance with him too it’s as if he’s always been here as if he were born here alongside all my other children of course I miss my parents I call them every Day it was very difficult at first when I first arrived here I didn’t understand anything it was a new language for me everything was new I met people here ukrainians and we’ve become friends especially enina she’s Ukrainian herself and she’s always there for her own people always that’s how I’ve been able to

Adapt I’ve been living here for more than a year and I like being here especially because things here are much better than in Ukraine at the moment there you can’t do anything not even go to school for the age shipment enena ordered 150 pairs of shoes for a Ukrainian

Children’s home delivered an error to her cousin the boxes are pretty heavy they said they needed shoes summer shoes and for between Seasons I bought General shoes for all of them but only a few pairs of summer shoes I don’t weigh enough for [Laughter] this along with her appetite she’s lost

A bit of weight since the outbreak of the war she’s been restless and always wants to help well crl in were those all blankets yes Arena has negotiated a discount from this furniture store a retirement home near venitzia urgently needs towels yeah that’s do you also have trash bags thank

You m because we send it over in trash bags not Boxes asking people for help for Ukraine it’s become a daily task for enena thank you so much I hope the people like them thank you you too bye thank you thank you have a nice day you too thanks the clock is ticking departure is set for that afternoon

Last year they were able to send generators twice from here to Ukrainian theaters in Lviv and Odessa and fire extinguishers for Museums Edina has also brought her mother out of the war zone now people everywhere want to help Ukraine we’re very grateful for that but even more we want for the chaos the horror and lawlessness to be over as quickly as possible enina has also taken in the

Ballet master and a dancer from the Kiev National Opera we just hope that everything will get better yeah where the dog come from from here here then because we can’t be with our families I think it helps me both are teaching at Arena’s school I try very hard to find work and

Many of us have tried to return to Ukraine but it’s very difficult under the current circumstances we have to look somehow into the future and work is work the bus drivers are expert Packers now a visit from the chairman of the local German Ukrainian Association hello hello the trunks’s already full yeah yes

This is for the Children’s Home the lawn mower and the rest is already in that’s in that was the hardest bit we packed all this for the old people’s home perfect that’s great Lucas Austine has been organizing Aid donations since the outbreak of the war a year on a lot of persuading is

Needed to keep the money flowing in he knows the bus drivers well and appreciates their work we received this donation just a week ago on Saturday so this is very fresh now we can say that a week later we’ve already sent it off to Ukraine I’ve just asked the driver it will

Arrive in two days time at the Children’s Home in Venia the clinic in KV or the old people’s home the drivers there will send me photos so we can prove it hasn’t just ended up in some stockpile but right where it’s Needed we have to be strong and stick together even if the tears flow we mustn’t give up [Applause] Word of her commitment has spread and today enena is being welcomed into the minds Rotary Club hello hello are you excited very much of course it’s an honor as has already been mentioned you held a wonderful talk for us here on October 19th and we have this as a

Symbol you can wear to display your membership a pin may I present it to you thank you with my warm congratulations of being accepted into our club the generators donated for theaters in Odessa and laviv had been her greatest wish one mustn’t get too wrapped up in

Other details for a country like Ukraine with a long history the protection of culture is of course also vitally important Lucas Austine deliberately presents images of the most recent Russian attacks in order to make the needs of the people in the war zone tangible you can’t imagine what good

Those generators have done that every evening people can have a couple of hours peace it’s hugely significant thank you for everything the the in times like these can give a little bit of life not Joy because in this situation that’s a different thing I think that’s very important right now because it’s true

Art Saves the World this is for danila the war in his home country can often feel very close worry comes as he talks on the phone to his family in KV at the same time he has the competition to concentrate on until now he’s been lacking a modern

Piece to present to the jury so far he’s only ever danced classical Ballance that’s why he’s meeting Florentina today in another dance studio in mindes they’re here to rehearse a short piece a love story for that they’ve both put aside their classical training to get the support they need from a contemporary

Choreographer Stefan deatra yeah Flo sorry from the beginning yeah don’t look on the floor like a pillow this is like um like hug hug yeah this hug don’t move that’s it it’s like you feel her here you feel you feel you feel this with her this is what you have to feel

Yeah and go look at her yeah you have to look at her from here look she touch you you say you say oh my God you say is it you Che now look what I do look what I do come with me follow me come here into my world soft and she

Goes hop and go move move your neck soft slowly slowly yeah I see a lot of force MH force is stupid we don’t need force force it’s War I don’t want to dance with Force because then you can go do stupid stuff you dance you dance because you

Want to touch the soul of the people you dance because you want to reach emotion you want to express who you are you want to express your story you want to share love you dance because you want to share with Dan it’s his first time working

With me and I think it’s definitely his first time working in this style which is the L Dance Company style so something also special uh we use the classical Bas but we also move in a modern way with a lot of twist a lot of oppositions and um when I work with

Danny I see that there’s a little bit of resistance sense with his body like if he would try to keep strong to be strong at the moment maybe because of his private life keeps strong but at the end of the day he has to find a way to free

Himself into the movement which I think he can come but just need a bit more time when he comes into the ballet Hall can you feel when Danilo isn’t doing well when there’s been another attack on ke for instance yes I can see it in his Expressions how he looks yeah

Do you try and help him yeah yes all of us at the dance school do that but the way the way I take her here the way I’m there stand up by yourself here and the way here I’m like soft with her now now the way s way the way I’m there for

Her I’m there for her I’m not putting her here go go romantic one more time you speak with your body so you have to make sure that when you speak you are clearly articulated that people can understand what you say so when you do something each finger each part of your body is

Aware and it’s feeling and it’s delicate no definition no intention no it’s marking understand one more time yeah and now T and now fingers fingers voila feel voila feel pull H yes good continue and continue tck now face what you see what you see what you see and

You have armor yeah it’s like I want I want what you want in life Ferrari yeah you want a Ferrari so now you do this you see the Ferrari I want I want I want I want it I need to see in your eyes what you see if you do

This next answer you want to win the first prize so you want to show the technique the way you move the way you partner and who you are your personality it’s a lot of fun it’s great working with and it’s also a lot of fun with Dano it’s not as

Stressful it’s just nice to dance no no stress all good Meanwhile at the home of the Ukrainian honorary Consul Lucas Austine is updating Hans juren dos on the aid Shipment I’ve never seen so many adult people cry in my life I have to confess I really feel it in my heart when they see all the misery the injured you on a human level that’s one of my main motivations for doing this it’s simply helping out showing neighborly Love all Aid relief is scrupulously registered in Ukraine the gratitude for Lucas Austine and enina stina’s commitment to helping is immense a certificate of thanks from the V National Opera she’s basically our tie with Ukraine so we can be sure that the nations are arriving where they

Should we don’t want to get Aid to large camps or facilities but directly to the recipients that’s only possible with friends here in Germany who know their way around both here and in ukra And just two days after departing from Arena’s dance school comes news from the bus drivers with photos and videos they document the successful delivery to a children’s home in venitzia a retirement home and a clinic back at ‘s dance school its final changes to the costumes it’s only three

Three days until the competition in Italy Danilo watches videos of his favorite dancer M barishnikov over and Over to be honest I do have a dream maybe a dream any have to go to America and live there my favorite dancer barishnikov to New York and began working in the New York City Ballet I’ve watched him in videos and often imagined what it would be like to suddenly be there

Myself but a lot can happen Know placing in the Italian competition would bring him a great deal closer to that dream for years now enina starostina protes have been among the best the costumes have all come from a renowned Kiev theater tailor a tutu for the Black Swan costs €1,200 for enina nothing else would

Do student Lena pengle will also be travel to the competition but enena is still not satisfied with danilo’s costume here again she seeks advice from the kazak master via FaceTime not the black one maybe the blue one there’s no decoration for the competition most perfect yeah the costume has to stand on its

Own all the costumes were once worn by aren’s husband another former solo dancer from Kiev this one also doesn’t fit if it’s restrictive here the muscles have no space to move and then he can’t lift her our teacher always said ballet is something special when you walk down the

Street everyone has to see that you’re something special just walking past everyone has to admire you how beautiful we don’t know why but that’s how it is how you move how you walk how you turn your head how you laugh how you answer what kind of voice you have all

Of that is part of ballet training can you make it tighter at the bottom it shouldn’t hang Loosely it needs to be form fitting but looser at the top so that it doesn’t pinch when he’s [Applause] lifting no I’m not afraid of going into the competition going there and dancing be a great experience for me to win and that’s thanks to my teacher Aina who how shall I say it gives me the guidance to do everything correctly so that I’ll

Win you could say it that way and yes I’m certain of it I’m fully convinced Spoleto Italy for one week the ancient town is transformed into a bustling Center for Dance inen has traveled here with Lena Florentina and danila all three have already made it through the preliminary Round young talents from around the globe compete in Spoleto’s theater Ukraine has a number of talented performers in the competition Russia on the other hand hasn’t submitted a single entry this year the jury sees classical and modern pieces in knockout rounds presented individually and in groups ‘s three pupils are about to have

Their turns every few minutes talented dancers from all over the world are displaying the results of their years of practice for the semi-final Danilo and Florentino will present their modern piece by Stefan deat Dan Danilo are you nervous he’s feeling secure an exchange with another Ukrainian dancer in Exile once more they go over what deat taught them for the love scene above all Letting Go releasing their inner resistance will it work a nervous Arena has taken her seat in the Box it’s a high caliber jury ballet directors former soloists dance critics I’m sitting on the porch wind blowing through my Hair the Ducks are fing in the pond but I just can’t seem to care Hal Okay okay guys by a wonderful showing enena couldn’t be prouder of her [Applause] students I can say that my children are the best in the world they’re true professionals they’ve shown twice on stage that they’re at the highest level they were together like one organism and with our performance we’ll show how

We’ll win in every aspect in Al for her it was also a Triumph for Ukrainian culture nothing now stands in the way of her three proteges reaching the Final since fleeing Ukraine Florentina has become very important to danila he spent many hours in the ballet Hall with her and he wants to win with her the next day the finals are scheduled for that evening all Irina sees of picturesque Spoleto is this bar she quickly organizes a few sandwiches and this

One without There’s basically no time but they have to get something to eat they need a little extra energy to get them through the evening now it’s quickly into the theater to rehearse for the final Florentina and Danilo will present the Padu from Dono to the [Applause] Jury [Laughter] [Applause] mus the most difficult aspect the stage isn’t flat we don’t have to do everything but we have to have tried everything because this tilted stage is a surprise the inclined stage provides a better view from the auditorium but all the previously rehearsed jumps and turns need need to be Adjusted the jury arrives backstage Danilo and Florentina run through donyo in their minds over and over again first Lena pengle dances and does so [Applause] flawlessly a Ukrainian pat on the back now it’s make or break for Danilo and Florentina Was that perfect enough to place Well that was actually good but you got distracted by the music I told you that before don’t listen to it pay attention to the choreography if you had followed your own Tempo everything would have been fantastic she was satisfied but there was some criticism there’s always critique nothing is ever perfect in

Ballet but with critique you can improve a lot for the next time even in training to reach your goals faster it’s important that I don’t present myself here as a child but as a mature adult Dancer For the children and young adults now comes a trial of their patience already fully costumed for the gala afterwards they wait an eternity for the results it has been an exhausting week at the peak of their Performance Lina for Lena pengel the evening is a Triumph the 13-year-old wins the jury’s grand prize and goes home with a scholarship for the ballet Academy in Rome Danilo also receives the coveted prize for his performance in the duet but there’s no prize for his partner Florentina

The brutal reality of the battle to be the best in the world arena is shocked and has to console danila despite his victory on the one hand of course I’m happy for two of my students but I just don’t understand why did only Danilo receive the award and why didn’t Florentina get a

Prize she still has work to do two years younger physicality work rest a little less strength there are things you pick up precisely from a competition like this enina starostina may have taken top placing with two of her three pupils but above and beyond that she has saved her

Protege Danilo mov from the horrors of War

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