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Dancing for Their Lives: The United Ukrainian Ballet Performs Alexei Ratmansky’s ‘Giselle’ on the Segerstrom Stage

Alexis Tutunnique as Albrecht and Cristine Shevchenko as Giselle, Act 1, United Ukrainian Ballet, Courtesy Mark Senior.

June 5, 2023

By Lydia E. Ringwald

We watch the horrors of the Ukraine war in the news, the plight of the free people of Ukraine, who chose independence from Soviet Russia, but who now are brutally bombarded by a regressive Soviet-style Russian regime and must stand strong to maintain the independence that they rightfully gained.

The Ukrainian refugees who escaped to avoid the bloodshed, carve out a tenuous life elsewhere, but remain loyal to their native soil and nurture hope of return. They dance for their lives, touring the world with performances in Taipei, Amsterdam, London, Singapore, Sydney and Washington to remind us that they still exist and that they will continue to honor their pledge to protect their country and their precious and costly freedom.

The United Ukrainian Ballet, with refugee ballet dancers, performs the classic ‘Giselle’ on the Segerstrom stage from June 29-July 3. Tickets are now available for these upcoming performances, with sales benefitting BlueCheck Ukraine, a non-profit organization that funds Ukrainian frontline organizations with lifesaving humanitarian aid.

Audiences passionate about dance, will relish the opportunity to experience Alexei Ratmansky’s interpretation of the evanescent ‘Giselle’, the romantic tale of the doomed love of a prince and a country maiden originally choreographed in the 19th century by Jean Coralli, Jules Perrot and Marius Petipa.

Alexei Ratmansky, a Ukrainian citizen, renown for his staging of classical ballets for American Ballet Theater and other world renown ballet companies, worked with the refugee dancers in the Hague to recreate the classic ‘Giselle’ for the newly formed United Ukrainian Ballet company. The themes of love, betrayal and redemption that haunt the poignant love story were emotionally cathartic for dancers dedicated to preserving and honoring the  cultural dignity and integrity of their war torn land.


Alexei Ratmansky in rehearsals for Giselle, United Ukrainian Ballet. Courtesy Altin Kaftira.


The United Ukrainian Ballet, under the artistic direction of Igone de Jongh, is based in the Hague at the former Royal Conservatoire building, where the 60 refugee dancers are able to live and work with support from local businesses and government.

Liev Schreiber, co-founder of BlueCheck Ukraine expressed his gratitude to Elizabeth Segerstrom, Director of the Henry T. and Elizabeth Segerstrom Foundation for underwriting the performances as part of the Henry T. Segerstrom Centennial.

Elizabeth Segerstrom, Director of the The Henry T. Segerstrom Foundation, offered  expressed her passionate belief in the value of art. “I am beyond words to express how thrilled I am to work with the genius of Alexei Ratmansky on a project which pushes the boundaries and makes a difference in the world. This unique collaboration is a chance to demonstrate the transformative power of the arts and its tremendous impact not only on those extraordinary dancers who have been displaced by war, but also on audiences to have a unique chance to participate directly in the cause. I am also excited to collaborate with yet another genius of the stage, Liev Schreiber, whose charity BlueCheck Ukraine will support and directly impact those most affected by the war.”

Centennial 2023 honors the legacy of Henry T. Segerstrom whose  visionary investment in the Segerstrom Center theater and cultural arts complex continues to enrich the Southern California community now and into the future.

Please visit Segerstrom Center www.scfta.org for tickets and further information.