April 1, 2023

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These dancers fled the war.  Their journeys are just the beginning.

These dancers fled the war. Their journeys are just the beginning.

New York-based NYU has led a lot of work to find new homes for Ukrainian students US Youth Grand Prix, an organization that runs competitions to help dancers get scholarships. It was scheduled to hold its first ever event in Ukraine in March. When the Russian War began, Larisa Savelyev, the organization’s co-founder and former Bolshoi dancer, said she emailed the 50 or so dancers who had registered to say, “If you want to help, let me know.”

Her mobile phone number was soon passed among dancers in Ukraine, and she was called day and night, often by students who arrived at the Polish border, alone, some without passports. They would simply ask, Savelyev said, “Where should I go?” She bugged her contacts, then sent them across Europe to schools, including to La Scala in Milan and John Cranko School in Stuttgart.

About two months into the war, Savelyev said, telephone contacts did not stop. “Initially, it was a humanitarian effort,” Savelyev said. “All we were thinking was, ‘Let’s find these kids a crib. “Now we have to think about educating them.”

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Savelyev said it was difficult to bring students to the United States due to the lengthy visa process, although she was able to place two students, who already had visas, in American schools. “We have at least 50 schools ready to host Ukrainian dancers; we can’t get them here,” she said. “They were trying.” (Savelyev added that British ballet schools were also unable to accept students, due to strict visa rules.)

Despite the visa status, at least one American ballet company is trying to help. On May 4, lawyers working for the Miami City Ballet submitted a visa application for Yulia Moskalenko28, a manager at the Ukrainian National Ballet, to join the company.