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Ukrainian ballet company uses the stage as a refuge from the horrors of war

Ukrainian ballet company makes U.S. debut
Ukrainian ballet company makes U.S. debut 01:40

The men and women of the United Ukrainian Ballet company will make their U.S. debut Wednesday night at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.

The company of 60 relative strangers formed with the help of professional dancers who found housing and rehearsal space in The Hague.

Last February, Oleksii Knyazkov was about to star in "Romeo and Juliet" at the Kharkiv National Opera House. Instead, he found himself at the center of a different tragedy when Russia invaded Ukraine.

The United Ukrainian Ballet "Swan Lake" Rehearsal
Dancers of the United Ukrainian Ballet perform during rehearsal for Swan Lake at ICC Sydney Theatre on Oct. 27, 2022, in Sydney, Australia.  Don Arnold/WireImage via Getty Images

"You don't think about performing or something like this when the aircraft go over your house, or you hear explosions," Knyazkov told CBS News.

Vladyslava Ihnatenko fled Odessa with dance clothes and a single pair of pointe shoes. 

"We didn't dance for a long time, because the most important thing was to save yourself," Ihnatenko said.

"Of course, we all wanted to come back to Ukraine to see our families, friends," she added.

In October, CBS News also spoke with members of the Kyiv City Ballet company while they were on tour in Chicago. According director Ivan Kozlov, the dance company left Ukraine last February to perform in Paris, and were only supposed to be gone for three weeks; then Russia invaded Ukraine the day after they left.

"You can't plan anything," Ihnatenko said. "Maybe tomorrow everything will change...Will we have our home tomorrow? You don't know."

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