October 27, 1867, was both a holiday for Kievites and a milestone in the history of Ukrainian music as the National Academic Opera and Ballet Theatre of Ukraine (the National Ballet of Ukraine), or Kiev Opera Theatre, raised its curtain for the first time.
The creation of a ballet company at the theatre began in the early 20th century, with such members as B. Nezhinskaya, O. Kochetkovsky and O. Osovskaya. Incidentally, the two most distinguished dancers of the 20th century, Vaslav Nijinsky and Serge Lifar, both hailed from Kiev. The theatre’s creative palette was considerably enriched in the post-war years. Alongside masterful directors, a galaxy of talented young artists joined the company.
The National Academic Opera and Ballet Theatre of Ukraine became one of the biggest performing arts companies in Europe, with the troupe setting out on its first international tour in the 1950s. Its appearances met with great success in France, Bulgaria, Yugoslavia, Hungary and other countries. In 1964, the company took part in the International Paris Classical Dance Festival. The company was awarded with the French Dance Academy’s top prize, the Étoile d’Or, and two Kiev Ballet soloists, Iraida Lukashova and Valeriy Parsegov, received the Anna Pavlova and Vaslav Nijinsky awards. Tatyana Tayakina and Valeriy Kovtun were also awarded the same prestigious prizes in later years. The Kiev Ballet’s performances in Paris became highlights of the European cultural calendar and provided major impetus for the company’s subsequent performances across Europe, North America and Asia.
From 1992 to 2000, the ballet company of the National Academic Opera and Ballet Theatre was headed by well-known Ukrainian choreographer Anatoliy Shekera (1935–2000) and from 2000 until 2011 by Viktor Iaremenko who was named a “Peoples’ Artist of Ukraine.” One of the company’s leading soloists for 20 years, he debuted as a choreographer with a production of Sheherazade by N. Rimskiy-Korsakov, followed by A. Adam’s Le Corsaire, I. Stravinsky’s Petrushka, A. Glazunov’s Raimonda, The Marriage of Figaro based on a score by W. A. Mozart and Y. Stankovych’s The Lord of Borysthenes.
Today the company is managed by Aniko Rekhviashvili, “People’s artist of Ukraine”, a well-known Ukrainian choreographer. The company’s 2014 production of Lady of the Camellias, created by A. Rekhviashvili in collaboration with well-known Ukrainian conductor O. Baklan, was a creative triumph. The company also produced Snow Queen in 2015, and Nights in the Spain Gardens and El Sombrero de tres picos in 2016.
The National Ballet of Ukraine is well known in Germany, Switzerland, Denmark, Japan, Hungary, Oman, Greece, Spain, Italy, USA, Canada, Mexico, China, Latin America and Australia. It has always maintained the tradition of ballet while consistently demonstrating high level of performances.