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presented by - Sid and Nellie Braaksma
Artistic Director & Choreographer | Viktor Lytvynov, National Artist of Ukraine
As a soloist with the Kyiv Ballet of the National Opera of Ukraine in the 1960's, Viktor Lytvynov was known for his interpretation of heroic and dramatic roles. The former Artistic Director of the Kyiv Ballet of the National Opera of Ukraine and the Municipal Opera and Ballet Theatre of Kyiv, Viktor is currently Resident Choreographer for both companies.
Viktor’s work with Canada’s Ukrainian Shumka Dancers has been hailed by audiences and critics alike and through the years, propelling Shumka to a new dance level with his 1995 work Absolutely Shumka and Shumka’s Cinderella in 2000. Viktor was the Artistic Director and Choreographer of Sulyma Productions Inc.’s THE NUTCRACKER, a ballet fantasy (1997-2004), featuring the Kyiv Ballet and Shumka; excerpts of this Nutcracker were performed in the touring spectacular A Royal Christmas, starring Julie Andrews, Christopher Plummer and Andrea Bocelli. Viktor’s Pathways to Hopak, a special commission by Shumka, premiered at the Canada Dance Festival at Ottawaʼs National Arts Centre in 2004.
In 2007 & 2008, Viktor collaborated with Kyiv composer Yuri Shevchenko to create two full-length ballets, Pinocchio and Dr. Doolittle. The premieres were such a resounding success that the National Opera of Ukraine, which commissioned this extraordinary artistic team, has made it a permanent part of the Kyiv Ballet’s repertoire. Viktor’s recent full-length ballet is Caprice – The Life of Paganini.
Set and Costume Designer | Maria Levitska, National Artist of Ukraine
Maria is the fourth generation of a Kyiv family of artists and has dedicated her life to creating stage designs that seek unity with nature. Having studied at the Art Institute in Kyiv, Maria has designed more than 200 operas, ballets and dramatic works in Ukraine, Russia, Slovenia, Poland, Japan and Canada. Her ﬁrst ballet production was Lysenko’s 1983 work The Magic Dream at the National Opera of Ukraine, marking her long association with the National Opera, which culminated in her appointment as Director of Stage Design in 1989. More recently, she’s designed sets and costumes for many historical ﬁlms created and produced at the Dovzhenko Film Studios. Maria’s art has also appeared in exhibitions in Moscow, Gdansk, Kyiv, Prague (Prague Quadrennial), Israel and Tokyo.
In Kyiv Ballet tours of Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, Coppelia and THE NUTCRACKER, a ballet fantasy, audiences in Canada, the United States, Europe and Japan have seen her stunning sets and costumes. Maria’s set and costume designs for Shumka’s Cinderella, Pathways to Hopak and Eve of Kupalo have provided an entirely new visual world, and benchmark, for theatrical Ukrainian dance. In Shumka at 50, Maria’s new scrim designs for Harvest Angels and 50th Anniversary Hopak proved to be breathtaking displays of her stunning work.
In 2003, Maria received Ukraine’s Honorary Lifetime Achievement Awardfor her work.
Artistic Consultant & Choreographer | John Pichlyk, Canada’s Ukrainian Shumka Dancers
Shumka’s Artistic Director from 1982 to 1996, John joined the company as a dancer in 1976 before studying in New York then Ukraine with the famed Virsky Dance Academy. A man with a vision and an intrinsic understanding of dance, John stood at the helm of one of the largest, most diverse dance companies ever to tour Canada and abroad. Under his guidance, the company made an historic tour to Ukraine and pushed the boundaries of Ukrainian dance by creating a unique hybrid of folk dance, ballet, character and modern dance. A strong believer in the universality of the human spirit, John endeavours to create dance that transcends all boundaries and ultimately touches the soul. Respectful of the time-honoured traditions of Ukrainian folklore and customs, he believes that Ukrainian dance must also evolve, reflecting the sensitivities of the performers and their audience.
Artistic Director | Jorden Morris, Citie Ballet
Jorden Morris is an Alberta-born, internationally-renowned ballet choreographer. Her trained at the Royal Winnipeg Ballet school and after graduating, joined the company as a principal dancer, performing as the lead in both classical and contemporary works. After retiring from his career as a principal dancer, Jorden studied choreography at New York University, while also studying early French choreography from Claude Bessy and Serge Golovine of the Paris Opera.
Jorden premiered his first work in 1999, a one-act, 55-minute reinterpretation of Alexander Dumas’s The Three Musketeers. The piece has been remounted by the Royal Winnipeg Ballet since its premiere.
He choreographed three works in 2000: One for the Alabama School of Fine Arts in Birmingham, Alabama, that would go on to be performed at the Birmingham Arts Festival, and was commissioned by the Royal Winnipeg Ballet to choreograph two pieces for Queen Elizabeth. The pas de deux were not only performed for Her Royal Highness but broadcast nationally on CBC television.
While furthering his career in choreography, Jorden was appointed chief ballet master and assistant to the director with the Boston Ballet from 2000-2002.
Jorden choreographed several pieces between his showing for the Queen and the 2006 premiere of his full-length ballet interpretation of Peter Pan. It was the biggest box office in the Royal Winnipeg Ballet’s history, until it was surpassed three years later by Morris’s next full-length ballet, Moulin Rouge. These two works have gone on to be performed by the Atlanta Ballet, Pittsburgh Ballet, and was seen by over 100,000 people while on tour.
Jorden continues to work with the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, creating works inspired by artists, from painter Egon Scheile to poet Leonard Cohen. Jorden is currently Artistic Director of Edmonton’s Citie Ballet.
Musical Director | Yuri Shevchenko, Honoured Artist of Ukraine
Based in Kyiv, Ukraine, Yuri is acknowledged as one of the finest composers in the Ukrainian classical and theatrical music scene. He creates works for musical, dramatic theatre and television productions, as well as orchestral works for ballet, folk dance and choral ensembles. In 1998, the President of Ukraine awarded Yuri the Honoured Artist of Ukraine distinction for his expansive musical contributions to the country.
Yuri’s 15 years of composing music for Shumka has resulted in a profound artistic relationship. The marvel of his score for 1995’s Absolutely Shumka was followed by the full-length composition for Shumka’s Cinderella, which toured Canada, China and Ukraine from 2000 to 2007. During the composition process for Cinderella he noted, “we would need to resolve many of the musical questions from the standpoint of folkloric intonations, that is, to tell the tale through the language of Ukrainian melody.” This statement has guided his sensitivities as a Ukrainian composer profoundly attached to his roots while living in a contemporary world. Yuri’s composition of Shumka’s ground-breaking contemporary work Pathways to Hopak was a prestigious commission by the 2005 Canada Dance Festival in Ottawa, where it premiered.
Yuri’s newest gift to Shumka is his progressive and captivating Anniversary Hopak, which enjoyed its world premiere as the grand finale in Shumka at 50: An Anniversary Concert in 2009. With a respectful nod to the past and a grand reach to the future, this work is a testament to the growth of Ukrainian dance as an art form. Most recently, Yuri has arranged a grand symphonic version of Carol of the Bells (the Ukrainian Christmas carol Shchedryk) for inclusion in the 2013 world premiere of Sulyma Production Inc.’s The Ukrainian Nutcracker, Clara’s Dream.
Lighting Designer | Pierre Lavoie
Pierre has been active in dance since 1982, first in Toronto as stage manager for most of the city’s modern dance companies, then in Montréal for Les Grands Ballets Canadiens. There he had the great opportunity to work closely with his mentor, lighting designer Nick Cernovitch. Pierre started designing lighting in the 1990’s for Margie Gillis and has since designed every new work in her repertoire. He also creates lights for many independent modern dance artists in Montreal. Pierre’s versatility is seen in how easily he can sustain both modern and classical vocabulary.
He has designed to rave reviews at Alberta Ballet where he is resident lighting designer, for Christopher Wheeldon’s Midsummer Night’s Dream, Val Caniparoli’s Lady of the Camellias, Kirk Petersen’s Othello, Emily Molnar’s Carmina Burana and Jean Grand-Maitre's Carmen, Cinderella, Romeo and Juliette, the acclaimed Fiddle and the Drum with Joni Mitchell, Love Lies Bleeding with Elton John and Fumbling Towards Ecstacy with Sarah MacLachlan. Pierre has also designed works for the Royal Winnipeg Ballet including Moulin Rouge, Mark Godden’s As Above, So Below and The Magic Flute, and André Prokovsky’s Anna Karenina. Other ballet credits include Don Quixote, Swan Lake, Taming of the Shrew and Nutcracker at Boston Ballet; Cinderella at Milwaukee Ballet; a mixed jazz program at Ballet Memphis; King Lear, Amadeus, Phantom of the Opera and Don Giovanni at Atlantic Ballet Theatre of Canada; and qoundam at the Royal Swedish Ballet choreographed by Sabrina Matthews.
Pierre has also ventured into the world of music where he has designed the lighting for the last three creations of tango music septet Ensemble Romulo Larréa: Homage to Astor Piazzola, Tango for La Milonga and Tango for a Century.
In 2011-12, Pierre was pleased to establish his work for Shumka in many of the most prestigious theatres in China and Canada.