Updated September 15, 2022 3:56 PM ET
One of Ukraine’s greatest ballet artists is considered a ‘brave romantic’ after being killed on the battlefield.
The National Opera of Ukraine announcementwith “indescribable sadness”, the death of Oleksandr Shapoval, one of the company’s former principal dancers and professor at the Kyiv State Choreographic College.
Shapoval died on Monday at the age of 47 “by enemy mortar shells”, according to the statement.
“He was the soul of the ballet team,” says prima ballerina Christina Shishpor who met Shapoval 22 years ago. She was a teenager when they danced the lead roles in Swan Lake, their first ballet together. “When I was nervous before going on stage, he always supported me,” she recalls. “He was a reliable partner, a reliable friend, a sincere human being.”
A few days after the Russian invasion, Shapoval volunteered to serve in the territorial defense of Ukraine, helping to protect the left bank of Kyiv. He then learned to throw grenades. According to the National Opera of Ukraine, its unit was recently moved to one of the “hottest areas” in the war-torn country. Citing Ukraina Moloda media, The Kyiv Independent reports that Shapoval was killed in the Battle of Majorsk in the Donetsk region.
Shishpor wasn’t at all surprised that Shapoval had volunteered to fight.
“That was to be expected,” she says. “Everyone understood that he would give his duty for our people, for our country, for our children. He always stood on the side of justice. He was a patriot.”
Shapoval was a “Honored Artist of Ukraine”, an official award given for high achievement in the performing arts. During 28 seasons, he interpreted about thirty different roles. “He charmed them with his brilliant and beautiful, romantic and heroic dancing, his impeccable talent and his deep belief in every image he created on stage,” the company writes.
Famous Russian-American choreographer Alexei Ratmansky paid tribute to Shapoval on Facebook. by Ratmansky United Ukrainian Ballet Company is made up of about sixty Ukrainian refugee artists.
“Many of our dancers were friends with him, worked or studied with him,” Ratmansky writes, “I remember Sasha so well, he danced in my first ballets in Kyiv. hand. Eternal memory and gratitude to the Hero!”
Ratmansky also expressed outrage. “Cursed war, cursed Russian aggression that brings death and destruction!!”
Another artist from the National Opera of Ukraine, Artem Datsyshyn, was kill in March.
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⚡️ Ukrainian National Opera ballet dancer Oleksandr Shapoval killed in action.
Shapoval, a ballet soloist and Honored Artist of Ukraine, was killed near Maiorske, Donetsk Oblast, on September 12, said Valentyna Samchenko, deputy editor of Ukraina Moloda media. pic.twitter.com/aohR92cWKY
— Kyiv Independent (@KyivIndependent) September 12, 2022