For 20 years, the Main Line has played host to acclaimed Ukrainian ballet company, the Donetsk Ballet, as part of the International Ballet Exchange. This year, Donetsk returns on Dec. 16 and 17 to perform Peter Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker at Plymouth Whitemarsh High School.
The ballet company has withstood years of tumult, and first developed a relationship with the region in the early 1990s. Its theater was being renovated following the crumble of the Soviet Union and it came to Philadelphia to practice and perform. Additional struggles left the company in a tough spot, but Nancy and Richard Malmed soon stepped in.
Nancy, the director of the Wissahickon Dance Academy, offered up her space, which would eventually lead to the birth of the International Ballet Exchange. It soon developed into a mutual exchange of students and teachers going back and forth between Ukraine and the U.S. IBE has taken up a quasi residence at Plymouth Whitemarsh High School over the years. “Plymouth Whitemarsh is a very, very good location. It’s accessible from the Main Line and even from Center City,” says Nancy.
Since its launch, IBE has provided ballet residencies, which include a full year of training with distinguished Russian ballet masters, typically through after-school programs, in Philadelphia schools.
This year’s performance of The Nutcracker will include 50 local ballet students and 18 members of the Donetsk Ballet. The principal dancer will be the internationally renowned Irina Komarenko. “It seems that the Philadelphia audience’s really want The Nutcracker. That’s what they want—we give it to them,” Nancy says.
Performances will be held Dec. 16 at 6:30 p.m. and Dec. 17 at 2 p.m.