Pro-Ukraine demonstrators denounce Joffrey Ballet’s production of ‘Anna Karenina’

The Joffrey has stood firm in its decision to stage Yuri Possokhov’s “Anna Karenina,” based on the novel by Russian author Leo Tolstoy, despite Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

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About 50 pro-Ukrainian activists protested outside the Lyric Opera of Chicago over the showing of Joffrey Ballet’s “Anna Karenina.” The gathering was mostly peaceful, but there were a few heated exchanges between opera fans and demonstrators. The Joffrey dedicated the performance to Ukraine.

About 50 pro-Ukrainian activists protested outside the Lyric Opera of Chicago over the showing of Joffrey Ballet’s “Anna Karenina.” The gathering was mostly peaceful, but there were a few heated exchanges between dance fans and demonstrators. The Joffrey dedicated the performance to Ukraine.

Tyler Pasciak LaRiviere/Sun-Times

A few dozen pro-Ukrainian demonstrators gathered Wednesday night outside the Civic Opera House to denounce the Joffrey Ballet’s staging of a ballet based on a Russian novel amid Russia’s deadly invasion of Ukraine.

“I’m from Ukraine; I’m offended by the lack of sensitivity,” said Lise Korneichuk, 26, a student at the School of the Art Institute. “The theater should show solidarity instead of promoting Russian culture.”

Attendees at Wednesday night’s opening of the Joffrey Ballet’s production of “Anna Karenina” were met by a group of protestors denouncing the dance company’s decision to stage the ballet based on the novel by Leo Tolstoy. 

Attendees at Wednesday night’s opening of the Joffrey Ballet’s production of “Anna Karenina” were met by protesters denouncing the dance company’s decision to stage the ballet based on the novel by Leo Tolstoy.

Tyler Pasciak LaRiviere/Sun-Times

The Joffrey Ballet has stood firm in its decision to showcase choreographer Yuri Possokhov’s “Anna Karenina,” based on the Leo Tolstoy novel, saying the effort to put on the show took years.

“The Joffrey Ballet stands with Ukraine, and we hold Ukrainians in our hearts while applauding their courage,” the Joffrey Ballet said in a statement. “We hope their pain and oppression ends in peace.”

The statement went on to say that the ballet company has always worked with artists from around the world to tell stories that “explore human emotion.”

Possokhov was born in Lugansk (Ukraine), trained at the Moscow Ballet School and danced for 10 years with Russia’s Bolshoi Ballet.

Pro-Ukrainian activists demonstrate at the Lyric Opera House on opening night of the Joffrey Ballet’s “Anna Karenina.” 

Pro-Ukrainian activists demonstrate at the Lyric Opera House on opening night of the Joffrey Ballet’s “Anna Karenina.”

Tyler Pasciak LaRiviere/Sun-Times

“Artistic adaptations of historical pieces of literature about our humanity have the transformative power to create a space for meaning, reflection and healing while allowing us to connect to our past, present, and future,” the Joffrey said.

The protest remained peaceful, though there were some heated verbal exchanges between ballet attendees and demonstrators.

The Joffrey dedicated the performance to Ukraine, and the orchestra played a Ukrainian piece beforehand to the full house.

Nearly 50 pro-Ukrainian activists protested outside the Lyric Opera of Chicago on opening night of the Joffrey Ballet’s “Anna Karenina.” Tyler Pasciak LaRiviere/Sun-Times

Nearly 50 pro-Ukrainian activists protested outside the Lyric Opera of Chicago on opening night of the Joffrey Ballet’s “Anna Karenina.” Tyler Pasciak LaRiviere/Sun-Times

Tyler Pasciak LaRiviere/Sun-Times

Contributing: Tyler Pasciak LaRiviere and Neil Steinberg

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