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Russian Ballet Theatre weathers online backlash in anticipation of Milwaukee show

With tensions surrounding Russia’s invasion of Ukraine climbing, the dance company faces its most challenging season yet.
Posted at 11:57 AM, Mar 04, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-04 13:46:48-05

MILWAUKEE — A ballet company’s visit to the Brew City is facing some backlash as its name draws an unwanted connection to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

This weekend, the Russian Ballet Theatre will make a stop on its world tour at Milwaukee’s Riverside Theater.

With tensions surrounding Russia’s invasion of Ukraine climbing, the dance company is facing its most challenging season yet.

One of the company’s producers, Gulya Hartwick, says the troupe is keeping it together as best they can, but it isn’t easy being so far from loved ones half a world away.

“As we say, we're artists, we’re dancers. It's our job not to let the audience see when something bad happens to us in our life. It’s the same for all of us. We are here to share the arts and share the vision of peace. It's especially important now,” said Hartwick.

When the Pabst Theater Group made a social media post about the performance, dozens of people shared their thoughts.

With many citing the images of Russia’s invasion and its innocent victims as a reason to boycott the performance, others, like commenter Ethan Hansen, thought it was important to speak out.

“I see a lot of people trying to sort of just lump the entirety of Russia into one sort of pile. And it's unfair to the people, just as it would be unfair if America was to do something similar, to say that all Americans are bad, when realistically, we aren't,” said Hansen.

Those with the company say the name Russian Ballet Theatre refers to the traditional style of dance they perform and has nothing to do with the country itself.

In fact, the diverse ensemble has members from all over the world, including several from Ukraine, who use their talents to celebrate the artform.

In response to some of the backlash they have faced from communities as they have traveled around the world, the company decided to change its name from Russian Ballet Theatre to RBT for the remainder of their tour.

“It’s a symbolic name change, and we've decided to do that and to honor everyone who is in pain and who suffers right now,” said Hartwick. “It's not right that the word causes pain, and it's not right for so many reasons, but still we have to, and we respect that and acknowledge that.”

The company says they dance for peace and invite anyone who wants to share in their message to come to the show Saturday night at 7:30 p.m.

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