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60 dancers who fled the war now take the stage — as The United Ukrainian Ballet

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60 dancers who fled the war now take the stage — as The United Ukrainian Ballet

Iryna Zhalovska and different dancers with The United Ukrainian Ballet practice at The Kennedy Heart. The corporate is performing Giselle there this week.

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Iryna Zhalovska and different dancers with The United Ukrainian Ballet practice at The Kennedy Heart. The corporate is performing Giselle there this week.

Keren Carrión/NPR

When Russia invaded Ukraine, choreographer Alexei Ratmansky was in Moscow working with each the Bolshoi and the Mariinsky, traditionally two of essentially the most revered ballet firms on the earth.

“My spouse known as me at 5:00 am from New York and stated: Kyiv has been bombed,” he remembers. He and his spouse each have household in Ukraine, “so I needed to depart immediately,” he says.

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Ratmansky is a extremely sought-after choreographer and a 2013 MacArthur Fellow. He choreographed The United Ukrainian Ballet’s manufacturing of Giselle, which simply started its run at The Kennedy Heart in Washington, D.C. His mom is Russian. His father is Ukrainian. However he is not giving anybody in Russia a cross for not talking out, together with his fellow artists.

Elizaveta Gogidze fled along with her household to Germany. She dances the lead in The United Ukrainian Ballet’s manufacturing of Giselle.

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Elizaveta Gogidze fled along with her household to Germany. She dances the lead in The United Ukrainian Ballet’s manufacturing of Giselle.

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“It is an enormous failure of Russian tradition, I feel, the truth that thousands and thousands did not come out the primary week and did not cease it,” he says earlier than the costume rehearsal for Giselle at The Kennedy Heart. “It breaks my coronary heart to see that the world of at this time can’t cease this horror.”

Some 60 dancers who fled the warfare make up The United Ukrainian Ballet. With assist from native dance professionals and metropolis officers, the corporate relies in The Hague.

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A ballet dancer’s profession is brief, and interrupting rigorous every day courses generally is a setback. Regardless of the dire circumstances below which the corporate was fashioned, it has additionally allowed these dancers to proceed their career.

“We are going to struggle bravely on the battlefield. However we may even have fun our tradition,” stated Ukrainian Ambassador Oksana Markarova at The Kennedy Heart this week.

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“We are going to struggle bravely on the battlefield. However we may even have fun our tradition,” stated Ukrainian Ambassador Oksana Markarova at The Kennedy Heart this week.

Keren Carrión/NPR

The United Ukrainian Ballet is made up of some 60 dancers who fled their nation when the Russians invaded. The newly fashioned firm performs at The Kennedy Heart this week.

Keren Carrión/NPR


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The United Ukrainian Ballet is made up of some 60 dancers who fled their nation when the Russians invaded. The newly fashioned firm performs at The Kennedy Heart this week.

Keren Carrión/NPR

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For principal dancer Elizaveta Gogidze, the possibility to work with Ratmansky was “a dream.” Gogidze, who performs the lead in Giselle, was a soloist with the Nationwide Opera of Ukraine in Kyiv when the warfare started. Alongside along with her mom, her grandmothers and “all the ladies of our household,” Gogidze fled to Germany, the place her aunt was dwelling.

When a dancer buddy instructed her concerning the formation of The United Ukrainian Ballet within the Netherlands and Ratmansky’s involvement, she was on her method to The Hague.

“It is an opportunity to do one thing new and to be taught one thing new,” she beams, “He is a beautiful choreographer. He is a real patriot of our nation.”

Gogidze says she’s in fixed contact along with her fellow dancers again in Kyiv. Her firm, The Nationwide Opera of Ukraine, has reopened, but it surely’s been a problem. “They haven’t any gentle. They haven’t any scorching water. Sirens and rockets typically. It is actually exhausting,” she says.

It isn’t misplaced on the Ukrainian authorities that the viewers for this occasion consists of decision-makers. The Kennedy Heart and the U.S. State Division just lately hosted a sixtieth anniversary celebration of the Artwork in Embassies program. One of many dancers with The United Ukrainian Ballet carried out a solo piece known as The Dying Swan.

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Ukrainian Ambassador Oksana Markarova instructed members of the Washington institution that she and others on the embassy have had “very tough discussions” about whether or not, “throughout a full-fledged warfare, to proceed our occasions … with artwork, with songs, with artwork exhibitions.” She stated they determined that not to proceed can be “precisely what Russians needed us to do.”

Principal dancers Elizaveta Gogidze and Oleksii Kniazkov of The United Ukrainian Ballet are performing Giselle at The Kennedy Heart this week.

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Principal dancers Elizaveta Gogidze and Oleksii Kniazkov of The United Ukrainian Ballet are performing Giselle at The Kennedy Heart this week.

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The United Ukrainian Ballet’s costume rehearsal for Giselle at The Kennedy Heart.

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The United Ukrainian Ballet’s costume rehearsal for Giselle at The Kennedy Heart.

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“They needed us to be destroyed, cry and die. And we won’t try this,” stated Ambassador Markarova, “We won’t surrender. We won’t give up. We are going to struggle bravely on the battlefield. However we may even have fun our tradition.”

Ratmansky proudly shares a little bit of his dialog with the Ambassador: “She stated the Ukrainian ballet operates as our secret weapon. And I like that.”

When the efficiency of Giselle ended, the orchestra performed the Ukrainian nationwide anthem. The dancers, joined by Ratmansky, sang and held up banners that stated “Stand With Ukraine.”

Choreographer Alexei Ratmansky seems on stage with the United Ukrainian Ballet after their manufacturing of Giselle on the Kennedy Heart.

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'Wait Wait' for April 13, 2024: Live from Pittsburgh with Bill Cowher!

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'Wait Wait' for April 13, 2024: Live from Pittsburgh with Bill Cowher!

This week’s show was recorded at the Benedum Center in Pittsburgh, with host Peter Sagal, judge and scorekeeper Bill Kurtis, Not My Job guest Bill Cowher and panelists Maeve Higgins, Negin Farsad and Mo Rocca. Click the audio link above to hear the whole show.

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Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Bill Cowher is doused with water after his team won the Super Bowl at Ford Field in Detroit.

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Who’s Bill This Time
The Dude Diet; Brooding Over Bugs; Higher Education Is Too Damn High

Panel Questions
DON’T STARE DIRECTLY AT THIS QUIZ: A game all about this week’s total eclipse.

Bluff The Listener
Our panelists tell us three untold stories of a celebrity, only one of which is true.

Not My Job: We quiz Super Bowl-winning coach Bill Cowher on three cowards
Bill Cowher is one of the most recognizable faces in football, having led the Pittsburgh Steelers to a victory at Super Bowl XL. He may have a Super Bowl ring, but can Cowher answer our three questions about cowards?

Panel Questions
Polly Wants A Pucker; Birth (Out of) Control

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Limericks
Bill Kurtis reads three news-related limericks: Shhhbucks, Everybody Wins, A Deadly Seine

Lightning Fill In The Blank
All the news we couldn’t fit anywhere else

Predictions
Our panelists predict, after the cicadas, what’ll be the next long-lost thing to emerge?

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L.A. Affairs: He’s a Bruin. I’m a Trojan. Could I fight on in the name of love?

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L.A. Affairs: He’s a Bruin. I’m a Trojan. Could I fight on in the name of love?

My mother, a UCLA graduate, switched her allegiance on a dime the day I enrolled at USC. She and my father attended every Trojans home game from that day forward. Familial blood may be thicker than alumni water but not so, it seems, when it comes to spousal relations.

And I know about it all too well. My husband, Brad, and I, both divorced and not in the market for anyone who didn’t ooze quality, had engaged in a keyboard courtship. He was avid, while I was reluctant at best. I refused to meet him for months, having been single for six years and not the least bit interested in sharing anything with anyone ever again. But he said he was willing to wait however long it took for me to muster up the courage, and he would even manage to overlook the fact that my diploma was from USC because he (unfortunately) was a devoted Bruin.

Letters soared back and forth between us, and because we were both 50 and counting, once I caved and we came face to face we wasted no time before announcing the nuptials, even though we both knew football season could be an impediment to forever after.

We shopped for rings before our first cross-town rivalry contest, the battle that former UCLA football coach Red Sanders once stated is not a matter of life and death: “It’s more important than that!” he insisted.

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We set our wedding date for April, long before we truly realized what would happen in the fall at kickoff. Whereas I pictured us reveling in teasing trash talk, curled up on the sofa, popcorn at the ready — maybe even buying tickets to the big game someday — I was soon to learn that the Los Angeles gridiron civil war was more than we’d bargained for and, in fact, would permeate the walls of our love nest.

Brad started it. The first year, I scurried to Trader Joe’s like a nurturing newlywed bride to gather fun football food for what promised to be the fulfillment of my dream: our enjoying the light banter of frivolous competition in front of the television on a sunny Southern California Saturday afternoon.

When I emerged from the market, shopping bags in hand, I realized the man I’d promised to honor (Had I remembered to tell the priest to omit the word “obey”?) had switched out my striking cardinal and gold USC license plate frames for the ones decorated in the pale baby blue of his alma mater — ugh, UCLA Bruins!

Two could play at this game. I plopped the bags on the back seat, hopped on the 405 Freeway and beelined to SC Trojan Town at South Coast Plaza — yes, Virginia, there really is a retail Santa Claus for the University of Spoiled Children.

I whipped out my husband’s Visa card and promptly placed every fanatical fan item I could carry on it. I toted two suitcase-size handled bags filled with cocktail napkins, plates, cups, a king-size blanket, T-shirts, sweatpants, pajamas, signs, streamers, pennants, socks, hats, jerseys and my personal favorite, because he pretends to have symptoms of a stroke every time he hears it, a refrigerator magnet that plays the Trojan fight song.

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Fight on! In no time, I had racked up an unconscionable dollar amount of paraphernalia that was sure to bring the house down. Then there was the year when USC was favored by a margin wider than the Pacific Ocean, the year the man I thought I’d be sharing my life with chose to clean out the garage and not even watch one quarterback toss. That was the year I ate all the cardinal and gold M&Ms myself.

Shortly after standing at the altar before family and friends, when we attended a UCLA-USC basketball game outfitted in our respective school sweatshirts, we were observed by a group of boorish Bruins. “Aw man,” one of them said to my husband. “Couldn’t you have done better?”

Clearly, you can’t major in manners on the west side of town. To this day, whenever the big day arrives for the football game more crucial than the Super Bowl, I find myself sometimes rising above it all in the company of Brad’s fraternity bro and his wife, an ex-UCLA song girl.

Although outnumbered and having to sit next to a song girl, I handle it gracefully despite some tiresome enemy tirades on the topic of campus controversy, á la parents paying to get their progeny into USC.

I point out that it’s a feather in one’s cap to be able to graduate from such a prestigious university, while our Bruin guests argue that those parents threw away their money.

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Twenty years into sacramental union, we’d like to think we have for the most part let it go, especially since neither team provides the stellar spectacle that they did in our glory days from 1969 to 1973.

But every time November rolls around, unfurled is the flag flying our schools’ colors: half cardinal and gold, half just boring blue and yellow. “A House Divided,” it proclaims for all the neighbors to see. So perhaps to gain the truly proper perspective, it’s time for us to arrange a ceremony during which we renew our sacred vows adding just one more to the list: For better or for worse, for richer or for poorer … and no matter who wins the game.

The author is a second-generation Los Angeles native who lives in Fallbrook, Calif. A graduate of USC, she is the author of essays and stories that have appeared in newspapers and magazines including the Los Angeles Times, Orange Coast Magazine and Newsweek for over two decades.

L.A. Affairs chronicles the search for romantic love in all its glorious expressions in the L.A. area, and we want to hear your true story. We pay $400 for a published essay. Email LAAffairs@latimes.com. You can find submission guidelines here. You can find past columns here.

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Is Conan O'Brien the best 'Hot Ones' guest ever? Discuss.

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Is Conan O'Brien the best 'Hot Ones' guest ever? Discuss.

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By now, someone’s probably sent you the clip of Conan O’Brien on the internet series Hot Ones, going full chaos gremlin: red-cheeked, sweating, drooling, his face smeared with hot sauce and bellowing about seizing the moment (“This isn’t a bit! This is LIIIIIFE!”). He looks crazed. If you haven’t yet seen that clip, sit tight. It’s going viral, as the kids used to say.

And it’s not the first time. You know that Paul Rudd meme, where he grins widely, radiating warmth and camaraderie (“Hey. Look at us.”)? That’s from Hot Ones, too. Ditto Jennifer Lawrence panicking and laugh-sobbing (“What do you mean? What do you MEAN?”).

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Now it’s Conan’s turn. He turned up on the show to promote his new Max travel series and wasted no time seizing control of the interview and the premise itself. O’Brien is known as a performer who can’t help but be “on” all the time, no matter the size of his audience. When he wrote on The Simpsons, he and his colleagues in the writers’ room would be sitting around a table; they’d be pitching jokes, and he’d be miming an elaborate routine in which he was an astronaut strapping himself into a rocket ship – all for the benefit of the guys across the table from him. On his podcast, Conan O’Brien Needs a Friend, he tosses out an incessant series of bits to the delight (mostly) of his producer and assistant. There’s a restless, needy quality to his comedy that would be worrisome if his instincts weren’t so sharp if he wasn’t funny as he is.

The perfect guest?

But before we unpack how and why O’Brien just became the best Hot Ones guest ever, we need to consider the show itself.

The first time you heard the premise of Hot Ones, the YouTube series on which celebrities are interviewed by the affable and scrupulously well-prepared host Sean Evans as they consume a series of increasingly spicy buffalo wings, you probably thought it sounded like a dumb gimmick. Then you probably started poking around to see if any of your favorite celebrities had been a guest. Then you watched one episode. And then, it was all over.

There are entire Reddit forums dedicated to ranking which Hot Ones guests are “the best,” but determining that involves a very subjective calculus. Some want to see guests melt down; others want them to power through without breaking a sweat. Some watch in the hope that they’ll gain new insights into the personality of a given celebrity as the various hot sauces start to dissolve their pat, media-trained soundbites like the blood of the Xenomorph eats through the Nostromo.

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The good news is that there’s a Hot Ones episode for whatever you’re looking for. Different guests react very differently, and your favorite episode may not be anyone else’s.

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For me, a great guest has to come in with hubris – the excessive pride of tragic heroes – because they bring their own narrative arc to the endeavor. Because Idris Elba approached the challenge with dismissive bravado, his downfall – coughing, sweating, swearing, mock-threatening a producer – was all the more satisfying. Ditto Gordon Ramsay.

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But it’s also delightful when an episode seems to confirm your pre-existing impression of a guest. Padma Lakshmi stayed cool in every sense of the word as she answered Evans’ questions and commented insightfully on the flavor profiles of the various sauces (even the infamous Da Bomb, which clocks in at 119,700 Scoville units and reportedly tastes as if kerosene were angry at you).

Elijah Wood, Tom Holland and Michael Cera demonstrated a deep knowledge of the show, endearing them to fans. Alton Brown brought a know-it-all diffidence, which was not particularly endearing. Key & Peele belong to that cohort of guests who turn on the host hilariously (see also: Shaq, Bill Burr, Lizzo, Michael Rapaport, Ed Helms). Lorde, Jenna Ortega, Charlize Theron and Rachael Ray weren’t bothered by the heat.

Many guests have raved about interviewer Sean Evans over the years. Specifically, they’ve marveled at his questions, which are both deeply researched and novel. It’s fun to watch celebrities who have repeatedly spent their careers answering the same questions on press junkets realize that they’ve just been asked a question about something they dearly love and no one else has ever asked them about.

And it’s true – Evans is a good interviewer. But as a host myself, I’d love to hear him give his researchers some of the love he gets from guests. And if I have any quibble with the show, it’s that Evans is so thoroughly prepared that his questions always sound more like written English than spoken English; there’s a formality in the wording that doesn’t quite jibe with the looseness of the chemistry the show aims for.

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Now, about that Conan episode.

Conan has catapulted himself to the top of the list of Hot Ones All-Stars because he knew exactly what he was getting into and what he had to do.

1. He came prepared

Conan brought along a human bit. He introduced us to his personal doctor (actually longtime writer and producer José Arroyo). It felt like an old-school show-biz gag, something you could picture Johnny Carson or Steve Allen doing. O’Brien’s ability to genuflect to his comedy forbears while striking out and doing something ridiculous on his own has endeared him to millions.

2. He came to conquer

Conan not only demonstrated a breezy familiarity with the show, but he also wasted little time ridiculing its premise (“What’s WRONG with you people? You don’t know what real danger looks like anymore!”).

3. He was, predictably, nuts

Hot Ones fans talk admiringly about the Padmas and the Charlizes – celebrities who run the show’s gauntlet without being bothered by the heat. Conan decided that he wouldn’t just mock the show’s premise; he’d put every previous guest who shrugged off the sauces’ spiciness to shame. He used his innate comic sensibility – that artisanal mix of restless/needy – to achieve icon status.

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He didn’t merely dab the wings with hot sauce; he doused them with it. He loaded them up and smeared them across the table until they were laden with every stray drop. He licked them – lovingly, yet somehow angrily at the same time. He spread them across his face like woad; he slathered them around his nipples. He guzzled Da Bomb straight from the bottle.

I’ll say that again: He guzzled Da Bomb straight from the bottle!

More importantly, He committed to the bit. Completely. Consummately.

He kept up the show of not being bothered, even as his face began to redden and his brow began to sweat. He kept it up, even as he started to drool, guzzle milk, pant, and give increasingly abstruse, rambling answers to Evans’ questions. And all that red sauce around his mouth made him look like an extra from Cannibal Holocaust if it had been set in County Cork.

Even those of us who delighted in, say, an Aubrey Plaza managing to maintain her too-cool-for-school composure even as she snorted milk up her nose to cool the burn had never seen anything like this. We likely never will again.

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Conan was so clearly suffering, and he’d done it to himself. We knew that because A. we have eyes, and B. because he began the interview by joking that, growing up as he did in an Irish household, “I never saw a spice until I was about 52 years old.” And yet here he’d joyously hurled himself into a swirling miasma of extreme pain and gastric distress, all for a lousy YouTube show bit, just to be an idiot capering for our delight in the global village.

We watched in helpless confusion and wonder (and a bit of fear) as he strapped himself into that rocket and took off.

Fans of Hot Ones refer to those celebrities who make it through the sauces without complaint as Spice Lords.

This week, Conan O’Brien went them all one better. Not because he could endure the spice but because he gave himself over to it. He became a Spice Legend.

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