I LEFT KIEV, UKRAINE in 2000 because of the crisis that was unfolding and because I was looking for an opportunity to create new productions and build a new life. I decided to come to Moncton, did some choreography for schools—then I met Susan Chalmers-Gauvin.
We talked about my idea of starting a small, high calibre company with only new productions. She was impressed, and in June 2001 we formed the Atlantic Ballet Theatre of Canada. In May 2002, we premiered our first new ballet, Figaro.
It is my hope that newcomers to Canada will relate to the ballet and that others will better understand them because of it.
While the people of Moncton have been extremely friendly and welcoming, it has been a long journey. I came to Canada with hope—bringing all my experience to a new country and then I realized I was out of context culturally and linguistically. When you can’t properly express yourself, it is very frustrating. Luckily for me, when it came to dance, the language was universal. Dance can trigger dialogue that otherwise may not be possible.
My wife, Yuliaa, and I have a 15-year-old daughter and an eight-year-old son. We bought our first house two years ago, so this is really starting to feel like home. It took almost 18 years for that to happen, and I still sometimes feel like an outsider.
Each immigrant’s journey is different and the level of cultural shock varies, but for the most part their feelings are similar. Language issues and finding work are two large barriers for newcomers to Canada. There are many moments of sadness, isolation, grief, frustration, panic—but also moments of joy.
That struggle is why the Atlantic Ballet is hosting a provincial immigration summit next spring. We are inviting entrepreneurs, business leaders, academics and newcomers to talk openly about immigration, diversity and inclusion. More often than not, immigrants and business leaders in Canada are living in two separate worlds. I have no doubt we will see great success when these two worlds come together.
In May 2018, Igor Dobrovolskiy will launch a new ballet that highlights the internal and external struggles of newcomers.