Dancing With a Deadly Partner
Over the past weeks the world has been focused on, shocked at, and saddened by the senseless war that Russian President Vladmir Putin has raged against the country and people of Ukraine. Through it all the courage of the Ukrainian people to stand up against the Russian army has been nothing short of astonishing, and I am certain that we all wish that there were more that the world could do for them besides send help that doesn’t trigger a direct U.S./Russian war. But this is the world that we are currently living in. And in it lives a former lawyer, comedian, tv star and dancer, yes dancer, who history has cast as David against Putin’s Russian Goliath.
Volodymyr Zelensky grew up as a native Russian speaker in Kryvyi Rih, a major city in the Dnipropetrovsk Oblast of central Ukraine, obtaining a degree in law from the Kyiv National Economic University. Rather than practicing law, Zelensky pursued a career in entertainment. He first gained attention as a comedian and his fame rose to a broader public profile when he starred in “Servant of the People”, a hit comedy about a teacher who inadvertently became president of Ukraine. It was after that show ended that Zelensky actually ran for the presidency of Ukraine, as unlikely a candidate as the character he portrayed in the tv show. Zelensky ran as an anti-establishment, anti-corruption figure and forced then President Petro Poroshenko into a run-off. In the second round, Zelensky won the election with 73.2 per cent of the vote defeating Poroshenko and confirming the widely held opinion that Poroshenko was a puppet of President Putin.
During a 2019 interview with Der Spiegel, Zelensky stated that he decided to enter into politics to help reestablish his people’s trust in their leaders and that he wanted “to bring professional, decent people to power.” It is safe to say that everyone paying attention to the Ukrainian crises is both surprised and heartened by how he has stood up against President Putin and the entire Russian army.
The 24-hour news coverage of the Russian invasion of Ukraine and international stature of Ukraine’s articulately defiant president prompted mainstream media outlets to discover more of Zelensky’s non-political cred including that he voiced the Paddington Bear in both movies released in Ukraine and that in 2006, Zelensky was a contestant on the Ukrainian edition of “Dancing with the Stars.” In one number, his partner and he were both blindfolded, and like the good dancer/actor/comedian, Zelensky and his partner Olena Shoptenko hit their marks. Not only was he the winner that season, but available clips also show he is a really excellent ballroom dancer! He’s now in a more deadly tango with Putin, but dancers know how to make things work, especially when at a disadvantage.
See Zelensky and his partner’s dance moves:
(Note: This article was written by Ann Haskins and Jeff Slayton.)
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Ann Haskins has written about dance for L.A. Weekly since shortly after it began publishing. She also has written about local and national dance for Pointe Magazine, Dance Spirit Magazine, Dance Teacher Magazine, Los Angeles Magazine, L.A. View, Coast Magazine, the Daily News, and the Herald Examiner. Among her broadcast projects, Ann hosted Inside Theater on KCRW-FM and contributed dance and theater features to both KLON-FM and KUSC-FM. She has received two Horton Awards from the Los Angeles Dance Resource Center for her coverage of dance in Los Angeles.
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