Celebrating the National Ukrainian Ballet Company
Josie and Mark NeJame held a glittering reception to support the National Ukrainian Ballet Company.
The people of Ukraine are known for their strength, resiliency, and perseverance. The Central Florida arts community has embraced that spirit in one of the most poignant collaborative efforts in the region’s history.
Saturday night, before a sold-out crowd at the Steinmetz Hall at Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts, 17 dancers from the National Ballet of Ukraine will step on the stage for a grand finale of what’s been a whirlwind two-week stay in Orlando.
Theme parks, great food, warm embraces, and a reception Thursday night hosted by local attorney Mark NeJame and his wife Josie.
About 125 donors and supporters attended the event, featuring a cake in Ukrainian colors. In a moving gesture of graciousness, they gave one child of the dancers a stuffed Minnie Mouse from Mark’s daughters, Alessandra and Valentina.
“The energy was beautiful,” NeJame said. “The mutual appreciation was very touching. It was an inspiring night for everybody.”
The Central Florida community has picked up the tab for everything. Harris Rosen, who has strong family ties to Ukraine on his father’s side, has given them free room and board at the Rosen Hotel Centre since August 15. The dancers and five support members have visited theme parks thanks to Universal Studios and Walt Disney World. The leadership team at Dr. Phillips has picked up all costs associated with the event. It will be the ballet company’s only performance in the United States.
Every penny — $400,000 and growing—will go to charities providing humanitarian help and emergency medical aid to Ukrainian citizens, refugees, and veteran services. A portion of those funds, $85,000 has already been sent overseas.
Give yourself a bow, Central Florida.
“Hosting some of the world’s best dancers is the opportunity of a lifetime and obviously a great cause,” said Kathy Ramsberger, president & CEO of the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts. “It’s been a very fast, long road.”
That road began with a daunting thought bubble from Marc McMurrin, President and CEO of the Ginsberg Family Foundation. McMurrin’s parents lived in Ukraine for 25 years. His father was an orchestra conductor there.
It all worked out because everyone was all-in and did everything they could to make it happen.
“I thought it was impossible because of everything going on., but we worked together, and we are here,” said Sergi Golubnychi, the orchestra conductor of the Taras Shevchenko National Opera House in Ukraine. “I’ve been in the United States six times before, and Americans open their doors to everyone in the world, but this time I am so grateful for everything they’ve done for us and our country.”
It’s been a bittersweet stay here—so many wonderful experiences tempered by the heartbreak of what’s going on back home.
“When you go on stage, you switch your mind, and you do this for the Ukrainian people,” he said. “Dancers dance, Conductors conduct. For two or three hours, we forget and change our thoughts. And it helps because all the other time, we are thinking about what is happening in Ukraine.”