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Kiev Ballet celebrates Erbil as Arab Tourism Capital - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Ukrainian dancers of the National Ballet of Kiev perform during the Erbil Festival on February 18, 2014. (AFP/ SAFIN HAMED)

Ukrainian dancers of the Kiev Ballet perform during the Erbil Festival on February 18, 2014. (AFP/SAFIN HAMED)

Erbil, Asharq Al-Awsat—As part of a series of cultural and artistic exhibitions planned this year, the world-famous Kiev Ballet performed in Erbil, the capital of Iraq’s Kurdistan Region, to celebrate the city being chosen as the Arab Tourism Capital for 2014.

The Kiev Ballet, also known as the National Ballet of Ukraine, performed to Tchaikovsky at Saad Abdullah Hall in Erbil on Tuesday. The performance was attended by Iraqi Deputy Minister of Culture Fawzi Atrsuhi, in addition to a number of senior Kurdistan Regional Government officials and foreign diplomats.

Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat, Atrushi said: “The selection of Erbil as the Arab Tourism Capital for 2014 was not for nothing,” adding, “Erbil secured victory over several other cities that have a long history of tourism.”

“The title will help attract artists, intellectuals and investors to the region,” he said.

The ballet’s “routines were specially choreographed for Erbil,” Lebanese stage director and producer Marwan Rahbani told Ashraq Al-Awsat.

“I personally asked the ballet company to choreograph a special routine for the city, and the show that was seen in Erbil has not been performed anywhere else in the world,” Rahbani added.

The Kiev Ballet is one of Europe’s oldest and most famous ballet companies and is based out of the National Opera of Ukraine. The company is made up of around 150 dancers and stages around 16 productions per month at the National Opera, but took special time out of its busy schedule to perform in Erbil.

Rahbani said he was pleased with the Kurdish audiences’ enthusiastic response to the ballet, “particularly as there has never been any similar show in the city.”

“This proves the culture and sophistication of the Erbil audience,” he added.

The Kiev Ballet also expressed surprise at the warm welcome they received in Erbil. One of the male dancers told Asharq Al-Awsat: “I did not expect such an overwhelming response, particularly from a city I knew very little about.”

In comments to Asharq Al-Awsat, the Governor of Erbil’s media director, Hamza Hamid, said: “The ballet attracted a remarkable turnout and impressed ballet fans in Erbil. This demonstrates how enthusiastic people in Erbil are about this sophisticated art.”

Hamid confirmed that there will be more artistic activities during the feast of Nowruz in March, including a major concert. He added that the Nowruz concert will feature bands from across the world.