After the third travel day in a row, we arrived in Kyiv, our final destination, and checked into the stunning IBIS Hotel, where we quickly changed into our tech clothes and headed to the venue of our final performance, Zhovtnevyy Palace. Although we were now on day 3 in a row of full performances and many people were tired and sore, we were all in awe as we got a view of the stage and theatre for the first time - what an absolutely beautiful place for us to end this tour. It was a 2,000 seat theatre, with two balconies, spacious wings and ample change rooms (which is hard to find when you have almost 50 people performing together). Some walked throughout the building and were blown away by the beauty of each room, especially the grand ballroom, where the dancers warmed up. To see such an old building that still looks so incredible really puts it into perspective how grand it must have been when it was first built. We had a lunch at the theatre of pizza and salad and then got to work on tech. Tech rehearsal was probably one of our smoothest of the trip, the sound of the choir was great, the dancers had a nice big stage to use and everyone was getting excited for the show. Dancer Ryan was still not feeling 100%, and opted to give up his spot in two dances, but was ready to power through the rest. Kudos to Jordan and Liam for stepping in and learning new spots on the fly. Once tech rehearsal was wrapped up, we were fed an amazing pre-show snack of veggies, sandwiches, crackers, cookies, juice - and they even found hummus, a little taste of home. It was the perfect recharge before the show, which would be one of our biggest of the tour.
The emotions began to flow as the group congregated for our usual pre-show pep talk. The last show on tour is always bittersweet - not only would it be our last time performing for the amazing audiences in our homeland, and our last performance with our great friends Darmohrai, but for some members, it would be their final performance with Viter. Many tears and hugs were shared prior to the show, and the nerves grew slightly as we were informed that several dignitaries would be watching from the audience, including people from the Canadian Embassy, and the Minster for Culture for Ukraine. One of them was even scheduled to fly out of the country the night of our show, but changed his flights so he could attend.
The audience was amazing. What energy they gave for us to feed off, and as we closed the first act everyone was feeling great! We were having our best show yet and couldn't wait to get back on stage after intermission! It seemed like the show was flying by and before we knew it, it was all over. The final bow brought more tears, and many hand squeezes with the person next you, as if to say "we did it". There were many heartwarming and tear-jerking speeches made on stage, and Viter was presented with an honorary award from the Ministry of Culture of Ukraine which recognized our commitment to the preservation of Ukrainian culture, as well as a lovely congratulatory plaque from our production company, PRO - what an honour! We took a formal group photo on stage with the dignitaries who were present and then many other informal photos with each other in an attempt to preserve this feeling and these memories forever, then hit the change rooms to pack up as we had dinner arrangements for after the show.
Although our final show was now complete, we still had one last workshop day. The morning after our show, dancers and choir crossed the street from our hotel to participate in the final workshops. Dancers had a great 3 hour class at Virsky studios with the Artistic Director of the Barvinok Ensemble, which specializes in the Kuban style of dance, while the choir had a workshop with Zenoviy Korinets at Veriovka studio. We have been so lucky to have made such incredible connections through our workshops over the last few weeks and Viter is so looking forward to connecting and working with our new friends again.
After the workshops were complete, we took a group photo outside the Canadian Embassy and then the dancers stormed to MacDonalds - we were all starving after the workshop and a cheeseburger has never tasted better! Once we were fed, and all a bit less "hangry", some enjoyed a city tour of Kyiv, while others explored the market on their own, or took advantage of the free time to take a nap before our farewell zabava later that night. Oh the zabava - what a perfect way to finish this trip,spending time eating, socializing, singing, dancing and reminiscing the past few weeks together. We were fed like royalty and a great time was had by all, which included many toasts of thanks to the team who made our tour the success that it was: Cobblestone Freeway, PRO Productions, the bus drivers ("Serhiy Squared" - they both had the same name), the videographer Roman who captured so many special moments, Dr. Donna who kept everyone healthy, Jackie and her costume team who repaired costumes, props and more after every show, the backstage security, the on stage helpers who moved microphones...the list goes on and on.
As we head to the airport this morning, there are many people reliving special moments, laughing at the not-so-special ones, and sharing their bittersweet feelings of heading home. While it's definitely sad for such an experience to come to an end and to say goodbye to new friends and those Viter members who are deviating elsewhere, there is an excitement that grows when you think of the comforts of sleeping in your own bed and reuniting with friends and family that are waiting for us at home. I have no doubts that there will be many more photos and videos posted online upon our arrival home, many memories shared and stories told. It has truly been a once in a lifetime trip that we will all cherish for a long time to come!