After his impressive on-screen debut in The White Crow, it’s full speed ahead for Ukrainian dancer and actor Oleg Ivenko. But who is the man behind the movie star?
Beginning with Ballet
Prior to his film debut in The White Crow, Ivenko was already an established ballet dancer, enjoying the career of a soloist and principal dancer at a relatively young age. Hailing from Kharkiv, he joined the swelling ranks of Ukrainian-born ballet stars, past and present. Before the age of eight, he enrolled at studios that offered preparatory classes in acrobatics, stretching, and coordination. It was here that Ivenko’s mother was encouraged to send her son to audition at the Kharkiv Choreographic School. Ivenko fondly recalls his elementary education in Kharkiv and counts himself lucky to have trained with the best teacher, Olena Solovyova. It was she, along with the headmistress Natalya Rhezhevska, who instilled in him the virtues of diligence and hard work in order to achieve his aspirations. In those early days, Ivenko danced at the Kharkiv Academic Theatre of Opera and Ballet as a student.
Belarus and Beyond
After graduating from Kharkiv, Ivenko had opportunities to travel abroad and begin his career in theatre. He finished his training while still at high school and went on to study at the Choreographic College in Minsk, the alma mater of past stars such as Ivan Vasiliev and Igor Kolb. Led by his intuition, Ivenko then headed to Kazan, where he found a home at the Kazan Opera and Ballet Theatre (also known as the State Opera of Tatarstan), directed by Vladimir Yakovel. As a ballet artist, he was drawn to the internal world of character development and dramatic acting; nowadays, he approaches each new role this way. This approach would later prepare him for film acting.
Searching for Nureyev
When Ralph Fiennes set out to make The White Crow, he deployed talent scouts to find a male dancer to play the young Nureyev. Ivenko was not found by the scouts themselves: he counts himself lucky to have been recommended by Nikolai Tsiskaridze and other jury members who had seen him dance. Entering the world of the film allowed Ivenko to go beyond the popular image of the enigmatic Nureyev, and connect with the role on a more profound level. Though Ivenko claims to be unlike his character in real life, he does identify with Nureyev’s ambition and confidence, which propelled him to achieve his dream in spite of his critics. Ivenko did more preparation than your average movie star: supported by massage and rejuvenating vitamins, he pushed his body intensively. He devoted himself to studying English, and even fine-tuned his Russian accent to sound more authentic.
The future: stage and screen
Ivenko has clearly been bitten by the cinema bug, and is already thinking about his next role: perhaps a character in a historical drama, or a superhero in an action blockbuster. However, this multitalented performer isn’t planning on giving up ballet anytime soon. Fans in Kyiv will be able to witness his talents in the near future, as plans are already in motion for Ivenko to perform as a guest star in the Ukrainian capital post-COVID-19. Ivenko’s star looks set to rise higher and higher: catch him on stage while you still can.
Ivenko studied footage of Nureyev dancing in order to emulate his characteristic style. Ironically, in the film, Nureyev also watches himself dance in order to improve.
Ivenko’s repertoire includes Basilio from Don Quixote, Solor from La Bayadere, Albrecht from Giselle, Shurale from Shurale, The Nutcracker Prince from The Nutcracker, Franz from Coppelia, and many others.