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Attitude to money, a young lover and dancing barefoot. Friends and colleagues of Hryhoriy Chapkis shared personal stories on the anniversary of his death

Hryhoriy Chapkis

Three years ago, on June 13, 2021, Hryhoriy Chapkis passed away. The famous choreographer passed away at the age of 92, unable to cope with the consequences of the coronavirus.

OBOZ.UA has collected the most interesting facts from the life of the famous choreographer, who danced on the main stages of the world, was acquainted with Salvador Dali, met Fidel Castro, and once received a gift from Elvis Presley. We also asked famous colleagues and friends to share their memories of the artist.

The famous choreographer was born in 1930 in Chisinau. He grew up in a large Jewish family with six other brothers and sisters. According to him, he learned to dance at the same time he learned to walk. Since childhood, he earned money by dancing because his parents were very poor. With the outbreak of World War II, the family emigrated to Kazakhstan. When they returned from evacuation, they were taken off the train in Kyiv on suspicion of typhoid fever. They spent about a month in Zhovtneva Hospital, and when they recovered, they stayed in Kyiv. Hryhorii entered a college, and in 1945 he was accepted into the song and dance ensemble "Labor Reserves," with which he performed in Moscow, where Stalin presented him with a wristwatch. Chapkis said that he had a joint photograph with Stalin, but after the debunking of the cult of personality, Hryhoriy's mother burned the photo.

Attitude to money, a young lover and dancing barefoot. Friends and colleagues of Hryhoriy Chapkis shared personal stories on the anniversary of his death

Later, he was enrolled as a ballet dancer in the State Song and Dance Ensemble of Ukraine, and then in the famous Pavlo Virsky Ensemble, where he worked for 27 years. He traveled all over the world with performances. He met Fidel Castro, Ho Chi Minh and Mao Zedong. Elvis Presley gave him a record, and Salvador Dalí did not believe that Chapkis was naturally skilled in dancing. The media later wrote that Dali had found motors inserted into the Ukrainian performer's knees, and many believed it.

Later, Hryhoriy Chapkis was a choreographer at the Ivan Franko Theater and deputy director of the Drama and Comedy Theater on the left bank of the Dnipro River, and managed the Yunist concert and dance hall. For some time he lived with his wife in Italy, where his daughter Lilia lives. Later he opened his dance school in Kyiv. Grigory Chapkis began to be recognized on the street when he became one of the judges of the first season of the TV show "Dancing with the Stars". The audience loved him so much that subsequent seasons could not do without his participation. He only missed the fourth and fifth seasons, but in 2019 he reappeared on the jury.

In December 2020, the choreographer fell ill with the coronavirus and was hospitalized with bilateral pneumonia. He was subsequently discharged, but then Hryhoriy Mykolaiovych was admitted to intensive care several times due to complications caused by COVID-19. On June 13, 2021, he died at the age of 92.

"Hryhoriy Chapkis was and will be a model of dedication for me, "Dmytro Dikusar, a famous choreographer and multiple participant in the Dancing with the Stars project who is now defending the country as part of the Armed Forces, tells OBOZ.UA. "After meeting him, I realized that my dance retirement could be much later. He had a strong character, his own personal opinion, which he was never afraid to express. This is what a person with a core is capable of, which, unfortunately, many others lack. And his ability to love life deserves a special ovation."

Attitude to money, a young lover and dancing barefoot. Friends and colleagues of Hryhoriy Chapkis shared personal stories on the anniversary of his death

Dmytro Dikusar often communicated with Chapkis in the last years of his life. "We corresponded, he sent me some interesting videos on social media," the choreographer told the author of these lines at the farewell to Hryhoriy Mykolaiovych, "One of his last phrases was: "Money has no meaning, the most important thing is your happiness and the happiness of your family. Apartments and cars will never replace that." He shared his personal life with me, telling me that he had met a woman whom he had fallen in love with. I have never met Lyudmila. I only know that she was 38 years old at the time of our meeting. I remember him as a very kind person in life, but very strict in his profession. And this is such a contrast: how human and gentle, how uncompromising. If something went wrong on the floor, nothing could save him from his anger. It's interesting that with his appearance on Dancing with the Stars in 2019, everyone stopped, how to put it more correctly... I'll say it like it is: humiliate me on the floor. Hryhoriy Nikolayevich came out and said that I am one of the leading dancers in Europe and the TV show is honored to have me on it."

Attitude to money, a young lover and dancing barefoot. Friends and colleagues of Hryhoriy Chapkis shared personal stories on the anniversary of his death

"He didn't appear in the jury right away, but after a while, as a guest star," Diesel Show actress Victoria Bulitko, who danced with Dmytro Dikusar in the season mentioned by the dancer, tells OBOZ.UA. "And he was the first one to praise me, because frankly speaking, the judges were not very supportive of our couple before that. And he said: "My God, what a dance!" And he lifted my spirits like that. Before that, it was Dima who did it, because after every broadcast, my shoulders literally dropped because of the criticism. And Dima said: "Vika, who do you believe: me or them? You dance beautifully!" And then there was Chapkis."

"Looking at him, I always thought, 'Will I have that much energy at his age?" adds Victoria Bulitko, "He was incredibly hardworking. In the semifinals of the show, the participants performed about three dances, one of which was with one of the judges. I danced with Chapkis. When we were practicing, he kept repeating: "Yes, let's go through it again! And one more time!". If we had a whole day to rehearse, he would go on and on. There would be no respite. When I danced with him on air, I tried to touch him very carefully. I thought he was crystal, but in fact, he was very strong. His words about life being a movement became a kind of guide for me."

Attitude to money, a young lover and dancing barefoot. Friends and colleagues of Hryhoriy Chapkis shared personal stories on the anniversary of his death

"He not only loved life, but did everything he could to prolong it as much as possible," Ksenia Gorb, a famous Ukrainian dancer, participant and later chief choreographer of the Dancing with the Stars show, tells OBOZ.UA. "You know, over the years, people often neglect their health. They say: what do I need anymore? He didn't think that way. During the rehearsals, I saw that he always had a huge tin of vitamin complex with him. It was clear that he was taking good care of his health. This is something we all need to learn."

"He was very demanding - both to himself and to others," Ksenia continues, "When rehearsals were underway, he practiced for many hours, constantly repeating the number. Once, during a performance, he made a few minor mistakes. The audience didn't even notice it, but he was very worried, literally gnawing at himself because of it. He had a lot of students, and for their sake, he tried to be on top of his game all the time."

Attitude to money, a young lover and dancing barefoot. Friends and colleagues of Hryhoriy Chapkis shared personal stories on the anniversary of his death

"We all wanted to be like him - to move so much, to be in such great shape and mood," Olena Shoptenko, a famous choreographer, winner of the first season of Dancing with the Stars and partner of Volodymyr Zelenskyy, tells OBOZ.UA. "When such a person suddenly passes away, you understand on the one hand that it seems to have to happen, because life is so arranged that we are not eternal, but on the other hand, you lose an important reference point. In the first "Strictly Come Dancing," he sympathized with our pair with Volodymyr Zelenskyy. I remember his words: "Couple number five performed well, as always." I have always been impressed by the fact that he always evaluated not just the dance technique, but the soul of the dance."

"I knew Hryhoriy Mykolaiovych quite well because we taught at the same department at the university," continues Olena Shoptenko, "We communicated well. His speeches to students were always very profound, and it was clear that he enjoyed teaching. And I really liked that we had the same views. He taught his students that there are no different styles of dance, saying that you should know everything. He was a folk dance guru himself, but then he also studied ballroom dancing and taught this direction. He had a keen interest in everything around him. And a constant desire to develop."

Attitude to money, a young lover and dancing barefoot. Friends and colleagues of Hryhoriy Chapkis shared personal stories on the anniversary of his death

"We had a very warm relationship," Olha Sumska, People's Artist of Ukraine, who also once participated in the Dancing with the Stars project, tells OBOZ.UA. "We called each other, and on one of his anniversaries he asked me to be the host. I can't forget a very touching episode. He asked me to waltz on stage. I was wearing heels, which could have caused inconvenience due to Hryhoriy Mykolayovych's compact height. Without thinking twice, I took off my shoes and went dancing barefoot. And it was the most beautiful dance of that evening – we won the hearts of the audience."

"He was full of young energy all his life, and we all thought that Hryhoriy Mykolayovych would live for 150 years," continues Olha Sumska, "and he would always be in the jury of Dancing with the Stars. By the way, he was the one who supported me the most on Dancing with the Stars. I started with Dmytro Dikusar, who was still unknown to anyone – a 20-year-old young man. And in the second month of training, they said I would have another partner. I fought very hard for Dmytro, but he was replaced. And somehow it didn't work out with that partner. And that's exactly what Hryhorii Mykolaiovych said on the air on one of the competition days. He said there was no energy or chemistry between you. When we left the show, I warned the organizers that at the gala concert, where all the participants would perform, I would dance only with Dikusar. We performed as Prona Prokopovna and Golokhvastov, and it was the best dance of my life. Hryhoriy Nikolayevich said the following phrase then: "Olha, I finally see you dancing – that's what a partner means!" With these words, he gave me a chance to believe in myself."

Attitude to money, a young lover and dancing barefoot. Friends and colleagues of Hryhoriy Chapkis shared personal stories on the anniversary of his death

"We often visit his grave," adds Olha Sumska, "When we visit our parents, we always stop by to pay our respects to Hryhoriy Mykolaiovych at the Baikove cemetery. He is a very bright and kind man, no one can replace him. He is legendary and forever young."

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