Entertainment

Rita Ora joined by 12-year-old Ukrainian dancer for Eurovision performance

She was also flanked by backing dancers from the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts.
She was also flanked by backing dancers from the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts. She was also flanked by backing dancers from the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts.

Rita Ora was joined by a young Ukrainian dancer forced to flee the Russian invasion for her performance at the Eurovision Song Contest.

The pop star delivered a medley of her past hits culminating in the first live performance of her new track Praising You, which celebrates her relationship with her husband, film-maker Taika Waititi.

As the stage at the M&S Bank Arena in Liverpool lit up in red, the 32-year-old was joined by 54 backing dancers including 30 from the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts (Lipa).

Among them was 12-year-old Sofiia Kladko, from Rivne in the north west of Kyiv, who has been living in Warrington since 2022.

Shortly before her performance, Ora posted on Twitter paying tribute to the girl as representing “strength and hope during these turbulent, tragic and changeable times”.

She added: “We must not forget the privilege the UK has to play its part as host nation at the Eurovision 2023 for the Ukraine after the Kalush Orchestra won the contest last year.”

Ora grew up in Kosovo and later came to the UK with her family where she pursued her career in entertainment.

“The plight of Sofiia’s family reminds me of the incredible journey my family went through when I was her age, and how I will be forever grateful to the UK for showing us kindness and compassion,” she added.

“Sofiia opens my performance this evening playing with a ball, representing the loss of childhood for these poor refugees.

“I hope this amazing song contest opens hearts across Europe and the world. We love you Ukraine, we all perform tonight, for you.”

Ora’s performance came 14 years after she auditioned to represent the UK in 2009 with the song Get Here by Oleta Adams.

During the night, Alyosha, who competed at Eurovision in 2010, also duetted with former X Factor contestant Rebecca Ferguson on the Duran Duran track Ordinary World.

Alyosha had to leave loved ones behind in Ukraine following the Russian invasion and as she sung, text messages from families fleeing the country flashed up on screen and the stage set was lit up in the Ukrainian national colours of blue and yellow.

Co-host Julia Sanina, also from Ukraine, appeared visibly moved and described the performance as “so emotional”.