CANORA — After being absent from the stage since 2019 due to COVID-19, Veselka Ukrainian Dance Concert was back at Canora Composite School for the 46th annual event on April 10.
And with the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine on almost everyone’s mind, the concert took on a heightened level of significance for audience members and dancers alike, as well as Maria Schigol, emcee.
“We have gathered here today to watch our young people partake not only in the physical act of dancing, but a celebration of their heritage and culture,” said Schigol. “However, in light of the times and current events, one cannot appreciate the hard work of the dancers and their beautiful costumes without thinking of the recent events happening in Ukraine. The invasion of Ukraine by Russia on February 24 and the subsequent war that has raged on for 46 days has been a terrible thing indeed. It has been shocking and unnerving to see warfare and its consequences to Ukraine and her people in the modern era.
“However, as the words from the Ukrainian national anthem tell us, ‘Ukraine has not yet died, neither its honour, nor its glory. Our enemies will perish like the dew on the sun,’” continued Schigol. “Indeed, Ukraine and her people have shown strength, perseverance and a level of ferocity that was perhaps unexpected. Before the invasion, Russia was considered to have the second largest army in the world. Vladimir Putin, the president of Russia, recklessly made threats of nuclear violence if any other countries tried to intervene in his terrible plans for Ukraine. However, after many relentless battles, the Russian forces have been driven from Kiev and continue to retreat to the east. Their military has been revealed to be woefully inadequate and their troops ill prepared to face the fury and bravery of the Ukrainian people.
“Ukraine is also led by a fearless leader, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who has remained in the capital to encourage his people. The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Boris Johnson, visited Kiev in a show of solidarity and to prove that the city is safe and could not be taken or held by the invading Russians. I am sure many of you would agree - I have never felt more proud to be Ukrainian. The preservation of our heritage and culture has never been more important than right now – when there are forces who are actively trying to oppress and erase it.
“There is no better example of Ukrainian culture being honoured and practiced than through dance. There have been countless videos circulating on social media of young Ukrainian soldiers taking breaks from combat to dance and sing. Our young dancers have been working hard all year as well, and I know they are excited to share that hard work with you. As long as the next generation remembers who they are and where they come from, Ukraine will never be truly defeated. Slava Ukraini!”
Performing the National Anthem of Ukraine, Shche Ne Vmerla Ukraina, were: Hannah Dutchak, Danielle Dutchak, Meekah Unick, Madison Dutchak and Tessa Prychak. They were followed by Cassandra Danyluk’s rendition of O Canada.
A total of 39 dancers performed in the concert, ranging in age from four to 15 years.
“We are very proud of all our dancers, all 39 dancers at the concert performed extremely well,” said Shannon Unick, President of Canora Veselka Ukrainian Dance. “Their hard work and dedication showed off when they stepped on that stage, the energy, smiles, and dancing was amazing to watch. It’s been two years without performances since these dancers were able to showcase their accomplishments in their community, and finally they did and what a spectacular job it was!”
“Our dancers have faced many challenges, they danced through a pandemic, wearing masks, and social distancing. We are proud of each and everyone of them,” detailed Unick. “With the recent events happening in Ukraine, our dancers were proud to show off their culture in this year’s performance.”
The first dance of the program was the Pryvit, or “Welcome Dance” which represents many regions of Ukraine and featured all 39 Veselka dancers. Miles Kitchen and Paisley Mickelson of the Novice group offered their guests bread, salt and wheat, which represents a wish of prosperity and health.
The Junior 1 mixed group members are instructed by Liana Zabutnyy. Group members are: Bella Fullawka, Aspyn Fullawka, Kaydence Goulet, Jacob Prychak, Layla Keyowski and Riley Roberts. They performed two dances, the Hutzul and the Poltava.
Hutzul dances are lively and energetic, characterized by quick stamping and intricate footwork, combined with swift vertical movements. The Poltava is acrobatic and physically demanding for the male dancers, while the females display grace and beauty while dancing in technically demanding unison.
The Junior 2 group is instructed by Liana Zabutnyy. Members are: Ethan Chabun, Drew Kitchen, Emmett Kitchen and Hannah Dutchak. They performed two dances, the Transcarpathian and the Poltava. The Transcarpathian is a moderately paced dance that is characterized by the males clapping and slapping their boots and bodies. It is rhythmic and bouncy with distinct twisting motions.
Serhiy Zabutnyy is the instructor of the Junior 3 group, which includes: Reid Kitchen, Greta Craig, Madison Dutchak, Tessa Prychak, Caden Doogan, Chloe Doogan, Jevon Keyowski and Mya Dutchak. They danced two dances, the Poltava and the Polissia.
The Polissia is a fast paced bouncy dance which incorporates high leg movements with repetitive tapping and stamping.
The Intermediate groups is instructed by Serhiy Zabutnyy. Members are: Kacee Kitchen, Isabelle Chabun, Simon Craig, Maddy Dutchak, Rori Love, Cassidy Wolkowski, Danielle Dutchak, Olivia Tratch, Joshua Prychak, Natalie Kosar and Rhianna Stefanyshyn. They performed the Poltava and the Volyn.
Volyn dance steps are characterized by energetic jumping, high legs, lively arms and twirling steps.
Liana and Serhiy Zabutnyy instruct the Senior Group, which includes: Meekah Unick, Henry Craig, Jack Craig, Ava Love, Makayla Heshka, Brenna Reine, Matthew Makowsky, Jordan Makowsky, Noah Prychak and Sofia Tratch. They performed three dances; the Bukovynian, the Volyn and the Hopak.
The Bukovynian dances are lively, energetic and characterized by high stepping, intricate foot stamping combinations.
The Hopak is a national Ukrainian dance mostly performed in unison, as the women spin and the men squat repeatedly.
Veselka Dancer Awards were selected this year by the students, who were given criteria to follow and then asked to nominate a classmate that they thought met those criteria.
The award recipients for the Novice group were Paisley Mickelson and Miles Kitchen; Junior 1, Layla Keyowski and Riley Roberts; Junior 2, Drew Kitchen; Junior 3, Tessa Prychak; Intermediate, Kacee Kitchen, and the Senior winner was Meekah Unick.
“Thank you to everyone who attended the concert, your support means so much to these dancers!” concluded Shannon Unick, President of Canora Veselka Ukrainian Dance.