Kupalo Ukrainian Dance Ensemble
By Debbie Lemhouse
Impressive. Amazing. Awesome. These are all words that describe the incredible performance group from Canada: Kupalo. These excellent dancers are coming to our Festival to perform twice daily on the Festival Park Stage. The group consists of 16 dancers ranging in age from 14 – 19 years. They are all from the Edmonton, Alberta area. The group was established in 1982, under the St. Basil’s Language Arts Society in Edmonton, Alberta. The Kupalo Ukrainian Dance Ensemble has fostered the love of Ukrainian dance and provide its members with a high degree of technical training in Ukrainian Canadian dance.
The group rehearses once a week and many have danced together for more than 10 years. Tricia Bayrock and Stephen Ekstrom direct and instruct the group. The dynamic style, energy and professionalism have entertained audiences both locally and abroad. They have performed in festivals such as Mondial des cultures in Drummondvill, Quebec, the Aberdeen Youth Festival in Aberdeen, Scotland, as well as various festivals in PEI, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, New York and Oregon. The group visited the Festival twice, once in 1999 and once in 2006.
The group performs many of the traditional styles of Ukrainian dance from various regions of Ukraine including Volyn, Barynnya and central Ukraine.
The Volynianochka dance comes from the Volyn region of Ukraine. This region is located in the Northwest corner of Ukraine. The dances from this region have been influenced by the traditional dances of Poland due to Volyn’s proximity with Poland and when Estonia was under Poland’s rule. The costumes worn by dancers from this region are bright and vibrant and the dance steps are characterized by energetic jumping, high legs, lively arms and intricate combinations. The men’s costumes are characterized by long white shirts with embroidery and belted with a colorful sash. The women’s costume is characterized by a mid-length shirt and white embroidered top and apron.
The Barynnya region is influenced by Russian culture and traditions as this region is near the Russian border in Ukraine. It is characterized by its high energy, high jumps, circular formations and rhythmic combinations.
From central Ukraine comes the Hopak which is Ukraine’s National dance and is one of the best know dances from around the world. Its name is derived from the word hopty which means “to leap and stamp ones feet”. It is known for its high energy and colorful costumes. The men’s solos are characterized by acrobatics, leaps, squats, and often involve a competition in expertise. The woman’s solos are characterized by quick steps, bends, turns and whirlwind spins. The tunes to which the dance is performed are varied while the tempo is fast and the beat is 2/4. The men’s costume are styled after Kozak dress with boots, loose shirt, a sash tied around the waist and loose billowy pants. The women’s costume consists of embroidered blouse, colorful shirts and a headpiece of flowers and ribbons. These pieces vary from village to village and many professional groups dress their performers in identical costumes.
To see a video and photos of this group, check out the group’s Facebook page “St. Basil’s School of Dance & Kupalo” and search YouTube for Kupalo dancers of Edmonton Alberta, Canada.
You won’t want to miss this group’s performances at the Scandinavian Festival this year! They perform once in the afternoon and once in the evening for one hour presentations. We look forward to watching them again after an absence of many years!