The Ukrainian dance workshop tour put on by Cobblestone Freeway, is an intensive workshop that is designed to have participants travel around different regions of Ukraine visiting ensembles, folk dance groups, and knowledgeable instructors to greatly further one’s education in Ukrainian dance. Once completed, the participant goes back to his home with extensive resources, knowledge and inspiration to pass on what they have learned to their respective students. Being the fourth official workshop that Cobblestone has put on in this manner, it is evident of the impact that this project has on instructors and Ukrainian dance here in Canada. The level of professionalism, quality and understanding of instruction has risen greatly these few years, raising the bar for not only instructors, but for students to be taught properly with the context that this workshop brings. It’s because of the help of the Hromada Legacy Fund that it is possible to bring all the knowledge, culture and history from Ukraine back home to Canada where it can be taught and preserved for generations to come.

The workshop began strong, with two days in the city of Kyiv, dancing with the world renowned ‘Virsky’. These two days focused a lot on technique dance, as well as ballet training. This is essential for making sure we can instruct our students in a proper and safe manner, while also developing a strong foundation for staged folk dance. After the workshops, it was straight to watching the Kalyna Ensemble in a staged practice at their studio. A great way to see how things differ between groups, and it was a very inspirational evening.

The next day was a long drive to Kamyanets Podilskyy where we had a costume and culture seminar focusing on Podillia which was extremely informative. The next workshop was with the local ensemble, Kamyanchanka where we learned a total of three traditional Podillia dances including a version of Oira as well as the ‘crooked dance.’ This was extremely informative as this region and these dances are not very well explored in Canada. We then were privileged enough to perform one of these dances in costume, during a street festival which was definitely one of many highlights. Before leaving Kamyanets, we were treated to an evening in a castle where we were given extensive history on the region and about how people lived in the past.

Dance Group

Next we moved on to Ivano-Frankivsk where we started with another culture and costume workshop, this time focusing on Hutsulshchyna. After the lecture, we learned about Hutsul dance, and how traditional folk and stage dance can be combined, which is an interesting and different way to look at how we develop dances back home. We then attended a Hutsul music seminar and learned about different instruments and musical arrangements of song. The next day we traveled over to Verkhovyna and spent time up in a tiny village with the Ilyuk family where we learned about raw folk dance and where the staged version of these dances originally came from. They gave us information on where the dance steps developed from and played original music, which is great information to bring back to Canada and pass on to our own students and peers.

Starlight festivities

Then we traveled on to Dolyna, where we visited the town museum and learned all about the Boyko culture and history of the land. We then moved on straight to a show put on by the local young adult ensemble which had some very unique and fun choreography. A wonderful learning experience. The next morning we got to join that same ensemble in a long workshop dedicated to Boyko dancing, another region of Ukraine not well explored in Canada. We did three of their dances and learned a lot about dance steps and choreography native to that region.

dance steps

Lviv was our next and last stop, where we got to do an extensive seminar with Veseli Cherevychky. This was another highlight of the tour. Not only did we get to do lots of barre and technique work with them, we also got to observe how they go about teaching their children’s classes. This was extremely informative as we can parallel in to how we instruct here, and take away a lot of useful techniques to help our students efficiently learn even more.

The whole tour was an amazing way to absorb as much information about Ukraine, Ukrainian dance, and the culture in an interactive way. We got to take all the knowledge and resources, both physical and mental, home with us and bestow our newfound passion and knowledge of dance on to our students and peers.

This opportunity would not have been a possibility without the generous financial assistance of the UCC-SPC’s Hromada legacy fund, Sask lotteries and Sask Culture, and I want to truly thank them. Because of their initiatives, this once in a lifetime expedition to learn about and spread dance knowledge, Ukrainian culture and Ukrainian traditions back home to Canada was an overwhelming success.

by Adam Breckner