Roznizhka: 2011

photo of ukrainian dancers

That’s what the guy’s doing in the middle of this photo.

This is from a performance of the Kyiv Ukrainian Dance Ensemble, Three Sisters, at Andrew Carnegie Free Library & Music Hall today. The ensemble is local to Carnegie and while many of the dancers are of Ukrainian descent it’s not a requirement. The choreographer, Natalie Kapeluck, is skilled in modern dance as well and is of Ukrainian descent with a great amount of knowledge of the dances, costumes, traditions and stories of the land and bases her performances on traditional stories, working modern dance and ballet into the choreography.

She manages to work all the most famous traditional steps into each performance, especially the neat ones the guys get to do like this one, other leaps completely off the ground, spins and squats and even saber dances—with plastic sabers, of course. I had no idea he jumped as high as he did until I looked at my photos, and he did it not once, but two single times, then three in a row, barely touching the ground in between the three. This is mostly teenagers, including the guy in the jump, but the ensemble also includes a few adults and children all the way down to beginners. Everyone gets to dance in the annual performance, and there was one very little boy who handled his leaps and spins with great dexterity and a girl a few years older who just never missed a beat.

I am of Ukrainian descent on my mother’s side, and while I actually know little about the traditions—neither of my parents were terribly interested in what their parents were doing as children tend to be—I must have some cultural memory because I truly enjoy the dance, the music, and the traditional costumes, so full of flowers and bright colors with lots of red, even for men. The stories are always a mix of reality and fantasy, religion and superstition, full of scenes in nature and trees that come to life and heroic quests.

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