Filled with colourful costumes, fast and energetic music, and gravity-defying stunts, Ukrainian dancing (often confused with its cousin, Russian dancing) is a powerful and moving dance form. Steeped in the history and culture of different regions around Ukraine, the dances you see today keep alive the memories of generations past. Probably the best place to see authentic Ukrainian dancing is in Ukraine itself. However, since so many Ukrainians fled their home country before and during Soviet occupation, the dance form has been exported to countries such as Canada, Australia, England and the USA.
Here are some of the most exciting dances you can watch.
This dance is probably the most exciting Ukrainian dance you can see live. If someone you know has seen Ukrainian dancing, this is probably the one they remember the most. The men's dance uniforms, reminiscent of kozak battle garments, consist of an embroidered shirt, baggy pants and a sash while the women wear an ornate dress comprised of three layers. With a group performance opening the dance, the group soon separates to allow solo performers showcase their talents. Based on historical battle training, the performers require strength and endurance to perform their solos. The splitz, pikes, and other gravity-defying flips, spins and kicks dominate for the next 10 minutes. Sometimes they pair up or make a small group to perform yet another amazing feat of skill and muscle. It is truly an exciting dance to behold.
Named after the largest city in the Carpathian Mountains, the Kolomejka is dominated by the intricate footwork stamped in time to energetic music. The music that energizes this dance is probably the most recognizable Ukrainian melody in the world. Fast-paced and filled with violin trills, it moves at break neck speed and keeps even the nimblest of performers challenged. The costumes consist of, for men, black boots, white or beige trousers, a sash, an embroidered shirt, an ornate jacket and a hat that looks much like a fedora. For women, black boots, a skirt (embroidered in either orange or brown), a sash and an embroidered blouse. Although much of the dance is performed as a group, performers will break off into pairs or solo artists will take centre stage to display their talents.
The male fire dance. The music alone will make your hairs stand up on end. Dressed in red boots, baggy red pants, an embroidered shirt, a black jacket and a hat, the men enter slowly, as if approaching a fire. A trumpet call summons the performers to gather round and join shoulders. Slowly at first, they sway in time to the music. They take their first steps as the music begins to speed up. Before you know it, the circle of men are spinning at what seems to be an uncontrollable pace and interminttantly stamping, kicking, and jumping in unison. If the dance troupe is large enough the men will sometimes make a tower, usually two stories high, but sometimes three. Unlike the dances above, this dance is rarely performed and is a real treat to see.
Letter to the Sultan
Probably the most amusing and entertaining Ukrainian dance would be based off of a famous painting titled The Zaporozhian Cossacks Write a Letter to the Turkish Sultan (1880–91) by Ilia Repin. The painting itself depicts a group of kozaks responding in writing to the Turkish sultan's request for them to submit to him. They can't believe the audacity of the sultan and so, in one grand manner, get together to compose a response. The story unfolds and the cossacks get carried away, challenging each other with swords and other feats of strength. The merriment ends with a perfect written response to the sultan: "*$&*# ($%^*@ NO!"