Celebrating its 14th year and 21st theatrical dance production, Vernon’s Sadok Ukrainian Dance Ensemble is ready to bring some of Eastern European culture to local audiences once again.
Choreographed by artistic director Andrea Malysh, who has 30 years experience in Ukrainian folk dance and ethnographic studies, this year’s dance theatre production is called Vesna: A Springtime Celebration.
The dances and brightly coloured costumes come from various regions of the Ukraine and celebrate the Easter tradition of hahilky, or spring dances, said Malysh.
“This excitingly vibrant and colourful dance is always enjoyed by audiences of both Ukrainians and non-Ukrainians alike,” she said.
Hahilky comes from the time on Easter Sunday when young girls performed in front of the church or in the cemetery. In pagan times, hahilky was performed in sacred groves by the water.
“These group dances, songs, games and dramatic scenes were believed to serve a magical function with the aim of enticing spring and chasing winter away,” said Malysh, adding there was also a group of hahilky that spoke about the beauty and industriousness of young maidens, since spring was also a time when love blossomed.
Sadok will also celebrate the Easter and spring tradition of decorating eggs, known as pysanky, and is dedicating its concert to “Auntie” Lena Kucher, who Malysh says shared her beautiful pysanky and traditions to many during her life.
Pysanky can be directly traced back to the Bronze Era 5,000 years ago, when the Trypillian culture prospered in Ukraine.
The earliest designs mirrored man’s close relationship to the soil and other aspects of nature, said Malysh.
“Ukrainian folk art is based on these early symbols. At various times of the year or at points of passage in a person’s life they took on mystical meaning. Colours and designs came into being to be representative of nature and life itself,” she said.
Children were given pysanky with floral designs in a usually light colour, while teenagers would receive pysanky with predominantly white colouring to signify the blank page of their future.
Married couples were given pysanky with the popular 40 triangles design which in Ukrainian culture symbolized the 40 tasks of life, said Malysh, adding an older person of advanced age received black pysanky with belts, ladders and gates to remind them of their bridge to heaven.
“This practice of giving pysanky became part of the Ukrainian tradition and also served as a means of preserving and continuing the art of pysanky itself. For centuries the designs and symbols used on pysanky were handed down from mother to daughter. The cultural heritage of the Ukrainian nation was entrusted this way.”
This summer, Sadok will return to Ukraine to once again enjoy the beautiful country, visit family and study dance at the Yunist Dance studio at the Palace of Culture in Lviv.
Joining Sadok at their spring celebration will be the Dolyna Ukrainian Dancers of Kelowna.
The concert takes place at the Vernon Performing Arts Centre Sunday, May 26 at 2 p.m. Tickets are $20/adult, $10/pre-school, at the Ticket Seller, 549-7469, www.ticketseller.ca.