Folk It! Meet young dancers performing cultural dance styles

Daniel Tkaczuk Ukranian Dance

Daniel Tkaczuk talks about Ukrainian dance.

So, Daniel tell us a little about your background in dance and in life?

“The only way my brother Alex and I would agree to leave the bathtub was if mum and dad cranked up the Ukrainian music and let us bust a move. For some reason, we refused to put our pajamas on until after we had finished dancing. So now, there are far too many embarrassing photos of Alex and I with wet hair, jumping, shouting and dancing around the house. Though from the age of about four I began attending structured classes taught by my very talented mother Nadia and aunt Sonia through the Ukrainian Youth Association in Geelong. I am currently dancing with Lehenda Ukrainian Dance Company and we are very excited to embark on our first national and international tour ‘Kazka’ (a fairytale) this year!”

What are five words that describe Ukrainian dance?

“Energetic, daring, captivating, colorful and lively.”

What links does Ukrainian dance have with more mainstream styles of dance?

“Ukraine has well over 20 regions (or states) and many have their own unique dance styles. Although, they all draw on aspects of character dancing and ballet. Quite a lot of what we do is very technical, which links in with the discipline of ballet. The boys also do many ‘solos’ as we call them. They include aerial stunts, fast spins and high kicks. I always have friends asking me to do the ‘hip-hop tricks’ they’ve seen me do. In effect, Ukrainian dancing incorporates many aspects of mainstream dance styles and blends it into one electrifying style.”

Daniel Tkaczuk Ukranian Dance solo

Daniel Tkaczuk. Hopak Kalyna, Central Ukraine Style. Legend Ukrainian Dance Company. Photo by Dina Studio.

What can you express in Ukrainian dance that may not be expressed in other dance forms? What’s special about your dance style.

“The artistic director at Lehenda, Melania Moravski Dechincz, is always telling us to ‘engage with the audience.’ So there’s also a lot of acting involved. For the guys, we have to puff out our chests and stand tall and strong for the beautiful Ukrainian ladies. I enjoy the way Ukrainian dancing allows us to really interact with the people we dance with on stage and also make the audience feel like they are in and amongst all the energy. I can guarantee that after every performance, there’ll be a huge smile on everyone’s face and a long lasting desire to get up and dance.”

What would you say to someone who was thinking about taking up this form of dance? 

“What are the best things about it?  How do you train for it? I wouldn’t look any further! You’ve found the perfect dance style that seems to incorporate so many of the best styles. Ukrainian dancing has been a great way for me to stay fit, share my Ukrainian heritage and stay connected with new and old friends. I train two times a week consistently, though this sometimes creeps up to four or even five if we have a weekend workshop when a massive performance is coming up. We usually start with a classical or character barre, then move onto jumps, spins, solos, technique and exciting choreography.”

Where has it taken you and what do you hope to do with it?

“Ukrainian dancing has taken me around Australia and soon to be the rest of the world! I’ve been given many opportunities to showcase my Ukrainian culture through dance at many multicultural shows, weddings and corporate and community events. Our show ‘Kazka’ will take us to Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney, Toronto, Chicago, Philadelphia and New York. With forty dancers plus crew, everyone’s in for something really special! I can’t imagine a future without Ukrainian dancing!”

To learn more about the Lehenda Ukrainian Dance Company and the show Kazka, visit www.lehenda.com.au.

By Tamara Searle of Dance Informa.

Photo (top): Dancers from left: Michael Soloczynskyj, Michael Hruszowski, Daniel Tkaczuk. Dancing as a ‘Chumak’ (merchant). Legend Ukrainian Dance Company. Photo courtesy of Legend Ukrainian Dance Company.

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