On Saturday morning, Troyanda and Sopilka, along with the Shumka School of Dance, had a workshop with the Volyn Folk Choir and Dance Ensemble. Class started off with a ballet warm up before we started the choreography part. We learned various Volyn polkas — who knew there were so many ways to do the basic “1-2-3” step. An accordion player accompanied us during the class — the Volyn dancers saying “8-and” for tempo, and the accordion player taking it from there.
Later that day, we had our first performance of the International Ukrainian Dance and Culture Festival on an outdoor stage at Rynok Square in Lviv. Troyanda and Sopilka each performed two dances, and that was plenty, considering the sun was shining bright and hot, hot, hot. It was 32 C, though of course wearing our multi-layered costumes, it felt quite a bit warmer.
People stood, danced, clapped, and sang along near the stage, as well as from the surrounding restaurant patios. Besides our family and new friends in the crowd, we saw many other familiar faces. This past week, Lviv has been a popular spot for Winnipeggers, between a wedding, a honeymoon, and vacationing, and many came to watch the festival show. (Thank you for your support!)
We headed to the Malevich Night Club with the other festival performers for supper, live music, and a zabava. First up was Burdon, a folk band from Lviv. (Troyanda’s Hutsul Kolomeyka dance is set to one of Burdon’s songs!)
Next was Gerdan Studio Theatre from Chernivtsi. Though the singing group performed at other times throughout the festival, the headliner of the night needed a bit more time before coming on stage, so Gerdan stepped up, their voices, tambourines, and drums filling the air.
The MC of the festival, popstar Nazar Savko, performed as well before the headliner, Ruslana, came on stage. Ruslana performed at Canada’s National Ukrainian Festival in Dauphin in 2014, which was also the year Troyanda toured Eastern Europe and came back to Canada just in time to perform in Dauphin. Ruslana was amazing then and, judging by the Lviv audience's screaming, dancing, and jumping, she’s amazing now.
At the start of the show, Ruslana briefly talked about how it’s special that groups from all around the world are preserving and celebrating Ukrainian culture.
“For love. For freedom. For Ukraine,” Ruslana said, dedicating the show to celebrating Ukraine and Ukrainians, all over the world.
The St. Johns, Newfoundland band the Kubasonics played during the zabava. There were polkas, and of course, a kolomeyka, where people showed off their best dance tricks.
On Sunday morning, we dressed up in full costume for the festival parade, walking down the cobblestone with the other performers, waving and smiling at the locals.
Later that day, we performed at Shevchenkivskyi Hai, an open-air museum of Ukrainian architecture, life, and culture. The museum is divided into six replica western villages. We didn’t have much time to explore because we were there to perform, though we did have a delicious Ukrainian lunch with borscht and varenyky, among other dishes.
It was a cooler day, about 20 C, which was welcome since we performed outdoors again. It did rain a bit, so the show was delayed, but in the end we performed all our dances before heading back to our hotel.
Monday was a big day. It started off with a technical rehearsal for the festival’s gala performance, which was in the evening. After tech and a bit of free time, we had lunch at Kryyivka, a themed restaurant that’s underground and designed like a bunker, a hide out for the Ukrainian Insurgent Army. To enter, you must say the password, Slava Ukrayini (Glory to Ukraine), and then you’re greeted with a shot of medovukha (honey wine).
After lunch, we got ready for the big show. The adjudicator of the festival, the choreographer of Troyanda’s Ladies Festive and Buko Couples dances, chose the dances for the gala. He selected dances that stood out to him and ones he thought would make the best show possible. Troyanda performed Ladies Festive and our two Polissian dances, Skakukha and Mazurochky.
This was our first time performing on a raked stage, a stage that is higher in the back than the front (where the terms upstage and downstage come from). This gives the audience, which on the main floor is seated flat, a better view of the show. It was challenging — you moved faster than usual going downstage, but it took much more effort than usual going upstage — but it was a fun challenge. Between the stage, the fellow performers, the audience (1,100 people!), and the atmosphere, it was a show that will stand out to us for a long time.
After all the groups performed, we stood on stage, recognizing each group and their instructors. As a gift, the groups received flags of Ukraine. Soldiers from eastern Ukraine signed and gifted the flags to us. It was a special moment receiving the flag — dance groups from around the world, including Ukraine, surrounded us, standing tall and proud, while the audience in front of us stood on their feet, clapping and cheering.
The Volyn Folk Choir led the sold-out opera house in the Ukrainian national anthem. Whether we knew all of or some of the lyrics, Troyanda sang loud and proud, honouring our loved ones in Canada and Ukraine.
The opera house show was the perfect end to our stay in Lviv. Though we had a busy few days, we are thankful for all that we experienced.
Tuesday morning we headed out to the Carpathian Mountains, stopping in Kolomeya for lunch and a tour of the Pysanka Museum. We got to our hotel outside Kosiv later that day and have a few relaxing days ahead — well, as relaxing as you can get while trying to see as much as you can of a country.
Stay tuned for photos from Wednesday’s mock Hutsul wedding!
Ukrainian phrase of the day
Я не розумію (Ya ne rozumiyu): I do not understand
Between the many markets, restaurants, and shops we’ve been to, this has been a useful phrase. Some of us get by with the (little) Ukrainian we know — for a bit, that is. Then we get stuck, with the person we’re talking to thinking we know more Ukrainian than we actually do, and they continue on and on, speaking faster and faster, but that’s when this phrase especially comes in handy. So we say it and resort back to hand motions.