Ivano-Frankivsk: Learning the Hutsulia Style and Family Rendezvous

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

After the late night drive to Ivano-Frankivsk from L’viv, the best way to start the day was with a big cup of coffee at the beautiful Hotel Nadia. It was quite exciting to be heading to the first of our region specific workshops planned on our road trip!

At the Hutsulia Song and Dance Ensemble’s studio, we were welcomed by their director Ivan Koroliuk and another dancer named Luba who would lead us through the workshop. It was a great opportunity to observe and try to emulate their authentic Hutsul style through the sharp and fast-paced combinations we learned. My favorite aspect of the workshop was the director’s enthusiasm for dancing and his encouragement throughout the workshop… Even though we were all pretty excited to begin with, I think this bolstered our energy even more!

We headed back to our hotel for a delicious lunch and to pack our costumes for the evening show. Initially it was planned that we would perform five dances at the performance but Mykola increased this to seven after hearing that they wanted to see as much of our dancing as possible! We performed Pryvit, Girls’ Tambourine, Buko, Divchyna Uliana, Rhapsodia, Polka Volynianka, and Edmonton Hopak.

I tried my best to watch some of Hutsulia’s dances from the wings between dances… The mixture of singing and dancing was very powerful and a pleasure to watch. It was a particular treat to have a small tv screen backstage so that we could see the audience perspective on the performance.

This performance was particularly special for me because I knew that there was quite a big group of extended family (descendants of my grandpa’s uncle) that had traveled about 70 km from their homes to come watch us dance. It was my first opportunity to meet many of these family members and probably the only time that they’d have the opportunity to see me dance and this was definitely on my mind as I was dancing in Ivano-Frankivsk!

After we danced, I headed out to the lobby to find 15 family members eagerly waiting to meet me! It was all a bit overwhelming and emotional to see everyone. Three of the people that came (Natalia, Mikhailo, and Josef) had visited Canada about ten years ago and I knew them quite well when I was an early teenager! Natalia had baked a beautifully decorated pryvit bread for me with a gorgeous rushnyk. Seeing them again was really special… Especially after such a long time! I don’t think I’ve ever before wished so much that I could speak Ukrainian! Luckily, Zorya came with me to help translate and Natalia and Mikhailo speak English quite well! Everyone seemed to have really enjoyed the performance and said it was something they had never seen before! The particularly enjoyed the variety of steps and combinations that we have in our dances.

Rather than heading back to the hotel with the group for dinner, Zorya and I went to a restaurant with my family. We had a beautiful and delicious meal while talking about the family at home and in Ukraine. I brought family photos from home and we spent quite a while talking about who was in the photos. Josef brought an old photo album that even had some photos of me when I was little! We did quite a few toasts to family, health, and a safe journey home! It was fun to reminisce and to learn about this branch of my family that I know so little about!

This family connection added such a unique and special dimension to this Cheremosh tour for me! I’m hoping in the future I’ll be able to come back and travel to their home villages!

– Brooke Miller