By: Hailey Siracky. Mykola Kanevets, Artistic Director of Edmonton’s Cheremosh Ukrainian Dance Company, has a lot of big ideas. At a recent Cheremosh rehearsal he told his dancers, “If you can control yourself, you can change the entire universe.” His recent trip to Australia is evidence that this philosophy has worked well for him and is impacting the Ukrainian dance scene in Australia.
Mykola’s relationship with the Ukrainian dance community in Australia began in 2001. Initially, he was contacted by Peggy and Paul Kulhawec, instructors of the Ukrainian dance group Taisa of Melbourne, Australia. Considering that Ukrainian dance is a fairly new art form in Australia – most Australian Ukrainian immigrants didn’t arrive until after World War II, while in Canada, Ukrainians arrived as early as the 1890’s – Taisa’s instructors were interested in learning from a professional who worked in a more established dance community. Peggy and Paul met with Mykola in Edmonton, where they attended a few weeks of Cheremosh rehearsals, and Mykola was invited to travel to Australia to work with them and their group for a week that summer. During that time, he was also the guest instructor at a national workshop, where he worked with dancers from all over Australia. Then in 2002, the Veselka Ukrainian Dancers from Sydney, Australia, toured western Canada and attended rehearsals with Cheremosh in Edmonton.
In 2005, he returned to Australia as a guest instructor where he worked with dancers from Melbourne, Adelaide and Sydney. He has been working with Taisa, as well as with Verkhovnya from Melbourne and Veselka from Sydney, ever since. His most recent trip to Australia, which took place this past December, has proven to be one of the most rewarding trips yet. When asked about his favourite part of the trip, Mykola said that the first time he went to Australia, the dancers had difficulty mastering his exercises and choreography. But this time, he reported that the dancers were well prepared and knew what to expect. Mykola has been able to see them grow as performers, both on a technical level and as a group. The progress these dancers have made in such a short time is no small feat.
Mykola has played an integral part in raising Ukrainian dance in Australia to a new level. “They have a very big desire to dance,” he said when asked about the dancers in Australia. “There is a big wish to explore Ukrainian dance on stage…but it is necessary for them to bring their quality of dance to a higher level.” Mykola’s guidance and leadership have helped bring them closer to achieving this goal.
When asked about plans to return to Australia, Mykola said that the next time he visits, he would like to bring Cheremosh with him – another big idea, but an idea that is undoubtedly possible.