Dance company spotlights Ukrainian culture


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Dave Federowich and his dance company are hoping to share their culture with people in the Minnedosa area at a Ukrainian dance summer camp for children.

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Dave Federowich and his dance company are hoping to share their culture with people in the Minnedosa area at a Ukrainian dance summer camp for children.

Having spent many years of his youth taking part in Ukrainian dance, which is known for its high-energy movements and colourful costumes, it seemed only natural when, in 2019, Federowich decided to open a dance academy.

Since then, the Yednist School of Ukrainian Dance, based in Brandon, has been steadily growing, even with COVID-19 pandemic restrictions in place.

Dawson Federowich of Brandon’s Yednist School of Ukrainian Dance jumps during a performance at the Western Manitoba Centennial Auditorium on May 5. (File)

“We’re a new group, and we’re just starting out, but we are growing every year,” said Federowich, who is from Dauphin.

While Federowich has always been proud of his heritage — his ancestors came from Ukraine and settled in Manitoba — after Russia invaded the country, he believed it was even more important to show people the beauty of his culture.

Now, his company is branching out to offer a summer day camp for dance at Minnedosa Community Conference Centre, which will run Aug. 8-12.

“Part of the mandate of our group is to share our Ukrainian culture and heritage,” Federowich said. “We share it every year, really all year long in Brandon, so we thought we’d get up to the rest of the smaller communities around Brandon.”

Olga Melnyk moved to Manitoba after the war in Ukraine led her and her family to seek refuge in Canada. Arriving in Brandon last summer, Melnyk soon began teaching at the Yednist School of Ukrainian Dance.

“It’s been a wonderful experience for the kids and for us, too, and we learned a lot about how life was in Ukraine,” Federowich said of working with Melnyk. “It was a good experience for her, too, to learn how things worked with Ukrainian dancing in Canada.”

There are some differences when it comes to how Ukrainian dancing is performed in Canada and how it is performed in Ukraine, Federowich said. Surprisingly, most children in Ukraine are more interested in learning modern dance, while Canada’s burgeoning number of Ukrainian dancers is a good indication of its popularity, he added.

In Ukraine, folk dancing comes in a variety of flavours, largely based on the regions where they have come to be the most popular. Kozak (also called Cossack) dances, which are popular in central Ukraine, represent the culture and traditions of the Ukrainian Kozaks, Poltava and other central Ukrainian lands surrounding the Dnieper River. The most popular form of Ukrainian dance, and the one taught at the Yednist School of Ukrainian Dance, it was influenced by the Kozaks’ love of social dances. The style of dance is acrobatic and physically demanding, especially for male dancers, who are often showcased individually.

Melnyk grew up in the western Ukrainian city of Kosiv and later attended the Kyiv national University of Culture and Arts to study dance. After graduating from school, she returned to Kosiv to start her teaching career, eventually opening her own studio around five years ago.

Although fleeing the war and settling in a new home has been difficult, Melnyk told the Sun that becoming involved in teaching Ukrainian dance in Canada has helped her adapt to her new home.

Federowich hopes that by bringing the summer dance camp to Minnedosa, children who live in the areas surrounding the community will want to take part and learn more about Ukrainian culture, regardless of their own backgrounds and ethnicities.

“We want to bring it out and include everybody, Ukrainian and non-Ukrainian alike,” he said.

The summer camp, designed for children aged seven to 17, is appropriate for those who have experience in Ukrainian dance and those who don’t, and even those who have had no formal dance training at all.

Guest instructor Tymothy Jaddock, a former corps de ballet member of the Cheremosh Ukrainian Dance Company of Edmonton, will teach students at the summer camp. While in the Cheremosh Ukrainian Dance Company, he danced with various corps de ballet and in different soloist roles, performing original works by ballet master Mykola Kanevets and classic Ukrainian dance canon by Pavlo Virsky.

Jaddock has toured across Canada and the United States with the dance company and also while teaching and directing character dance and ballet programming at various dance studios in Alberta. After five seasons with the company, he began a year-long dance residency and training program in Ukraine. Jaddock has previously held residencies with various universities and state ensembles across Canada studying ballet and has studied character and Ukrainian folk dance in the cities of Kyiv, Lviv, Lutsk, Chemivtsi and Poltava.

Following his time in Europe, Jaddock moved to New York City, where he completed his master’s degree in dance education and ballet pedagogy at New York University, in collaboration with the American Ballet Theatre. He currently resides in New York City and dances with the Yunist Ukrainian Dance Ensemble and teaches at the American Youth Dance Theatre.

Federowich said he was thrilled to have secured Jaddock as a teacher, and is hopeful the students will learn a lot from him.

“It’s quite an honour to dance with someone as sensitively trained as our guest instructor, so anybody that’s even into ballet would really benefit from their time with him,” he said.

Jaddock, who also grew up in Dauphin, will adjudicat the amateur talent competition at this year’s Canada’s National Ukrainian Festival, happening Aug. 4-6 in his hometown. Once he’s finished teaching the summer camp for Yednist School of Dance in Minnedosa, he’ll head to Edmonton, where he’ll teach a summer intensive dance program.

“It will be a fun few weeks of bringing my dance expertise to the Canadian Prairies, and a nice change of pace from New York City,” Jaddock said.

Now more than ever, sharing Ukrainian culture through dance is important, he said. Manitoba’s Ukrainian diaspora has so many things to celebrate, and culture and dance are a great way to connect to one’s Ukrainian ancestry and show solidarity with those living through Russian aggression.

“After the Russian invasion of Ukraine, it has become paramount that we promote, preserve and continue to produce Ukrainian art. Russia is actively oppressing Ukrainians and it is our duty in the diaspora thwart that oppression in any way we can,” Jaddock said.

Students who sign up for the summer day camp won’t spend all their time dancing, they’ll also learn about Ukrainian culture through crafting, songs and games.

“That way we can just celebrate Ukrainian culture through education,” Federowich said.

For more information or to register for the summer camp, email, or find the group on their Facebook page, called Yednist School of Ukrainian Dance.

», with files from Kyle Darbyson

» Twitter: @miraleybourne

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