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TRADITIONS: Popular Ukrainian Dances



Ukrainians are well-known for their love of partying, with merry songs and energising dances. The party traditions of this great country have their roots in the old times, mass holiday celebrations in villages, and even back to the days of the Kozaks in the Zaporozhian Sich. Interested to learn more? Let's check out the historical background and the typical features of some of the most popular traditional Ukrainian dances.



Kozachok

The Kozachok is a Ukrainian folk dance named after the brave Kozaks. This fast dance has much in common with the Hopak, but it is simpler and includes less complicated acrobatic feats. Besides, the Kozachok is considered more smooth and lyrical than the Hopak due to the fact that it is often danced by girls. The Kozachok can be performed by pairs, groups, or solo dancers. There are many versions of this dance – Ukrainian, Belorussian, Russian, Kuban, etc. However, the Ukrainian version is the most popular. in the world of folk dance. The first musical arrangement of the Kozachok was supposedly made by Polish lute player and composer S. Dusiatsky in the XVII century.



Hopak

Usually, Hopak performances have an inspiring and heroic character, reminding viewers about the victories of the great Ukrainian Kozaks. Anyone in doubt can take a look at videos with the Ukrainian Hopak, like this one by Virsky:

The Hopak is the most well-known and probably the most awe-inspiring of all traditional Ukrainian dances. It first appeared in the Zaporozhian Sich in the XVI-XIII centuries – not as a dance, but more as a specific kind of martial art. While dancing the Hopak, KOzaks practiced the basic elements of a fight – speed, powerful kicks, and cuffs, special stands, and tactics. Of course, the art of the Hopak was for men only. Nowadays, the Hopak is danced by both men and women, but men usually play the main role in this dance. The Hopak includes many difficult elements as high jumps, quick squats, rapid turns, and so on. This dance can be performed solo, in pairs, or in groups.


Kolomyika


The Kolomiyka is the name of traditional folk dance and song from the Carpathians. No one knows when exactly the first Kolomyika was danced, but judging from the name it definitely happened in the town of Kolomyia, Ivano-Frankivsk oblast. This dance quickly gained popularity in Kolomyia and the surrounding towns in the middle of the XIX century. Kolomyika song lyrics are usually humorous or tell about some historical events. The dance is performed in pairs or by an even number of dancers standing in a circle.


Metelytsia

The Metelytsia (snowstrom) is a fast folk Ukrainian dance performed by groups of people. While dancing the Metelytsia, all participants stand in a circle facing each other. The leading pair of dancers is chosen in advance. The people dance in pairs holding each other's hands and spinning around, which makes the dance look like a snowstorm. The dance is accompanied with humorous songs and vivid folk music. The Metelytsia, which is usually performed by girls, is popular not only in Ukraine, but also in Belarus and Russia.


Pleskach

The Pleskach is a pair dance that can be performed by an unlimited number of couples at the same time. Rhythmic hand clapping (pleskannya) is an important element of the dance that explains its name. While performing the Plesckach, couples hold hands like in a polka and go round in circles counter-clockwise. Stamping with the feet is also a characterisation of this dance, repeating the rhythm or creating new ones with the hands. The Pleskach is a very energising and merry dance.


Khorovod


The Khorovod (literally translated as round dance) is an ancient ritual dance of the Eastern Slavs that also includes games, singing songs, and playing musical instruments. In the old times, performance of a Khorovod was related to traditional rituals of welcoming spring, celebrating Ivan Kupala (summer solstice), starting the New Year, and so on. The Khorovod is danced by many people standing in a large circle that symbolises the sun. After the establishment of Christianity, traditional Khorovods underwent some change and became bound to the ecclesiastical calendar. Nowadays, the Khorovod has almost lost its ritual meaning, but is still extremely popular among professional and amateur dance groups.


Watching Ukrainian dancers performing any of these fascinating dances, you will surely inspire you to try some of these energising moves yourself. Давайте потанцюймо!


Based on Kateryna Pavlova's materials

Photo: Mike Deal, Winnipeg Free Press

Videos taken from YouTube.com

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