FSU brings Ukrainian Dance Ensemble to Tallahassee

| Thu, 02/15/24
The Syzokryli Ukrainian Dance Ensemble in a v-shaped formation with arms raised.
The Syzokryli Ukrainian Dance Ensemble of New York City will perform in Tallahassee on Saturday, Feb. 24. (Mark Lonkevych)

In many cultures, dance is intertwined with daily life. Like music, dance conveys much about different regions of a country and its history. Tallahassee will be offered a glimpse inside Ukrainian culture this month as a dance ensemble specializing in a fusion of Ukrainian folk dance and classical ballet performs six pieces for the Florida State University, Florida A&M University and Tallahassee communities.

The Syzokryli Ukrainian Dance Ensemble of New York City will perform at 6 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 24, at FAMU’s Lee Hall Auditorium.

“Syzokryli’s upcoming performance is a chance for FSU and friends in the larger Tallahassee community to experience the best of Ukrainian traditional and contemporary dance,” said Robert Romanchuk, the Pribic Family Associate Professor of Slavic Studies and Coordinator of the Ukrainian Basic Language Program in FSU’s Department of Modern Languages and Linguistics. “Tallahassee is home to a small but active Ukrainian community, including many recent war refugees, and we sincerely hope that the performance will be a comfort to them. It takes place on the second anniversary of the full-scale invasion of Ukraine and celebrates the resilience of the Ukrainian people and their culture.”

The ensemble will perform dances such as the Pryvit, a welcome to the audience showcasing spectacular acrobatic stunts; the lighthearted Veseli Zabavy; the high-energy Hutsul Celebration; and the well-known Arkan, a traditional men’s round dance that builds momentum and energy throughout the piece. They will also perform a modern tango and the signature Hopak, one of the most popular and dynamic Ukrainian folk dances.

“One of the most exuberant Ukrainian dances — also the most physically demanding — is the Hopak, whose name derives from the words hop and hopaty, which mean to leap and stamp one’s feet,” Romanchuk said. “The Hopak evolved from the competitions of Ukrainian Cossack warriors at their 16th-century Sich or war camp in Zaporizhzhia, a southeastern steppe region now partly occupied by Russia.”

The Syzokryli Ukrainian Dance Ensemble was founded in 1978 by dancer Roma Pryma Bohachevsky who performed as a soloist at the National Theatre in Innsbruck, Austria, as well as with the Lviv Opera Ballet Theatre, before studying under giants of dance including Martha Graham, José Limón and Katherine Dunham. Presently, the ensemble is directed by Pryma Bohachevsky’s daughter, Ania Bohachevsky Lonkevych, who was 13 when Syzokryli was founded.

While several expatriate Ukrainian dance companies exist around the world, Syzokryli stands apart thanks to its addition of ballet and interpretive dance to centuries-old traditional footwork and routines. Their performances are described as magical and dramatic and sometimes heart-wrenching.

“The audience should gain a sense of Ukraine’s regional diversity, the challenges that its people have faced, and how they joyously rose to, and moved with, the occasion,” Romanchuk said.

The event is free and open to the public; however, tickets are required. The performance, cosponsored by the FSU Department of Modern Languages and Linguistics and the FSU College of Arts and Sciences, will also feature music by Ukrainian violinists Inessa Tymochko-Dekajlo and Ihor Dekajlo.

To reserve tickets for the performance, visit tickets.fsu.edu.