Ukrainian Dance Workshop with Anna Kanavets
by Debbie Karras
From July 3rd to July 7th dancers from Vancouver and Regina gathered in Vancouver to participate in a Ukrainian dance seminar. Eager to build on the seminars held previously at Sylvan Lake, Alberta and to further foster enthusiasm amongst the various centres, discussions ensued to determine the best location for such a seminar. It soon became apparent that the majority of dancers would be from Vancouver so Vancouver seemed to be the logical choice. Invitations were extended to all centres and 6 dancers from Regina answered the call to participate in the seminar. While the number of dancers from Dovbush varied slightly day to day, the total number of participants including the Regina dancers was anywhere from 19 – 23 dancers (7 who were males).
After careful consideration, Anna Kanevets the Artistic Director for the Tryzub School of Dance in Calgary, was invited to be the instructor for this seminar. Mrs. Anna Kanevets attended the Institute of Culture in Kiev, Ukraine and graduated with the Honours Level Ballet Master’s Degree. Prior to arriving in Canada, Anna held a professorship at the Kiev College of Culture for eleven years, where she instructed in subjects such as Composition of Dance, Ukrainian and Character Dance and History of Costume. Since arriving in Canada in 1996, she held the title of Artistic Director for numerous Ukrainian Dance Schools in Edmonton, Alberta. Anna also has been the adjudicator for the Vaganova Dance Society Ballet Exams and several Ukrainian Dance Competitions in Alberta as well as BC. Through Anna’s dedicated efforts, the “Legend of the Rusalka” came to life which was a joint production between the Rusalka Ukrainian Dance Ensemble and the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra.
Instruction for the dance seminar in Vancouver, consisted of three evening rehearsals each for four hours – Thursday, Friday, and Monday and two day rehearsals each for five hours – Saturday and Sunday. Classes were held at Pacific Dancearts, a ballet studio, for the evening rehearsals as well as Saturday and Sunday morning, and at the AUUC hall on Saturday and Sunday afternoon. Use of the ballet studio gave the dancers the opportunity to rehearse with proper dance mats and mirrors something not afforded at the hall. All classes began with a ballet (classical) barre and centre work and then moved to character technique work for both the male and female dancers. The participants also learned small excerpts from various regions of Ukraine – Volyn, Bukovina, Central Ukraine and Transcarpathia.
It is fair to say that Anna was nothing short of remarkable. Her attention to detail was exceptional, from the proper positioning in classical work, to the nuances found in each of the regional excerpts, and her knowledge of classical teachings and of Ukrainian folk steps was irreproachable. She moved easily from classical to character work, from male to female steps and took great care to spend time with each and every dancer. She did not allow the dancer to give up without trying. She did not let the dancer “settle” for anything less than what she thought they were capable of doing and she did not hesitate to ask them to repeat a step correctly. No dancer could escape Anna’s critical eye. She had a kind and often light-hearted approach to teaching, but made certain that the dancer understood what was being asked of him or her and more importantly, why.
In the 6 short classes we had with Anna, her main goal was to impart to the dancers the knowledge of how to work and how to proceed to work in the future as mastering a particular step was not always possible. So often at seminars we are intent on learning complete dances and choreography. What was refreshing with this particular seminar was to see just how much time can be spent on all of the finer details of dance, through the education of both the mind and body. She earned the respect of the dancers and the parents who continuously commented on how wonderful she was.
In addition to the senior workshop, Anna was hired by our School of Dance to teach our younger dancers (aged 10 – 15). She taught two three hour classes, one on Thursday and one on Friday during the day. An invitation was extended to 4 different Ukrainian dance schools in BC, however due to the distances, 6 dancers from Kvitka, a Ukrainian dance organization in Surrey, BC were the only guests able to attend, out of a total of 15 dancers in attendance. The parents were very pleased that we offered this workshop and were very happy with Anna.
We were fortunate to have a wonderful group of volunteers working to ensure that the participants and guests to Vancouver had a safe and memorable time. During the seminar, we had parents volunteering to billet the dancers, to make the snacks and lunches and to show them around Vancouver. From bike riding around famous Stanley Park (compliments of one of our parents) to a pizza party at the home of one of our dancers, a social night at our hall and of course shopping in downtown Vancouver, the guests returned home exhausted but very satisfied.
Dance is and always has been one of the main-stays of our organization. It is visually appealing to young and old alike, with its colourful costumes, its musicality ranging from heart stopping rhythms to lyrical and soulful melodies, and the choreographic imagines bringing to life the beautiful art of Ukrainian folk stage dance. We look forward to future dance seminars where we can continue to build and develop our dance ensembles and where we can continue to nurture the camaraderie necessary for the longevity of our organization.
Respectfully submitted by