Troyanda holds first concert since 2019

·5 min read

Brandon Troyanda School of Ukrainian Dance students celebrated the culture of Ukraine with three back-to-back performances on Saturday.

The Troyanda Ukrainian Dance Concert marked the first time dancers have been able to showcase their skills since 2019, said Andrew Synyshyn, president of the volunteer executive committee of the organization. It was a festive atmosphere celebrating the skills of dancers in the Ukrainian National Hall, he said, but emotions were tempered as they also wanted to honour the ongoing war in Ukraine.

"We’re empathetic to what’s happening in Ukraine, the war being raged there," Synyshyn said. "We want to sort of balance between a celebration of what we’ve been able to accomplish and celebrating Ukrainian culture as well as showing solidarity with those individuals that are suffering in the war right now."

The festivities were a toned-down celebration in 2022 compared to previous years, with a focus placed on honouring Ukrainian dance and culture. As part of the special occasion, participants wrote down why they love dancing and Ukraine on Ukrainian flags placed at the entrance of the Ukrainian National Hall.

The messages conveyed pride in the culture and dance, he said, serving as another way for dancers to express their enjoyment of the art.

The concert also raised funds to support the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Ukraine. All proceeds, including a 50/50 draw, raffle and a crafts table, went toward the besieged country.

"Ukrainian culture and Ukrainian people are strong and resilient despite hardship and hard times. They will always come together," Synyshyn said. "We love to celebrate. We love to showcase our culture and we stand in solidarity with those in Ukraine."

Students worked hard to put their best foot forward on stage, said Troyanda instructor Tynnille Chomenchuk Bouchard. Her fellow instructors Jodi Woloski and Bryce Ewasiuk helped prepare students for the spotlight.

The dances offer a small taste of Ukrainian culture and a fun experience for audiences, Chomenchuk Bouchard said. She hopes those who attended the performance appreciate the vibrancy of Ukrainian culture in Westman and the beauty and excitement of each unique dance.

The return to the stage was a welcome achievement, she said, as it was challenging for the school when competitions and performances were interrupted by COVID-19.

"It was absolutely heartbreaking, and we are still sore in our hearts from everything," Chomenchuk Bouchard said.

Students has prepared a beautiful dance for the 2019-20 season, but they were only able to perform it once for local audiences and were unable to bring it to competitions.

Troyanda faced a challenging situation preparing for the concert because the school had dancers graduate, while younger children only had a year or two before seeing dances paused during the pandemic, Wolski said.

Getting ready for the year-end concert was challenging, she added, especially because the younger students did not know what to expect performing for a live audience. It was also complicated because they have not been able to have typical practices for the last two years.

"Even just getting ready and putting on a costume is something we haven’t done in two years. It’s hard to remember what goes with what and how things are put together," Ewasiuk said.

He added it was nice having something to work toward. It helped motivate students knowing a performance would be taking place.

He could feel their excitement building as the day approached.

Opening the doors of the Ukrainian National Hall and moving forward with their first performances was an exciting return to normal, Woloski said. The groups take pride in displaying culture and having the best representation of dances possible.

"We feel like we were under a little bit more pressure just to have everything polished for this, but also had less practices," Woloski said. "We want to portray our culture the best we can."

The concert was a more emotional experience overall in comparison to past performances. Watching students and being on stage, Chomenchuk Bouchard said she was often holding back tears.

"Once you’re a dancer and you’ve been on stage, that never leaves you. Performing is so exhilarating," Woloski said.

Olga and Oleksander Boiko of the Brandon-based Canadian Ukrainian Association group Tryzub served as the emcees for the event.

The performance served as a powerful partnership between two Ukrainian organizations, she said, especially given the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine.

It was a great concert because for a long time Troyanda performances were not possible, Oleksander said. He could see the excitement on the youth and audience’s faces as different dancers appeared on stage.

Tryzub had a special craft table selling unique items to raise money for Ukraine, Olga said. The items were made in Ukraine and arrived two days before the concert.

Tryzub has been in Brandon for more than a decade, Oleksander said, but has gained momentum in recent months as people are looking to rally behind Ukraine.

"We are working together to keep all the Ukrainian traditions going," Oleksander said. "They support Ukraine in all ways."

Each dollar raised can be life-changing for those who face bombing every day in Ukraine, Olga said. Cities are destroyed, houses are without electricity in some regions and getting essential items can be difficult.

"It’s simple things like bread and water they need to survive, so it’s a big deal to them," she said.

The country will need ongoing support as the Russian invasion continues, she said, and every action of support makes a difference.

"You feel like you did your part for them to feel better, that is just tremendous," Olga said.

Registration for Troyanda classes opens in June and classes begin in September.

For more information on providing donations to Ukraine, visit the Tryzub Facebook page.

» ckemp@brandonsun.com

» Twitter: @The_ChelseaKemp

Chelsea Kemp, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Brandon Sun

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