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Chaban Ukrainian Dance Regina celebrated its 50th anniversary by doing what it does best – bringing people together. On Feb. 4, the company held an evening of dance performances and shared memories from its history. Chaban’s first president, Bill Soloduk, spoke at the event.
Chaban is the longest-running Ukrainian dance group in Regina and classes are instructed by Oksana and Yuriy Sholdra, who moved to Canada from Ukraine in 2002. “I cannot speak highly enough of our instructors,” said Shauna Dimond, current president of the company. “They’re very passionate about what they do.”
Dimond spoke to the authenticity of the dance company and the importance of preserving Ukrainian culture and traditions. She also emphasized the welcoming nature of the group and the deep sense of community that is found within it.
“We take care of each other like one giant family,” remarked Samantha Carnie, who started dancing with Chaban 13 years ago at the age of five. “Whenever someone needs something, there’s at least ten people offering to help… It’s such a blessing.”
Anya Shyian moved to Regina from Ukraine with her family when she was two years old and started taking lessons with Chaban shortly after. “My mom wanted me to continue learning Ukrainian and being in touch with the culture, so she signed me up for Ukrainian dancing and I loved it right away and I’ve been dancing ever since,” she said. “The fact that I can learn about my own culture through dance is something that I cherish.” Shyian has now been dancing with the company for 15 years.
Over the past year, Chaban has welcomed many new young Ukrainian dancers and their families who have been displaced by the conflict in their home country. “We found that welcoming these children… to come and join the dance classes… would be a way that we personally could help,” said Dimond. “We are very fortunate that Yuriy and Oksana speak Ukrainian… so these children were very comfortable.”
“We always want to do more, especially now, to directly help Ukraine and directly help Ukrainians,” said Shyian.
Ordering their dance costumes from Ukraine is another way that Chaban supports Ukrainians and provides authenticity in their performances. “Whenever I put on a costume, I feel really special,” remarked Carnie, who wore five different costumes throughout the anniversary celebration. “They’re such beautiful pieces of work and art that I’m so happy to be showing off.” The company recently received a new set of costumes from Ukraine that made their first appearance at the Feb. 4 event.
Highlights of the company’s 50-year history include a tour of Western Canada in 1982 and performing at Expo 86 in Vancouver. The company also performed multiple times at Canada’s National Ukrainian Festival in Dauphin, MB, the Cheremosh Ukrainian Dance Festival in St. Albert, AB and Regina’s Mosaic – A Festival of Cultures.
One of Shyian’s favourite memories with the company was winning a dance trophy with her peers for the first time at the age of nine. “We were so proud of ourselves,” she said. “It was probably the most exciting thing that could happen to a kid.”
At the anniversary event, Shyian was especially looking forward to the kolomeyka that followed the performances, a dance in which people of all ages are invited to participate. After gathering in a circle, “everyone’s clapping and then people take turns, jump into the middle… and show off their favourite dance moves,” she explained.
Shirley and Garry Wasyliw were platinum level sponsors for Chaban Regina’s 50th Anniversary Celebration. The Wasyliw family has been connected to Chaban for 30 years with two generations of dancers. They are just one example of a family who has multi-generational ties to the company.
Chaban Ukrainian Dance Regina has a busy few months of performances ahead. Upcoming events include Regina’s FROST @REAL winter festival in February, Regina’s Tavria Ukrainian Dance Festival and Winnipeg’s Manitoba Ukrainian Dance Festival in March, plus Yorkton’s Kalyna Festival of Ukrainian Dancein April and Regina’s Mosaic – A Festival of Cultures in June.
Chaban Regina’s 50th Anniversary Celebration took place at the Regina Performing Arts Centre. “I would describe the event as ‘joyful’,” said Carnie.