The Ukrainian Shumka Dancers have turned folk dancing into an artistic expression that has enchanted hundreds of thousands around the world.
This weekend, March 3 and 4, the Edmonton-based professional company’s latest touring production Shumka at 50 opens at the Northern Jubilee Auditorium powered by dazzling athleticism, grace, colour and storytelling.
One of the 40 dancers giving his all will be Brenden Kuzma, 18, originally a resident of Prince George, B.C. After being accepted into Shumka in July 2011 as a probationary dancer, Kuzma moved to St. Albert to live with his aunt and uncle. His mother is Donita Rokosh, a Paul Kane high alumna.
In speaking with Kuzma, you get the distinct feeling dancing is part of every molecule of his being.
“Dancing is more fun than hockey. Part of it is you’re dancing with some of the most gorgeous women around. And what impresses me is how dancers can take all this power and finesse and make it one package,” says Kuzma.
Like any young kid, Kuzma dabbled in hockey.
“When the practices went at 6 a.m., I didn’t love it so much,” laughs Kuzma.
His mom saw an advertisement for a Ukrainian dance show and they went. With a strong Ukrainian heritage on both sides of the family, he was hooked from the minute the curtain rose.
“The dance appealed to me – the strength that it takes but you have to make it look so effortless. It amazes me.”
Kuzma studied a mix of ballet, hip-hop, acrobatics and musical theatre. And for seven summers he attended Shumka summer camps where a teacher encouraged him to audition for the professional company.
Throughout the two-hour production, Kuzma gets to strut his stuff with moves that include pipe jumps, body folds and split jumps.
Shumka at 50 features a retrospective of some old works as well as two new Hopaks.
One of the show centrepieces is Harvest of Angels, a stunning display featuring the four distinct regions of the Ukraine with a backdrop of golden wheat fields symbolizing the life that nourishes body and spirit.
Once again Shumka presents Pathways to Hopak, a 2004 commission by Canada Dance Festival.
“It’s about the cycle of life with love, famine, war and peace. It’s still Ukrainian, but it has contemporary pieces incorporated into it.”
The show’s comedy is viewed through the slapstick of A Cobbler’s Gift whereas mystery and magic mix to create the Eve of Kupalo – A Midsummer’s Night Magic.
“This is really a fantastic show and we all have worked so hard to bring it to life.”
Shumka at 50
March 3 at 8 p.m. and March 4 at 2 p.m.
Northern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium
Tickets: $35 to $85. Call 1-855-985-5000 or online at www.ticketmaster.ca