Ukrainian Dance

Ukrainian Dance Tradition in Cape Breton

This page features photographs, text, video and audio content present in the archive.

During the "Mnohaya lita! Celebrating 100 Years of Ukrainian Faith" exhibit at the Lyceum in Sydney, Ukrainian dancers were highlighted featuring the Barvinok dance group in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia in 2012.

Mnohaya'lita Exhibit Photographs

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    Award-winning parade

    This is a photo, from an earlier era of the Ukrainian parish, of the float in a parade. This photo shows the award-winning parade in long view. / Photo: Beaton Institute Collections / CKP_3877

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    The parade float

    The parade float that appears this photo is from 1935, the year they won First Prize in Sydney’s parade. The float also won Sydney’s parade award in 1985. / Photo: Beaton Institute Collections / CKP_3904

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    A woman’s hat

    A woman’s hat, part of a Ukrainian dance costume of the region of Zakarpatia, or Transcarpathia. This costume item is from the 1980s era dance group. / Hat: Pam Mahalik / Identifier: CKP_3907

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    The first Ukrainian dance group of Sydney

    The first Ukrainian dance group of Sydney, 1939 (date error on the photo); children assembled in the hall with the nuns and Fr. Zarsky, early 1940s. / Photo: Beaton Institute Collections / CKP_3935

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    Children they taught in Ukrainian school

    Children assembled in the hall with the nuns and Fr. Zarsky, early 1940s. / Photo: Beaton Institute Collections / CKP_3941

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    The Ukrainian choir

    This is a photo of the Ukrainian choir, taken in 1935. / Photo: Beaton Institute Collections / CKP_3946

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    Golden Dome

    This golden dome was part of an award-winning float from the Holy Ghost Ukrainian Church in Sydney’s 1985 parade. / Dome: Holy Ghost Ukrainian Catholic Church / CKP_3985

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    Barvinok Ukrainian Dancers

    These costumes are from the Barvinok Ukrainian Dancers of the Holy Ghost Ukrainian Catholic Church in Sydney, Nova Scotia. The pair of costumes with blue pants and vest is representative of the central Poltava region. / Costumes: Kenny Horechuk and Woman’s Poltava Costume (blue vest): Darlene Baggio / CKP_4000

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    Hutsul region of Ukraine

    The pair in the vests with bright colours and geometric shapes are costumes representative of the mountainous Hutsul region of Ukraine. These costumes, and many others, have been used in performances and parade floats by Sydney’s Ukrainian dancers. / Costumes: Kenny Horechuk / CKP_4005

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    The dolls in this photo appear in the exhibit on loan from Sister Rachel Tataryn, a descendent of Ukrainian immigrants who settled in the Whitney Pier areas of Sydney, Nova Scotia. / Dolls: Sr. Rachel / CKP_4588

Words from Ken Horechuk

words from Ken Horechuk about the Barvinok dance group:
     “Our dance group is named Barvinok. The name was suggested by my Baba Mary Horechuk because barvinok is a plant often mentioned in Ukrainian folklore. Our group was privileged to be chosen to perform at the opening of the Canada Games in Sydney’s (then) new Centre 200 in February 1987.
     I found funding to bring a dance instructor, Danovia Stechishin, from Toronto to help us prepare for the event. She created new dance choreography for us: a three-part hopak suited to the bizarre stage that was ten feet off the ground and shaped like a large plus sign with staircases entering each of the four ends. We taped the dimensions of the stage on the floor in the hall and practiced twice a week for about two months.
     As the time approached for the opening of the Games, a schedule was arranged for all performers to practise on the stage that was temporarily set up in the old Sydney Forum adjacent to Centre 200. We were only allotted two sessions to familiarize our group to the elevated stage where it was arranged for rehearsals in an unheated old wooden building. The dress rehearsal on Saturday before the opening was a long day for all performers, as the production crew tweaked the program in preparation for the next day’s live performance. The opening on Sunday was to be telecast live on television across Canada. Our group arrived early at Centre 200 on Sunday to get ready for the opening. After a short practice, it was time to get our costumes and makeup on. You would get a good chuckle watching the guys “putting their face on”. Did the girls ever give us a hard time!
     Show time! We were next on the program . . . I still remember the group lining up beneath the seating area of Centre 200, hands shaking anxiously as we waited for our call to perform. The Scottish group before us performed a slow dance,‘Dark Island’, to the eerie sound of the bagpipes. They finished . . . lights dimmed . . we climbed the staircase and literally shook waiting for the hopak music to start. The athletes and guests roared to our upbeat performance from beginning to end. Little did they know that on this stage were three approximately 6-inch by 6-inch square plugs where micro- phones were raised to the stage floor for vocal performances. The bouncing of the dancers kept popping the plywood plugs to below the stage where technicians frantically tried to keep them in place. Luckily nobody stepped on any of the holes. The dance ended to a rousing standing ovation. The accolades for the performance came from across Canada. The Cape Breton Post published one from Winnipeg. A lasting memory."
- Ken Horechuk, October 2011

Dance Traditions in Cape Breton: Dave Mahalik

second generation Barvinok dancer


Mnohaya'lita Official Exhibit Launch with Wendy Bergfeldt

interviewing former Ukrainian Dance Director John Huk