HIGH-STEPPIN' MOUNTAIN FOLK: The Cossacks of the old Ukraine had an interesting way of whiling away the time during the long nights of war.
The soldiers would leap over the campfire, thrusting their legs out into perfect splits. Or they would do squat-kicks, crouching their bodies down and kicking out their feet.
And that, says Luba Chliwniak, is how Ukrainian folk dance got started.
Before Chliwniak (pronounced KLU-ni-ak) enrolled in a Ph.D. program in educational administration at the UA, she taught Ukrainian dance to kids in Tucson. She's an expert on the style of dance Americans mistakenly think of as Russian, the one where the men wear baggy pants and red boots and spend a lot of time doing squat kicks. She says Veseli Halychany, the Ukrainian dance troupe that will perform in Tucson Thursday, September 7, will present quite a different program.
"They're not what you usually see," Chliwniak explains. "They're from Halychana, a region in Western Ukraine. They are mountain people. We usually see dancing from Kiev, the capital city. We don't generally see country dances."
There are 22 regions in Ukraine, each with its own dances, music and costumes. The Halychana dances, says Chliwniak, are "high-stepping and lively, with generally fast music. By tradition, the people in Halychana were shepherds. After the sheep were collected and put away at the end of the season, the shepherds would do concerts for the villagers. The villagers came together to celebrate a good season."
As the dances evolved from male competition into folk forms, women joined in, Chliwniak says. Typically, women "dance to depict something, the weaving of a cloth or blossoms opening in the spring." The 12 members of Veseli Halychany include singers and musicians playing fiddles, squeezebox, flute and bass.
The concert, co-sponsored by the Ukrainian American Society of Tucson, begins at 7 p.m. at the UA Modern Languages Auditorium. Admission is $10 general, $5 for students. For reservations call 296-0085. Beware, though, there's a football game the same evening.
People going to the dance would be wise to pick up the shuttle bus at the northeast corner of El Con Mall, which starts service at 5 p.m.
Moving to the western hemisphere, Tucsonans can immerse themselves in Haitian culture on Monday, September 11. The Haitian band Boukman Eksperyans starts up at 7:30 p.m. at the Southwest Center for Music, 2175 N. Sixth Ave. For details on the music, see Michael Metzger's story in the music section. But there's more than just a concert: A vegetarian Haitian dinner starts at 6 p.m. and an exhibition of Haitian art will last all evening.
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