Dancers in elaborate costumes leap across the stage. Various tricks and jumps are timed to upbeat music, and the dancers’ energy only intensifies throughout their six intricate dances. The many steps and complicated combinations are perfectly in sync, and everybody in the room is mesmerized by the tireless performers. Two talented members of the sophomore class have spent countless hours rehearsing their steps.
Sophomore Matt Bzowyckyj has been doing Ukrainian folk dance for almost eight years every Thursday at the National Ukrainian Home in Hartford. He also recently spent two weeks at the Roma Pryma Bohachevsky Ukrainian Dance Camp in Kerhonkson, NY over the summer, dancing eight hours a day, Monday through Saturday. Matt picked up Ukrainian folk dance in third grade after hearing about it at St. Michael’s Ukrainian Catholic Church in Hartford, which he attends on Saturdays. “It’s a traditional folk dance from Ukraine,” said Matt. “There are different regional dances and they’re often very lively and fast-paced. Some are slower but each region has their own unique style.”
As opposed to competitions, Matt has performed across Connecticut and the Northeast, at the Bushnell and the Wadsworth Atheneum, at Ukrainian festivals in New Britain, Stamford, and Rochester, and even at a hockey game in New Jersey. “My favorite part about dancing is the performances because you work an entire year to improve your steps and work hard to learn the dances,” he said. Then you go to the show and put everything you learned on stage and show people what you can do.”
A large part of Ukrainian dancing is tricks. Matt’s favorite trick is called a backbreaker, where the dancer leaps vertically into the air and arches their back, making a C-shape with their body.
The most popular dance is the finale, the hopak. “Everything stops when we get to hopak, as it’s the big dance that people love to see,” said Matt. His next performance is in New Britain this September.
Another talented dancer in the sophomore class is Kate Beck. When Kate was little, she saw a ballet performance, decided she wanted to try it, and has been dancing ever since. While ballet is her strongest, she also enjoys jazz and modern dance. “I like modern because it was made to sort of revolt against classical forms,” said Kate. “There are some aspects of classical but different.”
Kate dances at Connecticut Concert Ballet in Manchester and does dance as an independent proposal. Practices range from two to three hours every night, plus night rehearsals for performances, which vary in length depending on the performance. She’s in Ballet 5 (the highest level of dance they offer) Modern 4, and Jazz 3. On top of these, she also takes an extra Ballet 4 class to stay on top of her skills. “I like pique turns,” said Kate, “also pirouettes, really just jumps and spins, and especially Saut de Basque which is like a spinning jump.”
Over the summer, Kate attended two ballet programs: Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet (CPYB) and Kaatsbaan Extreme Ballet program. CPYB was five weeks long and very technical. Kate considers Kaatsbaan her greatest achievement as a dancer. Only 120 people were accepted into the program, and about 45 attended the three weeks in the summer. They danced from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday and learned six dances in that time.
Her favorite aspect of dance is rehearsing for performances, which are mostly at Manchester High School, but there are also small library shows such as the Nutcracker coming up this winter and an annual spring show. Kate also aspires to perform at the Pre-Professional Gala show that she is applying to.