When I was little I took tansi for the first time with the Cleveland Ukrainian Dance Ensemble, Kashtan. Much to my mother’s chagrin, I absolutely hated it. I wanted little to do with my Ukrainian heritage, and going to tansi class was just another boring after-school activity I had to do.
So after some kicking and screaming, my mother finally gave it and let me quit. Little did I know that some eight years later I would fall in love with Ukrainian dance.
The summer of my fifteenth year, I decided to try something new and I went to Ukrainian Dance Camp at Soyuzivka in upstate New York. The camp was two weeks long, four hours of ballet in the morning and four hours of character in the afternoon. The evenings were filled with rehearsal times in preparation for the kazka (performance depicting a story through dance) at the end of the two weeks.
Having had a strong background in ballet I was prepared to try character, and I was somewhat surprised to find that I loved it. Character was lively and fun, and I was actually pretty good at it. Surrounded by all of these young men and women at the camp, I began to embrace my Ukrainian culture.
I returned to Soyuzivka three years in a row after that summer. Unfortunately, I went to college and my summers consisted of working and interning with inflexible schedules. I will, however, never forget the summers I spent appreciating and being a part of my heritage and the dance that helps define it.
Ukrainian dance is a large aspect of traditional Ukrainian culture, and many Ukrainians participate in it. Taissa Zappernick grew up doing Ukrainian tansi and continues to dance as often as possible. It is a huge cultural identifier for her. “Having grown up taking part in several Ukrainian extracurricular activities, I feel that I have developed a sense of culture that separates me from other people,” she said
The dance is very different from ballet, as it is upbeat and is set to quick folk music. Ukrainian dancers typically wear colorful costumes and floral wreaths. It makes for a very picturesque performance.
Maybe someday I will force my children to take Ukrainian dance. Or by some miracle they might actually want to do it. Either way, it is my dream to keep the tradition in the family and continue enjoying a wonderful art form that I used to love so much.