Celebrating Ukrainian culturePerformers with the Ukrainian Dancers Stepovi ignore the blisters on their feet and their sore muscles when they rehearse for the concert Friday. The concert, sponsored by the North Dakota Ukrainian Dance Association, is a highlight of the 27th annual Ukrainian Festival, which opens Wednesday and concludes July 29 in Belfield and Dickinson.
By: Linda Sailer, The Dickinson Press
Performers with the Ukrainian Dancers Stepovi ignore the blisters on their feet and their sore muscles when they rehearse for the concert Friday.
The concert, sponsored by the North Dakota Ukrainian Dance Association, is a highlight of the 27th annual Ukrainian Festival, which opens Wednesday and concludes July 29 in Belfield and Dickinson.
“The festival keeps our culture alive in our everyday lives — it’s not something that dies with our ancestors who came to America,” NDUDA secretary Rachel Kanski said.
Rachel Solberg, Belfield, started dancing in 2008.
“It’s pretty fun and you learn about your heritage,” she said.
Mikayla Aluise, Richardton, is participating for the third year. She described the dances as bouncy and colorful.
“We normally change three or four times,” she said.
The pre-festival activities include the North Dakota Ukrainian Dance Association summer camp, which opened July 15 and continues through Friday. More than 50 children ages 4 to 13 are attending.
“Campers basically learn the arts and history of the culture — everything from language to making Ukrainian Easter eggs,” Kanski said. “The biggest component is dance. They are learning what they never got to learn from their grandparents.”
The 13-year-olds also prepare for the “Rite of Passage” ceremony. It celebrates the transition to the adult dance ensemble.
Missy Baranko and Kamla Crow are the camp directors.
Baranko has been involved with the camp for nine years and her four children are involved.
“I see how much fun the kids have and how much they learn,” Baranko said. “So many of the kids come from different cultures. You don’t have to be Ukrainian to learn the culture.”
Baranko, who married into a Ukrainian family, appreciates her adopted roots because her own background is a mix of ethnicities,
Darra Perdaems, Bozeman, Mont., is among the out-of-staters who return to the dance camp each summer.
“This will be my eighth or ninth year,” she said. “During the day camp, we learn about our culture and where we came from, and at the night workshop, we learn more about the dance — it’s intense,” she said.
Adults also are invited to participate in a mini-dance camp several nights per week.
“It’s designated for dancers age 18 and older who can’t commit to two weeks,” Kanski said.
She said it opens the door to dancers who haven’t danced in years or who have never danced before.
The dance classes are taught by Leo Piasta and his daughter, Kalyna from Bozeman, Mont.
“It’s to expose the kids to their culture and to keep it alive every year,” Kalyna Piasta said.
The children’s camp performance is 3 p.m. Saturday in the DSU Stickney Auditorium.
“My biggest goal is to get the community at large to come and see the dance performances,” Kanski said. “You will see very lively, very colorful, very technical entertainment.”
The festival officially opens with a Ukrainian welcome with bread and salt at 1 p.m. Friday by Dave and Cathy Logosz. It’s followed by the “Power of the Print” seminar by Greg Wysk from the North Dakota Heritage Center.
Along with the dance training, the festival features several days of Ukrainian foods.
The Wednesday evening menu at Belfield includes pyrohy/varenyky (cheese buttons), beet leaf holubtski, sausage and dessert.
Friday’s menu in Dickinson includes rice rolls holubtski, beet leaf holubtski, creamed chicken with dill sauce, a vegetable and dessert. Saturday’s buffet includes roast beef, pyrohy/varenyky, salads, rolls and a dessert.
Socialization continues late into the evening with a zabava (dance) to the music by the band Klopit on Friday and Saturday evenings.
“The band plays upbeat rock and roll with a traditional twist,” Kanski said.
The festival focuses on its spiritual roots with liturgies on Saturday and Sunday mornings at Belfield and Fairfield.
The festival expects to see several hundred participants, coming from throughout the United States. It’s an opportunity to renew friendships and celebrate a common heritage. Events are open to the public.
“It’s not just for Ukrainians,” Kanski said. “We invite people to become Ukrainians for a day — learn about the Ukrainian art and food.”