ST. PAUL – The spotlight hit dancers dressed in traditional Ukrainian garb, with colourful and intricate embroidery, reflecting the cultural heritage of Ukraine, throughout the day on Saturday.
They danced in unison as they spun, twirled, and leaped across the stage. And as the dance came to an end, the audience clapped and the dancers bowed, their faces filled with smiles.
About 95 dancers from across Alberta attended the 29th Annual Desna Dance Festival on March 18 held at the All Saints Ukrainian Orthodox Cultural Centre. The dancers came from dance schools scattered across the province and included: St. Paul Desna Ukrainian Dance Club, Athabasca Ukrainian Folk Dance Club, Vermilion Samotsvit Dancers (V.U.C.A), Kryla Ukranian Dancers from Bonnyville, Fort Saskatchewan Barvinok Ukrainian Dance, Camrose Veselka Ukrainian Dance Society, St. Basil's School of Dance and Kupalo from Edmonton, and Vrozhay Ukrainian Dance Club from Westlock.
According to Nicole Rurka, chairperson of the St. Paul Desna Ukrainian Dance Club and the festival’s coordinator, the dance festival is an opportunity for “dancers to develop and showcase their skills and accomplishments in a friendly and supportive environment.”
Rurka was also among the adult dancers representing St. Paul.
Peter Haugen, president of St. Paul Desna Ukranian Dance Club, stated that it was “nice to have a hall full of dancers and families,” especially after the pandemic. Dancers returning to the stage and expressing Ukrainian culture, “especially right now,” is important, he said.
Rurka and Haugen thanked the community for their support and allowing the festival to take place in St. Paul, showcasing Ukrainian culture.
“I enjoyed seeing all of the dancers dancing their hearts on stage,” said Rurka.
Organizers also thanked all the clubs who came to town to participate.
“We’re grateful every year that we have clubs who choose to come to St. Paul and be part of our festival,” said Haugen. “We thank all of the parents and all of the community members... the volunteers [too] because without them today, this event wouldn’t happen.”
Over 300 people attended the festival.