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Inaugural Ukrainian dance festival coming

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Some of the top Ukrainian dancers on the prairies will soon be coming to Elmwood.

The first Manitoba Ukrainian Dance Festival will be taking place at Jubilee Place, located at 173 Talbot Ave., from March 8-10.

Selkirk-based Troyanda Ukrainian Dance Ensemble has taken on hosting duties for the festival, which will feature 12 amateur organizations and 161 entries from Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta. Participants range in age from four to adult.

Serhij Koroliuk, who serves as the artistic director for Saskatoon’s Pavlychenko Folklorique Ensemble, will adjudicate events over the course of the weekend and host a teaching workshop on March 10.

Festival chair Carina Romagnoli explained while there are other Ukrainian dance festivals in the province, this is a first for Winnipeg.

"We felt the need to fill that void," she said. "It has been exciting and a lot of work — stressful at times, but we know it has been worth it."

Romagnoli said she sent out invitations at the beginning of the dance season in the fall, and the response has been encouraging.

Competition will take place all three days, with numerous awards slated to be handed out.

"There are different trophies based on the region of the dance that is being performed, and most of our awards are based on the adjudicator’s choice," she said, noting awards include most improved troupe, most promising troupe, and a best choreography award for a choreographer.

The highlight of the weekend will be the gala performance, which takes place March 9 at 6 p.m. Tickets cost $5.

"It’ll be the scholarship winners from the weekend, as well as the Troyanda Ukrainian Dance Ensemble," said Romagnoli.

Troyanda dancer Becky Lesuik will not participate on the competitive side, but will be performing in the gala. She feels all participants will be able to take something from the weekend.

"This is a fantastic opportunity for the students in all the schools that are coming to watch each other and to learn from each other," she said. "As a more mature dancer, I feel the instructors will benefit phenomenally from the adjudicator."

"I hope they gain more appreciation for their culture and heritage and everything it has to offer," added Romagnoli.

Kristina Washchyshyn, who instructs three of Osborne Village-based Sopilka Ukrainian Dance School’s 10 groups, is excited for the opportunity for one more chance to grace the stage in what tends to be a fairly light dance season.

"It’s really nice that all the hard work that they put in through the year, they get to showcase more than just once," she said, noting the club hosts its recital May 11. "I like this time of the year because you’re getting over your February blues, and it gives everybody something to look forward to that’s not as far away as the year-end recital."

Washchyshyn added since the club knew it was going to be participating in this event before the year started, it pushed up its dates to learn dances.

"We work with a different sense of urgency," she said. "It doesn’t allow anyone to get lazy."

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