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Embrace the Spirit of Ukraine

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See the vigorous and unique folk dancing of Ukraine’s varying regions at the Spirit of Ukraine pavilion at West Kildonan Memorial Arena.

PHOTO BY HADAS PARUSH/WINNIPEG FREE PRESS ARCHIVES Enlarge Image

See the vigorous and unique folk dancing of Ukraine’s varying regions at the Spirit of Ukraine pavilion at West Kildonan Memorial Arena. Photo Store Photo Store

The Spirit of Ukraine pavilion welcomes everyone to its Folklorama festivities, Aug. 4 to 10 at West Kildonan Memorial Arena (346 Perth Ave.).

"We try to be as hospitable as possible," says Keris C. Matskiw, Spirit of Ukraine pavilion co-ordinator.

"If you’ve made a trip to Ukraine you know that they literally spend their whole paycheque feeding and serving you drinks. We try to offer the same kind of hospitality you’d get if you visited the country."

Speaking of food and drink, the pavilion offers up traditional Ukrainian fare (courtesy of Ludwick Catering) like perogies, cabbage rolls, kovbasa and borscht, plus cheesecakes and tortes for dessert. There are also Ukrainian beers and of course, plenty of vodka, including Khortytsa’s Pepper Honey Hot Vodka.

"It’s tasty and it’s got a little bit of a kick to it," says Corbin Boughen, Spirit of Ukraine’s emcee and media co-ordinator. "It’s good for spicy Caesars or really any spicy vodka drink."

On the entertainment side of things, Spirit of Ukraine features polka band BMW, Kiev-based folk singer Marta Shpak and the Zoloto Ukrainian Dance Ensemble & Company.

Matskiw, the artistic director of Zoloto, says she loves the energy of Ukrainian dance.

"It’s different than other kinds of folk dance, it’s more vigorous and quite tough to do," Matskiw says. "Also, there are so many different regions in Ukraine and the dance is so different from one end of the country to the other."

Boughen is a former member of Zoloto. Funnily enough, he’s not Ukrainian. As a teenager, he would watch his girlfriend (now wife) dance and, being an athletic guy, he was pressured to join the group.

"There are no criteria as to cultural background, so I’m an adopted Ukrainian I suppose," Boughen says.

These days, Boughen is still watching Zoloto dancers, but this time it’s his daughters who are in the company.

"I love watching my kids dance and to give them the opportunity to dance at Folklorama is great," Boughen says. "As a performer, it was something I looked forward to all year because the crowds are lively and all my friends would come see me dance. I wanted to give my kids that same opportunity."

"Then of course there’s the culture. There’s such a big Ukrainian community here in Winnipeg that I think we can easily manage having two Folklorama pavilions.

The other Ukrainian pavilion Boughen is referring to is the Ukraine-Kyiv pavilion, which operates during the festival’s second week. Boughen urges people to visit as many of the pavilions as possible.

Three years ago, Boughen and his wife served as Spirit of Ukraine’s ambassadors, visiting other Folklorama pavilions and spreading the good word.   

"We got to go to about three pavilions a night and it was just amazing," Boughen says.

"Previously, I would go to one or two pavilions a year, so the chance to see 24 pavilions in seven nights was just wonderful."

Admission to Spirit of Ukraine is $6. Doors open at 4:30 p.m. on Sunday and Monday, 6 p.m. Tuesday to Friday and 4:30 p.m. on Saturday. For more information go to spiritofukraine.ca.

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