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Sold out dance-for-Ukraine fundraiser marks historic first

Six professional Canadian-Ukrainian dance troupes make history dancing in support of Ukrainian artists

Solidarity has been on the minds of a great many as they struggle to deal with the atrocities perpetrated on Ukraine’s population. Within the regional community, swift action was the response. 

Take for instance A Night of Ukraine, an in-person fundraiser taking place Tuesday, April 19, at the Arden Theatre. The $125-per-seat event showcasing Ukrainian culture sold out in 45 minutes and that included the crash of the ticket website due to massive volume. 

The outpouring of solidarity developed in small part because, for the first time in history, the region’s six top-tier dance companies are performing together —Shumka, Cheremosh, Volya, Vohon, Dunai, and Viter. But on a deeper level, people simply opened their hearts to needless suffering with a deep human desire to assist the most vulnerable.  

“It is exciting. Just with ticket sales we’ve made $60,000,” said Meriah Breckenridge, the event's main organizer and a consultant in the humanitarian sector for a research group called Humanitarian Outcomes. She also danced with Cheremosh from 2009 to 2016. 

For individuals who wish to take part in the event but who are shut out of the dazzling in-person display of classic dances, Production World is offering to film a live-stream option priced at $20. 

“Production World is providing three cameras and five staff to run the stream, so I believe the quality for those at home should be pretty good,” Breckenridge said. 

She reiterates 100 per cent of proceeds from both the live-stream and in-person event will be donated to support Canada-Ukraine Foundation Humanitarian Appeal. The registered charity will distribute these funds to aid artists in Ukraine: directors, choreographers, composers, musicians, dancers, set designers, costume designers, and visual artists, to name a few.  

For St. Albert’s Nic Pacholok, a physics student at the University of Alberta and a six-season dancer at Shumka, the war has been a nerve-wracking experience. The fundraiser supplies a small measure of relief for friends and collaborators still living in war zones. 

“As someone who identifies as Ukrainian-Canadian and [who] has so many cultural and emotional ties to Ukraine, this is an ideal time to help. It’s a war against Ukraine and its people. It’s difficult to see the persecution. Most of us have friends and collaborators and we’re checking regularly. But it’s very hard at this time,” Pacholok said. 

For more than a decade, Shumka has presented its version of The Nutcracker inviting members of Kyiv Ballet and Virsky Ukrainian Folk Dance Ensemble to help strengthen ties through cultural collaboration. As the three companies presented ever-increasing successful Christmas performances, strong bonds also formed within the dancers’ ranks. 

“Shumka, myself, and other dancers have reached out in past weeks and checked in to make sure everyone is safe. Right now, Virsky is touring around Europe as a way to raise funds for people affected by the war and raise awareness of solidarity,” said Pacholok. “And the Kyiv Ballet, the last time I checked, everyone was still safe."

Even as daily news feeds generate more uncertainty, Pacholok is thankful for Canada’s backing. 

“It’s been great to see support of people come out of Canada. Of course, you see it in the Ukrainian community. But it’s also gratifying to see other cultures sympathize and see Ukraine fighting for freedom. It’s nice to see people banding together to show support. It’s a testament to our multiculturalism and our reverence for different cultural backgrounds. The fact people are invested in this cause is personal for me. It means a lot.” 

Emily Belke-Farrell, another resident with family ties to Ukraine, is shocked by the never-ending bombardment especially in seaport cities such as Mariupol.  

“When we see Mariupol’s churches and theatres targeted, it’s devastating. It’s important for us to be part of saving, encouraging, and celebrating culture,” said Blake-Farrell. She added that Russia attempted the genocide of Ukrainians during the man-made Great Famine of 1932 and 1933 and has continued seizing Ukraine’s territories. 

As co-artistic director of Viter, Blake-Farrell takes her duties as an ambassador of Ukrainian culture seriously and is eager to promote and keep it alive, especially now that it is under attack. 

Viter is the only dance company based in Edmonton that also performs with a 30-person choir. In addition to dancers, choristers will bookend the concert with Ukrainian songs at the beginning and end. 

She added, “I’m really excited. It's not often you get to dance with other groups. Coming together is a symbol the world is coming together.” 

Tickets for A Night for Ukraine’s live-streaming showcase are available at 780-459-1542 or online at www.stalbert.ca/exp/arden/


Anna Borowiecki

About the Author: Anna Borowiecki

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