There are many qualities that make a good dance instructor – amazing technique, great organizing skills, creativity and more! But what makes an outstanding dance instructor?


    To us, it’s the ability to make kids (even if it’s a single kid!) fall in love with dance; become willing to give up their free time for hours of rehearsals in the dance studio; and even dream of dance in their sleep.


    Living in a busy world, always going places and doing things, we often forget to say the most basic but also the most important words – Thank You!


    The aim of our ‘Instructor of the Year’ project is just that – reminding & urging you to thank the person who introduced you to the world of dance, who shared their passion with you, who kept you going with their support & positive reassurance; who does all that amazing unnoticed behind-the-scenes magic that makes you become a better dancer!


    We, in no way, want to create competitions between all the wonderful dance instructors out there. We wish to achieve the opposite – have everyone find out about the outstanding work carried out by all these amazing people across countries and continents every single day!


    So, going into your next dance practice, don’t forget to thank your dance instructor! Trust us - that alone will make them feel like they’re the Best Dance Instructor!  





Shane Gibson

Shane Gibson is a former member and past President of the Ukrainian Shumka Dancers, with whom he danced for more than 14 years. During his involvement with Shumka, he toured extensively throughout Canada, the United States and China as a cast member of Absolutely Shumka, Cobbler's Princess and Cinderella.

Mr. Gibson has received training in Character Ballet, Jazz, Modern, and Musical Theatre and has worked and trained with with several celebrated artists in North America and Ukraine. His recent involvement with cobblestone freeway has seen him study with several regional dance ensembles across Ukraine, Mr. Gibson has complimented his dance training with studies in gross human
anatomy/physiology, biomechanics, and visual and performing arts.

Shane has shared his love of dance with students across Western Canada for 20 years as an Artistic Director, Instructor or Adjudicator and is currently focused on developing and delivering quality professional development and resources for Ukrainian dance instructors.

'Mr. Shane always tells us that everyday he is doing what he loves, dancing, and teaching the Ukrainian culture.  He is an amazing instructor and I hope he knows it.'

'Shane brings a high level of professionalism as an instructor and is very passionate about Ukrainian dance and culture.  He takes great pride in sharing with us his knowledge about our culture, traditions and heritage. ' 

'We could not ask for a better instructor.  He takes the time to work with us at a pace for each individual. has been a god send to us adults as we seem to not retain information as well as we used to.  He always takes this with a grain of salt and a good-hearted smile. Yet knows each dancers abilities and is not afraid to challenge his students.'

Shaunda Arsenie-Mearns

Boyan on Tour Saskatoon, Sakatchewan

Boyan Ukrainian dancers are taking Ukrainian dancing to a whole new level. Boyan on Tour will be showcasing their talent and unquestionable passion for Ukrainian dance and culture through performances in Costa Rica this summer. Their show, Podorozh, will feature unique and dynamic pieces of choreography with music and costumes from the various regions of Ukraine. 

Boyan on Tour consists of 15 talented dancers looking to share their love of Ukrainian dance and is led by 4 directors who have also traveled performing for audiences around the globe.


'Shaunda Arsenie is a magnificent dance instructor who I have had the pleasure to work with for more than 10 years. It is important to have a role model to look up to in the studio, as well as outside, and Shaunda has been that person for so many young ones, including myself. She has remained one the most influential people in my life based heavily on how she conducts herself as a Ukrainian dance instructor. She commands respect in the studio, is a genuinely joyful person to be around, and is a friend to everyone.'

Sonya Horner

Ms. Sonya Horner began her formal dance training at age 4 starting with Ukrainian dance in Saskatoon, Sk. at the Saskatoon School of Dance. Studying under Ms. Lusia Pavlychenko, her love of dance was ignited and there began a lifetime of dancing. At age 6, she began to study ballet, tap, and jazz in her hometown at The Biggar School of Dance, all while still driving to Saskatoon to keep taking Ukrainian dance lessons. She began taking RAD ballet exams and became more involved in dance festivals, competitions, and performances around the province. After graduating high school from Biggar Composite High School, she moved to Saskatoon to attend the University of Saskatchewan. In December 2003, she received a 4 year Bachelor of Arts degree with a major in Psychology. While enrolled in full-time studies, she continued to dance with the Pavlychenko Folklorique Ensemble and prepared for her RAD Intermediate ballet exam, which she successfully completed in 2001.


Also, she began to teach Ukrainian, Ballet, Tap, and Jazz in many communities around the province. While dancing with the Pavlychenko Folklorique Ensemble, she had many wonderful experiences. She worked with amazingly talented teachers and choreographers, such as Ms. Lusia Pavlychenko, Mr. Serhij Koroliuk, Mrs. Nina Koroliuk, along with many others throughout her training. Also, she toured across Canada as well as internationally. Tour highlights include Brazil in 2000, Ukraine in 2003, and the United States and Eastern Canada in 2009. Today, along with teaching Ukrainian dance to several dance schools in and around Saskatoon, she works with youth at risk. She feels that the lessons she has learned from dance, such as discipline, determination, dedication, perseverance, and enthusiasm, will help her succeed with any challenge she faces in the future.

'When working with our kids, there are no throw away students.  She sees the potential is each and every one.  With the students who are struggling she has an extra dose of patience.  The extra work with these students allows them to shine as well.  Because of this, she manages to cultivate a love of dance in so many kids.'

Paul Kodak

Paul Kodak has been an extremely passionate enthusiast of Ukrainian culture and the arts for many years. Paul has cared and dedicated his life to Ukrainian dance. Starting at age 4, affection grew and still continues to this day. Sonia’s School of Ukrainian Dance and Vesnianka Academy of Ukrainian Dance (1994 – 2007) became home of what turned out to be the start of a long dancing career. In that time, Paul attended several “Summer Dance Camps” held in Saskatoon where he learned more about Ukrainian history, regions, costumes, and made Ukrainian crafts and beadwork. Among some of the awards at various provincial competitions, Paul won the highest mark male duet, any age, any region (2003), highest mark male solo 13 years and over (2005), and a scholarship for most promising dancer, any age (2006). Paul furthered his dancing career with Yevshan Ukrainian Folk Ballet Ensemble.


From 2007 – 2014, he entertained audiences continentally and overseas with a trip to Ukraine in 2009. Meaningful performances included dancing at Vesna with his Artistic Director, splitting duties dancing and being Youth Ambassador at Folkfest , performing twice on Canada’s National Ukrainian Festival stage in Dauphin Manitoba, dancing twice at “Dare to Dance” in Saskatoon, performing on home soil in four different cities in Ukraine, celebrating and being part of the production for the 50th anniversary of Yevshan, and dancing with “Razom 2”, a show tour with three other dance ensembles; Tavria Ukrainian Folk Dance Ensemble – Regina, SK., Tryzub Ukrainian Dance Ensemble – Calgary, AB., and Rusalka Ukrainian Dance Ensemble – Winnipeg, MB. Paul has brought Ukrainian dancing semi-professionally to a bittersweet end, however began a new chapter instructing and directing a new wave of aspirational Ukrainian dancers.


In September of 2010, he started teaching at Boyan Ukrainian Dance Association. It is here that he continues sharing his love in hopes of being able to help preserve Ukrainian culture through the art of dance. In 2012 – 2015, along with Matthew, Bailey and Shaunda, Paul also helped direct “Boyan on Tour”, an extension of Boyan’s senior dancers, to two send-off performances titled “Fantazia” and “Podorozh”, and tours to eastern United States and Costa Rica. Paul focuses his attention on the valuable things in life; his family, friends, and the community. Because he has been given so much, the time that is left he spends trying to give back to all those that have changed his life.

'He isn't afraid to help kids in need, he has put forth great creativity in his choreography and has inspired many. He has always come to the studio ready and with a good attitude towards kids and co-workers alike.'

Andrea Malysh

Sadok Ukrainian Dance Ensemble, Kamsack, SK, Canada

Andrea is the founder of the Sadok Ukrainian Dance Ensemble and along with her dynamic energy, she brings with her extensive experience. With twenty Ukrainian dance theatre productions to her credit, Ms. Malysh continues to entertain and educate audiences about her Ukrainian Canadian heritage. Through thirty years of Ukrainian folk dance and ethnographic studies, Andrea has had the privilege to work with professional instructors and regional experts in Canada, Australia and Ukraine.

In 2006, she was awarded a diploma from the School of Choreography at the Virsky National Dance Company and the National University of Arts and Culture in Kyiv, Ukraine. Ukrainian dance to Andrea is a way of life. The Ukrainian Canadian history is presented on stage through dance theatre and authentic Ukrainian costumes.

'Not only does Andrea teach her own group, she is willing and able and does, share her knowledge with other dancer groups.  I would also like to note that Andrea is a member of the team that is promoting knowledge of Ukrainian concentration camps in Canada, and of the Holodymor in Ukraine.' 

Melanie Moravski

Lehenda Ukrainian Dance Company, Melbourne, Australia

Melanie has studied with many renowned Ukrainian choreographers including Mykola Kanevets, Sergei Zubatov, Sergei Makarov and Valery Debelyy. She danced and studied with, Ukraine’s most prestigious dance company in Kyiv in 2001. In 2009 Melanie was awarded with the title Merited (Performing) Artist of Ukraine by the Ukrainian President.


Melanie is a Ukrainian Character Teacher and Choreographer. She currently teaches at the Australian Conservatoire of Ballet and has taught at dance ensembles and schools nationally and internationally, including The Australian Ballet School Summer School, The Roma Pryma Bohachevsky Ukrainian Dance Workshop, Patrick Studios Australia, The Space Dance and Arts Centre, Veselka Ukrainian Dance Ensemble, Zahrava Ukrainian Dance Ensemble - CYM Sydney, Lastivka Ukrainian Dance Ensemble - CYM Geelong. Melanie is the former Artistic Director of Verchovyna Ukrainian Dance Ensemble and School (Ukrainian Youth Association Melbourne) of 9 years. Under Melanie’s guidance Verchovyna become the largest semi professional Ukrainian Dance Company in Australia. Melanie has written her own Ukrainian Dance Syllabus and has created and staged numerous dance works Verchovyna, including numerous performances nationally and internationally. She is currently working on a new work titled ‘Kazka’.

'Melanie is not only a fantastic choreographer, but also a kind teacher who focuses on each and every dancer and ensures they continually develop. She conducts her classes in a professional manner, encouraging us to achieve our best and challenges us to strive to do better.'

Paul Olijnyk

Paul’s passion and energy for Ukrainian dance began at an early age and continues to be a major part of his life. Paul teaches Ukrainian dance throughout the province of Alberta; adjudicates dance festivals throughout Western Canada; and has been a guest choreographer for dance ensembles in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Ontario. He is excited to return to teaching at Shumka School of Dance and share his passion for Ukrainian dance and culture with his students. Paul is a graduate of the Edmonton School of Ballet’s Pre-Professional Dance Training Program and a certified teacher under the Shumka Dance Syllabus Academy. He holds a BFA honours degree from York University, specializing in dance, and a Master of Arts degree, specializing in Ukrainian folklore, from the University of Alberta, Paul travels annually to Ukraine researching folklore, folk dance and attend workshops, including four summer courses at the International Summer School of Dance in the Kyiv University of Culture and Virsky Studio.


Since 2010, Paul has been involved in Ukrainian Dance World’s annual Ukrainian Dance Workshop Tour. This Tour provides the opportunity for dancers and instructors throughout North America to travel to Ukraine and take workshops with dance masters, professional regional ensembles, children’s ensembles and village dance groups. In his dance career with the Ukrainian Shumka Dancers, he has performed throughout Canada and China with various productions, including Shumka’s Cinderella, Absolute Shumka, Travelling Chumaky, Shumka at 50 and Clara’s Dream (collaboration with Virsky and Kyiv Ballet). Paul continues his work with Shumka as a part of their artistic team. Mr. Paul’s favourite region of Ukraine is Hutsulschyna!

'The dedication and heart that Paul has shown our dance club has been nothing less than superb.  Our dancers have a great respect for Mr. Paul.  His calm demeanor, sense of humour, honesty and professionalism are a cut above. Mr. Paul doesn’t have to ask the dancers to work harder, they want to work hard and they strive to impress him. Paul has been the biggest influence on our childrens’ love for Ukrainian dance.'

Vincent Rees

Vincent Rees has been a prolific dancer, director, choreographer and connoisseur of Ukrainian dance, art and culture for many years. He moved to Edmonton in 1992 to join the Ukrainian Shumka Dancers with whom he danced for many years and served on Shumka’s Artistic team for several years, accepting the role of Artistic Director of Shumka School from 1999 to 2004. In 2011 he became Artistic Director of the Viter Ukrainian Dancers and Folk Choir, created several new works, and toured Ukraine with them in the summer of 2012.


Vincent studied regional dance and choreography extensively in at the Institute of Ukrainian Folk Dance in Lviv and the Virsky Studio. His fascination with Ukrainian dance and culture led him to complete a master’s degree in Ukrainian Folklore from the University of Alberta. He has also studied ethnochoreology in Norway, Romania and Canada as a complement to his stage dance interests. Recently Vincent co-created the documentary film “Ukrainian Dance: A Journey to Alberta,” He is one of the key partners in the International Ukrainian Dance and Culture Festival, which will take place in Brazil in 2015 and in Ukraine in 2016, and is producing a television series titled “Dance Planet” which plans to travel the globe capturing traditional dances before they are forgotten.

'Vince considers all of his dancers his “kids”.  He always has their best interest at heart.  Whether it is hanging out backstage at festivals, meeting for a group supper, or taking a 5 minutes out of rehearsal time to share a laugh or two, he always makes time for his “kids”.'

Loren Winnick

Verkhovyna School of Ukrainian Dance

Loren has been Ukrainian dancing for twenty three years. Currently he is a member of Volya Ukrainian Dance Ensemble where he has performed in Turkey, Portugal, France, Great Britain, Greeceand most recently Colombia this past summer. Previously he danced for nine years with Kupalo Ukrainian Dance Ensemble where he performed throughout Canada, Western U.S.A., Ireland, Ukraine and Scotland. Loren has been teaching with Verkhovyna for the past 7 years and is extremely excited to be back again to share his knowledge and passion of Ukrainian dancing with the students.

'I have seen dancers come back year after year to dancing simply because of Loren and the way he is teaching kids how to fall in love with dancing. His passion for Ukrainian dance can be seen in all of his choreography, from picking fun, or modern or traditional music to choreographing traditional dances to character dances. On top of being an excellent instructor he is full of ideas on how to make the school more successful, and promote our wonderful dancers.'

Please reload