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!  



Adam Breckner

Barveenok Ukrainian Dance Club, Prince Albert, SK, Canada

Adam Breckner began Ukrainian dancing at a young age in Meacham Saskatchewan.

It was clear that he was a passionate and talented dancer from the beginning and that he would continue to follow his passion. At the age of 16, Adam joined the Pavlychenko Folklorique Ensemble; he is currently performing with them.

Adam decided to share his love for dance by teaching all over Saskatchewan. He has been teaching for the Svoboda Dancers in North Battleford for five years and the Prince Albert Barveenok Ukrainian Dancers for three years. He has also just recently started teaching for the Saskatoon School of Dance and the Wakaw Ukrainian Dancers.

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.


Maria Babych

Orlyk Ukrainian Dance Ensemble Manchester, UK

Pani Babych started dancing under the renowned choreographer Petro Dnistrowyk when Orlyk started in 1949. She is completely dedicated sharing her talent, experience and gift with children and adults of all ages. Most of her dancers start at the Petro Dnistrowyk Ukrainian School of Dance based at the Cultural Centre in Manchester and taught by Pani Babych. From there their talents are identified and Pani Babych has the ability to nurture young talent to become elegant traditional Ukrainian dancers. Once established they move up to the senior group Orlyk when Pani Babych knows it’s right and that each young dancer will hold their own when coming up against the more established experience members of the group. Other dancers join just to be part of this fantastic group and experience Pani Baych’s way of teaching, gaining further experience and having their bad habits ironed out by an expert.  As a lady of 70 plus years, as you never ask a lady her age, Pani Babych still has the posture, poza and flair of a truly wonderful dancer and can still show the male dancers a pryzhad or two. 


Trish Bayrock

Veselka Ukrainian Dance Association, Edmonton, AB, Canada

Trish has many years of experience in Ukrainian dance and her technique is flawless and graceful.  She is always finding music directly from Ukraine, or from around Canada.  She loves to delve into regional studies and bring out the tradition of the region through beautiful dances.
She is truly kind hearted and loves all of her students.  She somehow finds the energy to motivate 35+ adults, and she also teaches kids at St. Basil's!  Trish is adored and loved by all and th group would not make it without her.

Tanya Chrapko

Verkhovyna School of Ukrainian Dance Edmonton, AB, Canada

Tanya has been Ukrainian dancing for most of her life, for seven years with Dunai and previously with the Alberta Zirka Ukrainian Performers.  Along with Tanya’s dance experience, she also brings a performance background as a singer/actor with various theatre groups, choirs and solo performing in and around Edmonton.  She has instructed with Camrose Veselka Dancers, Alberta Zirka Ukrainian Performers & Kiev’s-K-Hi Summer Camp.  Tanya is excited to have had the opportunity to accompany the Intermediate 2 & Senior classes to Disneyland this August for their workshop and performance.  She is also looking forward to the energy this year’s instructional team at the Verkhovyna School of Ukrainian Dance will give to their dancers and can’t wait to see what her 8th year with the school will bring!

Fedir Danyliak

Barvinok Ukrainian Dance School Mississauga, ON, Canada

For the past 16 years, Mr. Fedir Danylak has been the heart and soul of Barvinok. He is not only the choreographer and Artistic director, but also innovator and teacher. He has now almost 40 years experience in all aspects of the dancing field. Over the past 39 years, Fedir Danylak has taught at various dance schools throughout Ukraine, the United States and Canada.

Fedir Danylak has received many awards from the Ministry of Culture in Ukraine, for teaching, training of Folk Dance Directors, and choreography. He has a diploma in Choreography from the Kyiv State Institute of Culture, Kyiv, Ukraine, and advanced courses in dance and choreography from the Kyiv State Institute of Culture and Institute of Advanced Training.

He brings with him a true passion for dance that radiates to his students. The eager dancers under Fedir Danylak's guidance soon develop pride in their heritage that is displayed in their performances.

Gwen Hanke

Veeteretz School of Ukrainian Dance Edmonton, AB, Canada

Gwen Hanke has been involved in the Ukrainian Dance Community for over 35 years. Demonstrating a sincere dedication to the evolving art of Ukrainian Dance, Gwen is not only enthusiastic but ambitious in her committed approach to delivering quality instruction to young and old alike.

Gwen began her Ukrainian Dance Training at the age of three and later began studying the discipline of ballet at the Marwood Dance Studio to complement her dance training. At the age of 14, she joined the Dnipro Ensemble, traveling to Australia, Hawaii, and the Philipines. She then attended the dance program at Grant MacEwan College in 1980, where she augmented her dance skills with studies in ballet, jazz, modern, and character dance. David Adams, Brian Webb, Charlene Tarvener and Gail Leonard were among her teachers at Grant MacEwan. Gwen then joined the Ukrainian Shumka Dancers, where she performed for 8 years and served on both the executive and artistic committee.

Natalia Iwaszko

Verkhovyna Dance School, Edmonton, AB, Canada

With over 20 years of Ukrainian dance experience, Natalia’s very first dance lessons began at the Verkhovyna Dance School. For the past 11 years, Natalia has been performing and touring with the Dunai Ukrainian Dancers.

With Dunai Ukrainian Dancers she has performed throughout Canada, Costa Rica, Eastern Europe and U.S.A. Natalia has had the pleasure of being part of 3 anniversary tours with the Verkhovyna Ensemble and most recently toured this summer 2014 to South America. She also is an active member on the Verkhovyna Executive. Natalia’s passion for dance and music also includes salsa dance training and becoming a Zumba instructor. 

Keris Matskiw

Zoloto Ukrainian Dance Ensemble Winnipeg, MB, Canada

After starting dancing at young age, Keris quickly became very interested in instruction and choreography.  She began traveling to participate in several workshop in the Mid-West USA and Western Canada as a young teenager.  She always strives for perfection in authentic traditional Ukrainian dance.


In 1991 with her family Keris started the Zoloto Ukrainian Dance Ensemble.  The name Zoloto (Ukrainian for gold) was chosen because that is the standard she set.  Even though most of the dancers were older than Keris, they deferred to her expertise and passion. She instructed them in technique and choreographed dances in the various Ukrainian regional styles.  The ensemble was so well received wherever they preformed that it wasn't long until numerous people asked where their children could learn to dance so well.  After just a couple of years in existence, Zoloto expanded to add the Dance Company.  For over two decades Keris has instructed ages 3 to adult. She has taken her dancers to performances and competitions to great success in Canada, the United States, Central & South America and 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’.

Orlando Pagan

Syzokryli Ukrainian Dance Ensemble New York City, USA

Orlando V. Pagan began his training at the age of 13 with the Bronx Dance Theatre and later went on to study at the prestigious High School of Performing arts, Alvin Ailey School of Dance, School of American Ballet, and Jacobs Pillow.

As well as performing and touring with the Bronx Dance Theatre and the Windermere Ballet, he was later featured in the HBO produced 'Get Working', a video that promoted Summer Youth work programs. He was also part of the ensemble of dancers in an 'I love New York' commercial featuring Mikhail Baryshnikov. After finding work in a few off-Broadway musical productions, Mr. Pagan studied Ukrainian Folk Dance and in 1987, became a soloist of the Syzokryli Ukrainian Dance Ensemble of NYC for thirteen years under the direction of Roma Pryma Bohachevsky. He was featured in such ballets as "Vohon", "Fight for Freedom", and "Ikona". The company has successfully toured regions of the U.S. and most notably, Ukraine.

Although never formally trained in music, Mr. Pagan has also had success in the music industry. His musical credits include co-writing 'My Life (Through the Spirit in Your Eyes)'
for the film and soundtrack 'Empire' performed by Jon Secada, 'We'll be Together' for the film 'Wrestling Earnest Hemmingway' starring Robert Duvall, and the Christmas song, 'If Every Day Were Christmas', played throughout the country on the Westwood One radio network.

He was featured in the acclaimed movie documentary, 'FOLK!', and was recently featured in an article in the NY Times detailing his passion and life as a Ukrainian Folk
dancer and instructor.

Cathy Paroschy

Chaban Ukrainian Dancers, Thunder Bay, ON, Canada

Cathy has been passionate about Ukrainian dance and culture throughout her life. She arrived in Thunder Bay in 1984 and joined Chaban (originally Veselka) and by the 1986 dance season, had become its artistic director, drawing on her experience teaching Ukrainian dance in Guelph (Tyrsa), St. Catharine’s (Dunai) and her hometown of Welland (Vesnyanka). 

Cathy is certified as Ballet Master Coach/ Choreographer from the Ukrainian Academy of Dance of Lviv, Ukraine. She graduated from the Shumka School of Dance (Edmonton), and has been trained in ballet, as well as both Ukrainian dance and folklore, at workshops in Canada, the U.S. and Ukraine. As a teacher and choreographer, she has directed hundreds of performances locally, nationally and internationally. As a dancing ambassador, she has taken Ukrainian dancing to local schools, to stretch breaks at national conferences, to enhance repertoire of vocal ensembles, to countless seminars, workshops and community events. She is a true advocate of everything Ukrainian. In 2000 she was the recipient of the Citizen’s of Exceptional Achievement Award, and in 2012 she received the  Spirit of Thunder Bay Award for her 25 years of leadership, innovation and volunteerism in the community at the helm of Chaban.

Kalyna Piasta

Veselka Ukrainian Dancers Eugene/ Springfield, Oregon. USA

The Veselka Ukrainian Dancers have been a part of the Eugene/Springfield culture scene since 1990. In 2012, the Veselka Ukrainian Dance Society of Oregon was created to support and promote the art of Ukrainian dancing in the Eugene/Springfield area.
A person does not need to be of Ukrainian descent to appreciate and participate in this art form.

Roxana Pylypczak

Hromovytsia Ukrainian Dance Ensemble of Chicago, Chicago, USA

Since age eight, Roxana Dykyj-Pylypczak has studied and performed Ukrainian dance. She began her training with Mr. and Mrs. Lubomyr Cepynsky in 1966. As a member of the Ukrainian Theatrical Youth Group in Chicago, which performed extensively throughout the United States and Canada, she landed lead roles in plays such as “Za Sestroyu” and “The Invincible Call.”

In addition, Roxana trained for many years with Roma Pryma-Bohachevsky, as well as other high-profile Ukrainian instructors including Vadim Sulima, Valentina Pereyaslavets and Taras Kalba. She received ballet, character and jazz training at the Ruth Page Foundation, Ellis DuBoulay School of Dance, Rozak Studio, Lou Conte Studio and Keith Allison School of Dance.

Nadine Usyk & Taras Gulka

Tyrsa Ukrainian Dance School Burlington, ON, Canada


“Tyrsa” means a wild grass that grows in Ukraine. Over time, Tyrsa had grown into an accomplished dance group with a proud 33 year history in Halton Region.

Historically, Tyrsa has performed at a variety of festivals and events, both near and abroad. In addition to performing across Southern Ontario and Dauphin, the Senior group has performed in as diverse venues as Expo 86, festivals in Drummondville, Quebec, Rochester, New York City and culminating in a five city performance tour across Ukraine.

Tyrsa has been blessed with talented choreographers, whose dedication and artistic talents have contributed to both the reputation of the dance troupe and the enrichment of their student’s lives.

Tyrsa’s foremost goal is to encourage our children to live their cultural through peer participation, thereby ensuring that our dynamic Ukrainian heritage continues to thrive in our multicultural community.

Please reload

Nominations for

ARCHIVE - 2015