DEATH BY KOLOMYJKA, by Name Withheld
Attention Canadian Dancers and parents of dancers – the above headline is just a matter of time!
I recently had the good fortune to revisit the Vegreville Pysanka Festival, and a good time was enjoyed by one and all festival attendees in what is truly one of Canada’s greatest folk festivals. An issue that surfaced, however, was just how aggressive and dangerous the kolomiyka ring was becoming during the evening dances, especially at the Vegreville Multiplex with its unsurfaced concrete floor.
The main concern is over the very dangerous acrobatic and high-velocity spinning maneuvers in a confined space, with no regard for dancer or spectator safety.
This is not something new. In fact, much concern has been building in the Ukrainian dance and musical scene, and there have been numerous incidents involving injury. But no safeguards have resulted, and there has been no passage of wisdom from past dancers to the ones currently involved.
This year’s Vegreville Festival kolomiyka was no exception and on the first evening three or four very dangerous incidents were narrowly avoided, before the major incident, resulting in a young man smashing his face on the concrete floor, splitting the skin along the lenth of his jawbone, and spilling much blood across the dance floor.
As following evening demonstrated, nothing had been learned from that particular incident and many similarly dangerous maneuvers were continued. On this second occasion, however, a glimmer of hope emerged. The musicians from the band Absolut (and they should be congratulated for this) diffused the building danger on the dance floor on no less than four occasions during that kolomiyka alone. They refused to continue playing until the spectator ring moved four paces back – and this took quite a while, as crowds do not take kindly to orders at a zabava-dance.
There was much discussion about the problem in Vegreville, with input from dancers, spectators, stage technical crews and so on, among the recommendations was the observation that the band is ultimately in the power position. If they stop playing, the kolomiyka ceases abruptly. Our bands must keep their finger on the pulse of any building problems. They should set the stage for the kolomiyka by announcing, in advance, the house rules given below:
The larger the ring diameter, the more spectators can fit in and watch without being injured. The crowds should be asked to line the walls of the stage area, and the band may have to stop playing and force the ring back out as it invariably begins to close.
No velocity spins, pendulums, or towers greater than two-tier should be allowed. These maneuvers are entirely different in a rehearsal studio, with a wooden floor, trained dancers, experienced partners, and no alcohol. At a zabava, where the consumption of alcohol leads to a greater probability of a miscue, high velocity spins must be banned. (One striking example of what I am talking about was one high velocity spin in which a woman wrapped her legs around a man’s waist, with no other means of support, and he proceeded to twirt around at high speed. Had her grip weakened just for a split second, her skull would have fratured on the concrete floor causing instant death.)
So, who will identify the concerns and who will enforce the safety
measures? Surely, responsibility lies with us all, but must include regular reminders to out youth from dance ensembles, festival organizers, zabava bands, our Ukrainian media, our Ukrainian Dance Associations, the parents and fellow dancers to each other. But reminders are forgotten in the excitement and bravada of the kolomiyka ring, so we must establish some guidelines now in order to avoid a major catastrophe, which looming the in the not too distant future.
Name Withheld by Request