There was a time when Kozaks ‘dictated the fashion’. Everyone, from peasants to nobility, wanted to be like the Kozaks - dress like Kozaks, talk like Kozaks party like Kozaks.
And the Kozaks really knew how to have fun! Surely there were good reasons for it – they had quite a bit of free time at the Sich, and there was always a tavern nearby where one could find not only some good ‘horilka’ (vodka) but also the best musicians to set the right mood. These taverns, or ‘korchma’ as Ukrainians call them, were the setting for the Kozaks’ standoffs. These were not necessarily physical – often the boys would organize dance-offs, and what dance-offs these were!!. No wonder the Kozaks were often referred to as ‘Ukrainian knights’!
Typical for the Kozak dance-off or the ‘noble fight’ as they called it, was a common dance called "Kozak". It was an improvisational dance - one man would take the stage and challenge another, and so they would begin a series of moves, like «стрибати», «робити вихиляси», «витинати голубці», «забивати гопака» та «сідати гайдука», which essentially were different kinds of jumps, twists and turns. This was their way of deliberating who the better dancer was.
Although ‘Kozak’ was considered an improvisational dance, there were certain rules that applied and one had to train before trying their hand at it. Experienced Kozaks knew the dance logic and were strategic in choosing their moves: they would begin by moving slowly, doing simple steps and ending with the more complex moves and simply stunning jumps and turns. The dancers or counterparts always interacted with each other, trying to predict and complement their partner’s dance strategy. Such performances were traditionally accompanied by bandura or kobza players, often involving some verses, sung or recited by the dancers themselves.
Sometimes these dances also featured props, such as swords, pistols, rifles or spears.
Dance was also a playful way of teaching the young for real battles, that awaited them, as a lot of the moves resembled fighting and combat techniques.