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THE DANCER KNOWN TO THE WHOLE WORLD

November 27, 2014

Vasyl Avramenko’s life is a fascinating and tragic story at the same time.

 

    He was born March 22, 1895 in the village of Stebliv in Cherkasy region. Participated in the First World War. In 1917 he moved to Kyiv and entered the Mykola Lysenko Music and Drama School, where under the direction of Vasyl Verkhovynets he started studying Ukrainian folk dance. After the Institute he started working in the theater founded by Mykola Sadowski, where he began collecting and recording authentic dances from the actors. Watching folk dances and influenced by lectures of Vasyl Verkhovynets Avramenko adopts the idea of reviving Ukrainian dance, bringing it to its rightful place, bringing back its pristine, crystal clear beauty and original aesthetics. He was the first to come up with the idea of establishing Ukrainian Folk Dance schools throughout Ukraine. Ironically, the first school like that was created in the Ukrainian prisoners’ camp in Kalush, Ivano Frankivsk region.

    From there, Vasyl Avramenko moved to Lviv where in March 1922 he created the first school of dance in Halychyna (Galicia). After Lviv he moves on to Volyn where over the span of 10 months he creates 5 more dance schools. And then there were Przemysl, Holm, Podlasie, Ternopil, Drohobych, Stanislav (aka Ivano Frankivsk). In Kolomyia Avramenko created 2 schools - one in the boys’ gymnasium, and another - in the girls’ gymnasium.

 

    In 1925, invited by the local Ukrainian community, Avramenko moves to Canada. There in Toronto he opend numerous folk dance clubs and schools.

 

     Avramenko was known for creating his own version of art, because what he came up with were not traditional dance divertissements,those were brand new dance genres. Hispoductions could be described as ballet-poems, ballet-symphonies, which reflected the complex historical fate of the Ukrainianpeople (ballet productions like "Easter in Ukraine", "For Ukraine", "Otaman Sirko’s Sich").

 

 

    In his creations Avramenko  combined ballet, music, theater and choral singing. His famous "Hopak" was a great success at the "Metropolitan Opera" (1931). His productions "Gonta", "Chumak", "Arkan from Kolomyia" have become classics.

 

    Vasyl Avramenko’s talent manifested itself not only in dance, but also in cinematography. In 1936-1937 Vasyl Avramenko founded aUkrainian film studio in New York, where he created film-operas "Natalka Poltavka", "Zaporizhian Kozak beyond the Danube", "Marusia Bohuslavka" etc. A documentary film"The Triumph of Ukrainian Dance" (1954) Avramenkoworked on for 25 years received great international acclaim after being shown in cinemas across the US and Europe.

    Throughout 1920-1950 Avramenko opened Ukrainian folk dance schools in Argentina, Canada, Brazil, Australia and Israel. Avramenko summarized his unique experiences as a dancer and choreographer in his fundamental work "Ukrainian folk dances, music and costume".

 

    Vasyl Avramenko died in New York on May 6, 1981. In his will he asked to transfer his remains to the place he was born, once Ukraine became an independent state.

    In each of the schools created by Vasyl Avramenko, his creative legacy was continued by instructors who taught the art of Ukrainian folk dance, spread the ideas of the maestro and his teacher and influencer Vasyl Verkhovynets. Vasyl Avramenko laid the foundation for the further growth and development of Ukrainian stage dance. Thanks to his talent and work,the art and glory of Ukrainian dance has been spread all over the world.

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