What is the first thing that comes to mind when asked - ‘What is Poltava?’. Classic Ukrainian foods like varenyky and borsch; outstanding writers like Kotlyarevsky and Gogol; the world-famous Sorochinsky Fair; or perhaps the glorious Poltava Battle? These are, of course, all important things about the city, but there’s something bigger - Poltava is known as the Soul of Ukraine, its spiritual capital. If you want to ‘understand this soul’ - come to Poltava, visit with people who live there, sample the borsch and the famous local halushky (a variety of dumplings); and be sure to meet and work with the "Poltava" Song & Dance Ensemble. After all, nothing can surpass borders, language and cultural differences, and showcase the incredible local culture, like song & dance.
The history of the "Poltava" ensemble is extremely interesting and dates as far back as the 1920s. Back then, a well-known Ukrainian ethnographer, folklorist, choreographer and composer, the theoretician of Ukrainian folk dance, Vasyl Verkhovynets together with his wife Evdokia Verkhovynets-Kosteva (also know by her stage name "Dolya" or Destiny), founded a women's choir ensemble called ZhinKhorAns – an abbreviation for Women’s Choir Ensemble. It was not just another typical ensemble, it represented a completely new genre of dramatized song, which immediately attracted a lot of attention. It was "ZhinKhorAns" that served as inspiration and was the beginning to all future Ukrainian folk and dance groups. This genre has withstood the test of time and now it has been assimilated by professional and amateur groups not only in Ukraine but also abroad.
In 1934, ZhinKhorAns moved first to Kharkiv, and then in 1935 - to Kyiv, where they received the status of a State Capella.
Despite the group’s success, Vasyl Verkhovynets was arrested, accused of "Ukrainian bourgeois nationalism", and in 1938 executed; as for Evdokia Dolya-Verkhovynets, she was exiled to Kazakhstan. Such a turmoil and a series of hardships, was a typical prospect for the then creative intelligentsia of Ukraine - the people who spread, preserve and promote Ukrainian culture.
After the war, ZhinKhorAns was once again headed by Evdokia Dolya-Verkhovynets, joined by Oleksandr Pivnenko. In 1966 the ensemble was renamed to "Veselka" (Rainbow) but kept the same direction in their work. Their repertoire included Ukrainian folk songs, vocal-choreographic compositions, lyrical songs, choral songs, roundelays and vesnianky (Spring songs).
Throughout 1984-1987, the Veselka Ensemble served as the basis for creating a new group called the Poltava State Folk Choir. Nina Uvarova, an Honored Worker of Culture of Ukraine, was invited to become the group’s ballet master. This recognized master of folklore created unique, original works that have found their rightful place in the ‘Hall of Fame’ of Ukrainian National Choreography. Some of her most famous pieces include: vocal-choreographic compositions "Rogoza", "Kruzhalo", "Horseshoes from Chorbiv", "Vasylechky"; and dances "Kosha", "Syto" and many others.
One piece in particular is worth mentioning - the experimental, at the time, vocal-choreographic composition "A Kozak Left to War" was the first and till today the only piece that featured moves from ‘Battle Hopak’, a martial art, based on the technique of the Zaporizhian Kozaks, incorporated into standard dance moves.
For abut 30 years, the ensemble has been thriving under the leadership of talented choreographer, an Honored Artist of Ukraine - Vadym Perepelkin.
Participants of the Annual Ukrainian Dance Workshop Tour, organized by Ukrainian Dance World and Cobblestone Freeway, have had the pleasure of working with the Poltava Ensemble in 2013, and in June 2018 we will once again have a chance to understand ‘the Soul of Ukraine’, during seminars on the basis of the Poltava ensemble.
For details on the Workshop Tour, please click here