After one of their tour performances in Spain (1962) Hryhoriy Chapkis, the then
Virsky Ensemble soloist, was approached by a rather peculiar looking man – dressed in
bright clothes, his green jacket had.. an omelette for a pocket square! The man said: «You think you can fool everyone, but I know there’s a trick, I know you have some kind of engine powering your knees!». Having said that he started closely examining the dancer’s costume, searching for hidden devices. The paparazzi captured that moment and the morning newspaper headlines read «Ukrainian Kozak with engine powered knees touring Spain. Seen by Salvador Dalí himself». Yes, that strange man was actually the famous accentric artist Salvador Dalí.
Dalí simply couldn’t comprehend how one could do Ukrainian dance without «outside», machine-powered help! Especially when it comes to Povzunets.
The dance goes back to the training practices of the Ukrainian kozaks. And not just any kozaks, but the very elite of the Ukrainian troops – the intelligence! For a scout, moving quickly and being unnoticed was sometimes a matter of life and death. That’s exactly why kozaks learnt to run/move, squatting as low as possible, so it almost looked like they were crawling (hence the name ‘povzunets’ –in Ukrainian crawl is повзати/povzaty).
Besides these quick movements ‘Povzunets’ contains some martial arts elements. But, surely, kozaks always tried to bring some fun to their daily routines – thus the element of humor and mockery in the dance.
Using these original practices Pavlo Virsky created the choreography for ‘Povzunets’, which has now become a true signature piece in Ukrainian dance - a perfect representation of the Ukrainian character with its ‘juicy’ humor, youthful boldness and explosive, radiant positivity.
Virsky only used a single classic move – the povzunok – but made it vaster, embellished certain structural elements, used them as a basis for a number of movements, and added the ‘cherry on top’ - some vibrant national coloring.
Various dance practices prove that the combination of traditional moves, taken from folklore, and modern choreographies, make for incredible results! Surely, the turbulent development of Ukrainian stage dance would have been impossible without a strong foundation that the folk dance legacy is. Authentic moves are used for creating new pas in folk as well as classical dance. In this context, ‘Povzunets’ is a real treasury for improvisation and creation of new interesting characters for dancers of all ages.
But be mindful that this dance can be merciless to your ‘engines’ (aka knees), so be sure to always train and warm up! And then, with time and practice, your every performance will be met with standing ovations!
Hryhoriy Chapkis doing Povzunets