«If you want to see Ukrainian culture, learn the history, understand the heart and soul of the Ukrainian people – come see the Virsky Ensemble shows»,
- this is a review from The New York Times, 2009.
Every country has its own unique cultural face. This is a country’s brand, so to speak, its signature piece that sets the country apart from others and makes it recognizable. Amongst others, Ukraine’s signature piece is folk dance art. And surely, one of the best representatives of this art form (if not the best ones) is the Pavlo Virsky National Ukrainian Folk Dance Ensemble.
The ensemble’s history began in 1937, when two famous ballet masters, Pavlo Virsky and Mykola Bolotov, joined forces and were the first in Ukraine to create a folk dance ensemble. Together they did a few productions at the Odessa Opera and then Kyiv. The company, in 1951 billed as Virsky Ukrainian State Dance Company, has been directed since 1980 by Myroslav Vantukh.
The fact that the ensemble was created during hard times in the history of the country means that, at that time, it was necessary and crucial for the nation. Today, one cannot imagine Ukraine’s culture without the Virsky Ensemble or the Veryovka, Cherkasy, Transcarpathia or Volyn Choirs. With time’s passing and the development of the Ukrainian culture and nation, the Virsky ensemble still remains its face, its introduction to the world.
«At root, most folk dances have something to do with making the crops grow. But when theatricalized with a touch of genius and a great deal of creativity, they become part of an international dance repertory.
The company he founded in Kiev in 1937 is made up of professional dancers with ballet training; hence the larger-than-life plasticity of the men, whose deep plies, flips and spins in the air and loose-hipped kicks are executed with a lightness that makes their bravura all the more astonishing. Effort is concealed; power is redefined. The young men in the Virsky Ukrainian Dance Company are still soaring high in the air in splits, careering around the stage in gravity-defying butterfly jumps and spinning like tops in the 18th century equivalent of break dancing.
The women's lyricism does not preclude speed and precision while moving with swivel-smooth grace into a mosaic of changing patterns. There are enough ideas here to nourish any choreographer in search of concepts and structure.
No folk, of course, ever danced like this. Any dance lover will appreciate the eye-opening level of technique that remains undiminished. Vigor and power go with amazing lightness.»
– Anna Kisselgoff, The New York Times
Achieving perfection and such skill in performance is extremely difficult as is getting into the company. Every year the ensemble holds extremely demanding competitions. And to have a worthy group of future contenders to choose from, he company also has a children's choreographic school and studio. Every year the company casts 300 children. They then spend 10 years in training at the Virsky School, to later enter the studio, founded by Pavlo Virsky himself in 1962, for 2 more years of training. And only then, through a series of castings, a dancer can attempt to join the Virsky Company. And not everyone makes it! This is a live and continuous process.
But it doesn’t take just skill to achieve complete harmony in dance. One simply cannot do without excellent choreography. The Virsky Ensemble has a real treasure house of dance numbers, many created by Maestro Virsky himself, including the all-time favorites – ‘Hopak’, ‘Povzunets’, ‘Dolls’, ‘Hops’, ‘The Joys of Chumaks’, ‘Shoemakers’ etc.
To say these performers are professionals is not only an understatement but an offense to the glory and artistry of the dancers and artistic crew. Words fail to describe the feelings and emotions one experiences at a Virsky Show. People yet have to come up with words that would do these artists justice!
Every year the Ukrainian Dance Workshop Tour participants have an amazing opportunity to work with the Virsky Ensemble. Here, they not only get to learn the specifics and secrets to mastering the technique and mannerisms, they always build lifelong friendships! Join the Ukrainian Dance Workshop Tour and train with Virsky Ensemble, while there’s still a chance!
Info Sources: virsky.kiev.ua/