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The Maestro of Hutsul Dance

March 23, 2016

    Somewhere, amid the misty peaks of the Carpathians, originates the impetuous Black Cheremosh River. It carries its crystal water across the mountains and valleys. The river flow changes from straight to crooked, in different places. In this land, on both sides of the river there is a village known as Kryvorivnya (literally translates as crooked-straight). Time seems to stop here - you can still can experience true Hutsul authenticity without the superficiality that civilization sometimes bring along. 

 

    You can dive into the mysterious world of ancient legends about Molphars (Carpathian wizards), Chuhaistr (mythical lords of the forest) and hypnotic Hutsul dances and music. Archaic rituals, saved from the olden days, bring to life famous literary and cinematographic pieces like "Shadows of the Forgotten Ancestors" (Sergei Paradjanov’s movie was shot here). Ancient traditions and culture of the region are being passed down from generation to generation.

 

    This is the place Yaroslaw Chuperchuk, a true Ukrainian Dance visionary, called home.


    Chuperchuk was born in Kryvorivnya on September 19, 1911. He later became known as the man who brought Hutsul dance on stage. It is safe to assume that the environment and traditions of this land, from a young age affected Yaroslaw and nurtured his love and passion of creativity. In 1927, after graduating from secondary school, Chuperchuk entered the Ternopil Choreographic School, at the time led by Vasyl Avramenko himself. Receiving his honors diploma at graduation, Avramenko approached Chuperchuk with the following message: "Dance is the language, the mighty language that helps us communicate with the soul". From that moment onward, these words became the life motto for the future choreographer.
 

    Chuperchuk took his first steps towards a career in choreography on the stage of Stanislaw Drama Theatre (now known as Ivano-Frankivsk). The audience was greatly impressed by the performance of the amateur ensemble, directed by Chuperchuk, everyone was impressed by the folk dances and the images so effortlessly brought to life by the performers. It looked as if, for a moment there, Oleksa Dovbush himself and his merry men, descended from the mountain tops to mesmerize the spectators with their magical Hutsulka and Arkan.

    December 1939 Ivano-Frankivsk became home to a newly created Hutsul Song and Dance Ensemble and Yaroslaw Chuperchuk was appointed the company’s first ballet master. During his career in the company the young choreographer created a number of dances, including: "Beyond the Beskydy", "Arkan", "Hutsulka in the fields", "Kolomyjky" and many more. He also did a lot of folk studies and exploration, travelling to villages around, researching the history and specifics of folk dance & music, and finding talented young people to work in the ensemble. He also created new dance compositions - wedding dance "Resheto", the playful "Meeting in the forest", the majestic "Trembita" etc. Considering Chuperchuk’s impressive artistic and creative skills, it’s no wonder he was the one Pavlo Virsky invited to create "Hutsulka" for his company.

    In 1946 Chuperchuk was invited to Lviv for develop stage Hutsul dances in the play "Oleksa Dovbush", produced by the Zankovetska Theatre. This was the time Chuperchuk created the ‘Halychyna’ Song and Dance ensemble (originally called "Chornohora", probably as a tribute to the Chornohora Mountain Range, located close to his hometown of Kryvorivnya).

 

    In 1949 Chuperchuk was arrested on charges of "nationalism" and convicted to 11 years. But even being exiled doesn’t stop the creative genius. Together with other convicts, Yaroslaw Chuperchuk creates a Ukrainian Song and Dance Ensemble!

    In 1956 Chuperchuk gets a 6 months ‘vacation’ which he uses to come to Lviv; the city at the time turning 700 years. This was the very time when Pokuttia dance ‘Holubka’, a Ukrainian folk stage classic – was born. The dance was based on moves and traditions recorded in Sniatyn region, Ivano-Frankivsk province.

 

    In 1959 Jaroslav Chuperchuk was the ballet master for the movie production of "Oleksa Dovbush" and was even cast for one of the roles - Oleksa`s friend - Veselchuk.

 

    Continuing to work with the “Halychyna” ensemble, Yaroslaw Chuperchuk keeps creating new dances and songs. Among the most famous ones were: the humorous "Chepurnenka" dance, iconic "Arkan",  "Lisoruby" (Lumberjacks), " Pivtorak ", "Voloshka" (Bukovynian dance). These pieces became a new chapter in Ukrainian folk dance history.

 

    In western Ukraine, Chuperchuk’s legacy matches up to Ukrainian dance legends like Vasyl Verkhovynets. His achievements are just as valuable, influential and topical even today.

    Yaroslaw Chuperchuk passed away in 2004, leaving behind a significant contribution to the development of Hutsul folk choreography.

 

    The richness and originality of dance art - professional as well as amateur, unique Hutsul traditions, customs, beliefs, daily life motives - all these became the basis for different productions and choreographic pieces. Along with song, dance helps project the life of people, their customs and rituals, on stage.

    Today, Sub-Carpathian folk dance is presented in a new light; is it explicit in dance vocabulary, original stylistic features, that have been developed for decades by various choreographers and performers. However, a prominent role in the development of Hutsul stage choreography belongs to the Maestro of Hutsul Dance - Yaroslaw Chuperchuk.

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