Relatively new to the Ukrainian dance scene, Melbourne Australia’s Lehenda has been tracing the legends of its dancers’ forefathers to great acclaim since just 2014.
Lehenda’s vision is not unlike that of other Ukrainian groups in Australia, or even around the world: to promote the rich cultural traditions of Ukraine through dance. It something Artistic Director Melanie Moravski Dechnicz works hard at passing on to her dancers, which shows whenever this 40-strong ensemble hits the stage.
From the Past into the Present
Performing the ancient song and dance ritual of Vesnianky and telling the tragic tales of the Rusalky, Dechnicz says, “We dance to tell a narrative, to express our past, present, and future, and share the spirit of discovery of the renowned Ukrainian choreographers and artists that have come before us.”
This seems especially evident in the group’s choice of logo: one of the legendary founders of Kyiv, Lybid. Found in various places throughout Ukraine, her figure stands tall and proud alongside her brothers, moving forward in the spirit of discovery and adventure. “The graphic was a combination of her embracing profile formed by the motif of ribbons in motion to create a Cossak in flight.” It’s an image especially moving at the moment, with Ukraine currently moving along its own path of self-discovery, pushed ever forward by the winds of Lybid and her brothers.
Though there are many, one the most striking aspects about Lehenda is the great media and design work found in very visually appealing photos, videos, and posts on their webpage and throughout social media. It’s all thanks to a seemingly large and talented team of creatives who have ensured that whatever the dance group is doing, it’s something you should be a part of. Like for instance the numerous corporate and private functions, festivals, weddings, as well as a range of Ukrainian community events Lehenda are often being invited to. The group is already touting new repertoire for their 2017/2018 tour throughout Australia, pieces for which will include various regions of Ukraine, as well as a new exciting piece inspired by their logo. Unfortunately, Dechnicz isn’t giving too much away just yet. However, if the new piece is anything like their most recent folk ballet, Kazka, it will undoubtedly be a great hit across the country.
A Plethora of Programs
What she does talk about, and rather enthusiastically, are all of the programs Lehenda offers. “We have a youth company as part of the Lehenda School, which is a great foundation for a smooth transition into the main company. We also have stretch, strength, and conditioning programs, which have been created by our in-house physiotherapist and Pilates instructor.”
Perhaps one of their most inspired programs however is where they actually head into schools, delivering a cultural program aligned with the Australian Education Curriculum. Dechnicz says, “It teaches students an overview of the geography of Ukraine, the dance regions, costumes, and dance style, as well as giving students the opportunity to try out some Ukrainian dance for themselves.” The St Catherine’s of Siena Primary School got to experience Lehenda first hand, and couldn’t say enough good things about the experience: “Our children thoroughly enjoyed the performance, and especially enjoyed dressing up in the traditional costumes and learning some of the dance moves.”
Whether as part of the Company, a participant in the numerous workshops Dechnicz and her talented team provide, or as an ex-dancer in the adult class not yet ready to hang up the old red boots, one thing’s for sure – Lehenda is creating its own legend, and one that will likely survive for a very long time.