Arts Dance

50-50: Shumka celebrates a half-century of Ukrainian dance


As Shumka celebrates the 50th performance of its touring program, Shumka at 50, dancer Larissa Sulyma looks back on her eight years with the company fondly—even remembering her star-struck days as a kid asking for the dancers’ autographs.

Taking on her performance role with the Ukrainian dance troupe at age 16 was natural, as Sulyma comes from a quintessential Shumka family; both of her parents were dancers, and her father, Michael Sulyma, still does touring support for the company. (A glance at the Shumka program shows that family ties are common: there are multiple Petriws, Pacholoks and Eeles in the cast list, too).

Now a kindergarten teacher and dance instructor, too, Sulyma and the rest of Shumka’s corps have their minds set not only on the upcoming show, but also on the tenuous situation in Ukraine.

“It’s tough to see, to watch Ukraine experience this,” Sulyma says, noting that Shumka’s dancers were working with the Virsky Ukrainian National Folk Dance Ensemble on their collaborative version of The Nutcracker, Clara’s Dream just two months ago. “We got to know them, and we have lots of friends who are living in Ukraine now. We’re all scared for them, worried for them and thinking about them.”

The Shumka at 50 program also features a host of Ukrainian artists consulted on the anniversary production—set and costumes were designed by Maria Levitska of Ukraine’s National Ballet and Opera, musical compositions are by Kyiv’s Yuri Shevchenko and Andrij Shoost, and the show’s score was recorded by the 60-piece Kyiv City Opera Orchestra.

The show is comprised of four parts, opening with Shumka’s take on the traditional pryvit welcoming dance, Harvest Angels. Pathways to Hopak rouses with its whirling kolomiyka-style dance-off, and the second half features narrative story dances with A Cobbler’s Gift and The Eve of Kupalo (A Midsummer Night’s Masque).

Following this Friday’s performance, Shumka’s dancers will be collecting donations to go towards the Maidan movement (named for Kyiv’s central square). All funds will go to food, shelter and other aids to support the effort for democracy in Ukraine.

Fri, Mar 21 (7:30 pm)
Jubilee Auditorium, $26 – $59

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