Historical development of the ukrainian dance
Historical development of the ukrainian dance
Folk dances keep appearing in different parts of the world, as you may see. The Spaniard does not dance like the Swiss, like the Scotsman, or one of Teniers’ Germans, nor the Russian, like the Frenchman, or an Asian. The dance differs even in the provinces of one and the same country. The northern Russ dances neither like the Little-Russ (Ukrainian — M.S.). like the southern Slav, like the Pole, nor the Finn; while the dance of one is eloquent, that of the other is impassive; while the first may be wild and rakish, the other may be serene: while another may be tense and heavy, still another may be light and airy. How to explain this variety of dances? They were born from thecharacterof the people, from their life and mode of occupation. The people that have led a proud and warring existence will express that pride in their dances; the people that have had a secure and free life will express unlimited freedom of will and poetic oblivion in their dances; the people that have lived in a fiery climate have ushered its voluptuosness. passion and jealousy into its dances…
The thoughts expressed in the above quotation by the great Russian writer Nikolai Gogol are characteristic of an era which saw many of the foremost composers, dramatists, writers, poets and performing artists draw both inspiration and desire from the rich heritage of songs, melodies, dances, tales and legends of the Ukrainian people. One has only to read Kotlyarevsky’s “Natalka Pol- tavka” and “Eneyida.” Shevchenko’s “Haidamaks’” and “Nazar Stodolya” or Gogol’s “May Night” and “Taras Bulba” to appreciate the depth of understanding, love and respect they had for the people’s heritage and traditions. Their creativity did not depend on an academician’s observation or a theorist’s abstractions, but reflected the soul of a people’s rich culture and turbulent history. Their perseverance in searching out the origins and development of the folk arts gave their works a clarity and truth that made them everlasting. Recognizing the importance of this approach, historians and ethnographers such as I. Franko. F. Kolessa. M. Lysenko. V. Hnatiuk, V. Shukhevych, V. Verkhovynets. R. Harasymchuk. and others went into the villagos and towns, and gradually amassed a virtual treasure-house of historical material, which later was to form the basis of their published works.
Historians and philosophers have debated the origin of the arts for centuries. The ancient Greeks believed that I he art of the dance was created by one of the nine Muses — Terpsichore. The 17th contury gave us the theory of imitation.” which reasoned that, because people have the ability to vocally create musical sounds, they imitated the songs of birds and through the lowering and raising of these sounds were able to express their feelings, etc. This became the basis of music. This “imitation” was then extended to include the various ritualistic movements of birds, which influenced the origin of the dance.
Karl Bucher, in his book “Work and Rhythm.” utilizing a large amount of factual material based on work songs and their associated movements and gestures, came to the conclusion that the origin of the arts was dependent on the human work process, although he looked upon the labour of early man as a pastime, which preceded the arts. Although there are many theories about this age-old problem today, one that should be considered claims that the arts originated in the process of work, as part of man’s communal life, and that in social labour man created those prerequisites which assisted in the emergence of the arts.
In assessing the accumulated musical and dance material, bv taking into account the characteristic and stylistic specifics of folk choreography we are able to arrive at three basic genre of dances, which emerged in the Ukraine: ritual (“obryadovi”), social (“pobutovi”) and thematic (“siuzhetni”).
Ritual dances are the oldest form of folk dance art. Their performance was once part of the traditional greeting of spring (spring cycle), observance of summer (Kupalo cycle), harvest (obzhynky) and welcoming the New Year. In some regions they were known simply as ‘khorovody.”
The ritual dances can be divided into three thematic groups: those which depict the work process, as in “As we sowed the millet” (“A my proso siyaly”). those which deal with socio-family relationships, “The Quail” (“Perepilka”), and those which reflect patriotism and the love of nature. “Marena.” The dances combine poetry, music and dance forming one organic whole while revealing the content through the words of the accompanying song and the participants’ descriptive movements.
Social dances, which reflected the manners and customs of the people, originated in the period of the formation of the Ukrainian nationality. These dances form the basis of Ukrainian foLk choreography. because they cam1 the essential characteristic traits of the Ukrainian nation: love of freedom, heroism, courage, cleverness, tenacity, resourcefulness, ingenuity and humour. In these dances specific elements were formed, characterizing the national singularity of Ukrainian folk choreography found in the dances of other genres. These dances are an integral part of the people’s everyday life. They were performed at home, during “vechomytsi” (evening social gatherings) and during “hulvanky” (outings). The “Hopak.” “Kozachok” and the “Metelytsya” are some of the more popular social dances.
Thematic dances, as compared with the ritual dances, originated much later. Through the medium of their dance, the people were able to depict the various phenomena of surrounding life and nature in a very specific: maimer. In the dance “Shevchyk” (“Shoemaker”) the making of a pair of shoes is vividly portrayed through a varied array of choreographic figures. The thematic line, which governs the order of the dance figures, is developed clearly and accurately. This genre is divided into five groups: work process. as in the above mentioned “Shevchyk” and “Kosari” (“The Reapers”); folk heroism — “Conte”; events from everyday life — “Kateryna’and “Horlytsya” (“Turtle-dove”); phenomena of nature — “Zironka” (“Little Star”); birds and animals — “Husak” (“Gander”).