Ritual dances in Ukraina
Ritual dances in Ukraina
This dance form, although going through many changes both in content and style, remained an important facet of the people’s traditions right into the present century. As mentioned earlier, the far-sighted approach taken by ethnographers and historians in collecting a huge amount of material, enables us now to look back in lime and evaluate the role these rituals, and their accompanying art forms, played in the life of the Ukrainian people. The majority of these examples have retained those elements which echo the ancient past and allow us to establish a fairly accurate picture of their development. To achieve this it is also necessary to study the rituals and those historic conditions which gave birth to them.
The Eastern Slavs lived in an area from the rivers Dniester to the Don. They grew wheal, hemp, millet and other grains while also breeding livestock. It is impossible to say how these primitive people danced. Unlike architectural remains or implements, which archeologists gradually uncover, the dance, like the song, was never recorded. We can. however, with the help of analogical examples in the cultural life, and specifically in the dances of the primitive tribes of Africa and Asia, arrive at some logical conclusions. It would be safe to assume that the thematic palette was very limited at first, and probably reflected the major events in their life, such as the constant struggle for survival and what that entailed. It was only later that the so-called “magic” dances made their appearance.
The calendar ritual is one of the oldest forms of poetic creativity, which originated and developed in close ties with the work process of the people. The rituals were divided into specific cycles which paralleled the work cycle of the agricultural year. Through the artistic images of the ritual we find the elements of the ancient pagan conception of the world, folk beliefs or religious ideas brought about by the inability to explain the phenomena of nature.
These people were unable to understand the spontaneous forces of nature and. as a result, developed cults to worship these phenomena as “dark powers.” The Slavs had many gods, which they believed controlled lliese forces. Svarah was the god of the heavens, Svarozhych — the god of fire, and Penin — god of thunder and lightning, in worshipping these gods, the people believed more in the actual act of magical spells to call forth the required phenomenon lhan in mystical phrases. Only when these verbal formulations were finally combined with descriptive movements did they achieve special meaning. Through the merging of these two factors a new form was bom — the ritual dance.
The ritual dance can best be characterized as a synthesis of poetry, music and dance, which in dramatic fashion portrays a specific theme. The content is developed through song, and therefore the text becomes the most important element, determining the essence of the dance and its choreographic structure.
In antiquity the Slavs began their New Year with the awakening of nature in the spring. This was their first festive occasion and they greeted it proudly and jubilantly with songs, dances and games. These traditional ritualistic song-dances became known as “Ves- nyankv” (form the wort! “vcsna” — spring). In the western regions they were also called “Hahilky,” “Hayivky.” “Yahilky.” and along and beyond the river Buh. were known as “Rohulky’\
By ascertaining t he period of origin and function, Vesnyanky can be divided into two groups: (1) the old rituals, archaic in purpose- consisting of pantomime songs and dances: and (2) more recent, lyrical and humorous songs used as an accomjianiment to the old ritual dances, such as “Kryviy tanets” (“Crooked dance”) and “Kryve koleso” (“Crooked wheel”). They were all unique poetic- musical-choreographic components of the longest festive episode, which lasted from the earliest signs of spring to the summer work period.
In the past, the Vesnyanky, which retained many ancient elements, had an important mystical purpose. These primitive song- dances reflected the people’s buoyant energy and happy mood, expressing their efforts to instill these feelings within nature’s elements, and through imitative gestures and acts to jar its forces and to influence its powers. They called on spring to chase the winter away and bring forth summer, to bring good fortune to the young girls and boys through successful pairing and by finally ending in marriage. With these mystical acts, the people tried to win nature to their side, to make their labour easier. The reality of conditions, together with the ever present needs of the farming season, resulted in a magical function for these ancient rituals, reflecting the primitive level of understanding.
The inviolability of the ritual and the oral text were an indispensable condition for the retention of the ritual act’s power. In time, these sacred demands fell to the side. Under the influence of changing social and economic conditions the primary meaning of these spring songs and song-dances was lost.
The introduction of Christianity in 988-989 A.U. had a profound and lasting effect on the beliefs and rituals of the people. Their gods were toppled and quickly replaced by Greco-Byzantine orthodoxy. This event not only affected the people’s beliefs, it also enhanced the development of the feudal socio-economic structure with its numerous regional principalities and corresponding governing entities.
While, on the one side, this new religion brought with it many important advancements, it also set out to destroy those beliefs which had. for such a long time, been the basis of the primitive Slav’s understanding. Many of the ritual-festive events were banned, and those which the church could not completely eliminate. were graduallv adapted to the new belief. And so, in time, the mythological, mystical-ritualistic and historical references in the Vesnyanky became, for the participants, a solely traditional element.
The personification of nature’s phenomena depicted in the Vesnyanky reflects the mythological images created earlier by pre- Christian beliefs. The faint outlines of the pagan gods materialize in personified form, as “Kostrubonko.” who dies with the coming of spring, or the appearance of Spring and her daughters in “Oy. vesna. vesna, vesnvachochka. de zh tvoya dochka-panyanochka” (“Oh. Spring. Spring, where is your daughter”), or as in references to the wind, sun and rain. Even the ritual dance circle, the main figure found in the Vesnyanky. describing the external form of the sun. symbolized the coming of spring and the awakening of life. It is the call to nature, to the messengers of spring — the birds, and to the forests and glades, to the trees and flowers, and in the work impulses, which enables us to grasp that muffled echo of the mystical ritual with which the people solicited nature’s assistance.
The girls would usually begin greeting spring with their Vesnyanky’ when the cuckoo first uttered its call or. in some regions, when the pike began breaking the ice with its tail. Holding hands and gracefully moving in circular figures, they would sing:
“Ой весна, весна, тм красна,
Що ти. весна-красна. нам принесла?
Принесла я вам л1те«ко.
Ще и эапашненьке эшлячко,
Що й зеленую травицю I холодную водиию Принесла я вам ягнятко,
Ще й маленькое телятко…”
“Oh spring, beautiful spring. What have you brought us?
I have brought you summer. And fragrant herbs.
And green grass And cold water.
I have brought you a lamb. And a small calf.
With their songs, games and dances, the girls and boys brought into the village a happy and cheerful mood as the “hulvanky” (outings) gradually gathered momentum:
Ой хвалилася да березонька
LUo на мен1 да кора бшенька. Що на мен! пистя да широкес. Що на меш гипле да високос.
Ой одозветься зелений дубочок
Не тн свою кору да бтила.
Не ти сее листя да широчила Не ти сее плля да височила
Виб-лило кору да яснее соние. Широчив листя да буйний airep, Височив плля да до1бен дошик
“Oh the birch tree boasted:
– I have on me such white bark.
And my leaves are wide.
And my branches are high.
Oh the green Oak responded:
You did not make your bark white.
You did not broaden your leaves,
You did not make your branches high.
The bright sun whitened your bark.
The raging wind broadened your loaves. The fine rain gave your branches height ”
In the ancient past, because of their dependence on agriculture, the Eastern Slavs found themselves at the mercy of the elements. A rainy and cold summer would have a disastrous effect on the crops, so the people called on the appropriate gods to bring about a bountiful and successful harvest, and yet. while bowing before the powers of the gods, they characteristically revealed a reverence towards work. It is this combination that we find in the ritual song-dance “A my prososiyaly” (“As we sowed the millet”).
А МИ просо С1ЯПИ, ояли,
Ой. дщ-ладо. стпи. с1яли
А ми просо втопчем вытопчем. Ой д|д-ладо питопчем. витолчвм
As we sowed the millet, as we sowed.
Oh. diddado. as we sowed, as we sowed.
We wdl tamp down the millet, we will tainp, Oh. diddado. we will tamp, we will tamp..
I,ada, the god of light, was endowed with human traits by the people.and. as “did-lado” (grandfather-Lado). was repeatedly “called upon” after each descriptive work-phrase. The participants formed two rows facing each other, then each row, alternately and with appropriate illustrative movements, would create a dramatic, but primitive scene, sowing, growing and finally harvesting the millet.
The people believed that a well fed and satisfied “didus-dosch” (grandfather-rain) would look down benevolently on them, thereby showering the earth alter planting and thus help to produce a fine crop.
The work process was reflected in those Vesnyanky which dealt with seasonal chores. These themes, as depicted by the text and amplified by the accompanying imitative gestures and movements.
Holding hands, the girls stand in a large circle while two girls, each with a stick, sit in the centre. These two girls are the “makivochky.” Moving in the circle, the girls sing each verse, but when they reach the last line, they demonstrate the action called upon. The centre two girls then repeat the movements shown. This is continued until the last verse:
йк мак труть. ни ыак труть? How they nib the poppy seed?
Що в допои! б’ють. UlO в долош б’ють “ Ire Iheir palm, that thoy pound it
At this moment, all the girls clap their hands and break the circle. The centre two girls do not remain seated the entire time, but get up love and family relationships. The awakening of spring and its beauty touched the sensitive strings of young hearts and brought
quiet melancholy. These songs are imbued with life’s lender desires. The people’s strength and freedom, youth’s aspirations, and nature s impulsiveness all combined to give birthto this largecycle of Vesnyanky.
The central figure in these Vesnyanky is — Ihe girl. The songs were characterized by a simplicity of poetical imagery. The girl, unlike any other figure in Ukrainian poetry, is presented with exceptional love and tenderness and reflected the creative expression of a people endowed with a highly developed sense of lyricism and beauty. In 1843. the ethnographerM. Kostomarov had the following to say about these songs — “Here you can find: the untroubled gaiety of lhal period, when a girl ceases to be a child, the secretive desires of love, the self-conscious declarations before one’s own heart, the first encounter, reproachment, tenderness playfulness, tears, hope, apprehension — an entire history of youth in the quiet world of the village.”
A very inleresting period in Ihe long spring festive season was devoted to the “appearance” of the Rusalky. This pagan ritual- festival was also connected with the cyclical calendar and fell at the end of May and beginning of lime. This was one of the major festive occasions during which the people observed the transition from
Many of the ancient elements remained as evidence in the worshipping of the forests, meadows and waters, specific trees and flowers. The branches of the linden, maple, poplar and oak were especially significant. The people believed that these symbols had the power to repel malicious forces and to protect both person and home. It is in these beliefs that we can find the roots for the later custom of the Ukrainian people to decorate (“zamayuvannya”} Ihe outside of their houses with wreaths and garlands (“klechan- nya”) of branches to ward off evil spirits. This day became known as “klechalna nedilya” or in the church’s calendar as “Zelena Nedilya”.
It also coincided with the Christian observance known as “Troytsya” and because of this the Vesnyanky, performed during this time, were also called “troyitski.” These songs and rituals were performed during “rusalniy tyzhden” (Rusalka week), beginning on “Zelena Nedilya” “green” Sunday) through to Thursday — Rusalniy velykden” (Rusalka Easter).
According to the beliefs, the Rusalky were nymph-spirits of drowned girls and, including later, children who had not been baptized. In some regions engaged girls, who had died before marrying, also became Rusalky. Many of the artistic images in the songs reflected the ancient assumption that the dead were capable of exerting power over their living relatives, bestowing prosperity in return for remembrance and respect, and inflicting untold hardship for inattention.
The Rusalky lived in the forests, fields, rivers and lakes. They were all young, beautiful, light and graceful, nearly transparent, with long, full, blond or green braids, and had blue eyes, appearing only during the most splendid season of Ihe year when everything around was beginning to grow and blossom. Influenced by the vestiges of pagan ritual concepts, the creative fantasy of the Ukrainian people evolved a singularly serene atmosphere in which all elements of the old mystic cult had vanished and wore replaced by the lyricism of spring, youth and the girls’ everlasting beauty.
Rusalky loved dancing, music and songs. During their “week,” on a bright moon-lit May night, they would play and dance along the banks of their rivers and streams, enticing girls and boys with their songs and thus luring them to their death.
In some rituals the Rusalka was depicted as a spring tree. One girl was dressed in new clothing and then led through the village, arms held above her head and her hands tied together with a red kerchief. In other regions, the game “Topolya” (poplar) was enacted. One of the girls was decorated with greenery and ribbons then led through the village while Ihe rest of the group sang “sloyala topolya kray chystoho polya …” (“a poplar stood at the edgeofaclearfield …”).
On thefollowing Monday the village youth would “send off” the Rusalky by singing Ihe appropriate songs and wearing wreaths of special fragrant grasses, which the Rusalky feared. This was the end of Ihe Vesnyanka season. The summer work period was at A separate and larger group of ritual song-dances is devoted to the festive occasion known as “Kupalo”. which was held just
before the beginning of harvest, on the eve of June 24 (old style). It was one of the most important festivals in pagan limes.
The name”Kupalo” is first encountered in chronicles of the 13th century, but actually ils roots go back further in time as witnessed by ritual symbols and songs. One such song, recorded in Ihe bonfires were looked upon as the image of the sun, the heavenly fire, which had the power to ensure a rich harvest, to free a person from evil forces, illness, death, etc.
From the many accounts of Ihis festive occasion recorded since the 16th century, we find that certain basic elements remained, althought differences were noted in various regions. A straw dummy or a similar shape made from tree branches and decorated with wreaths, flowers and ribbons, was prepared during the day. This straw dummy or branched figure was known by many names — “Kupala.” “Kostrubonko,” “Marena.” “Kozllb.” etc.
During Ihe day, the boys would be occupied collecting the material needed for the fires. In some villages, each household would leave straw or dried branches in front of their yard for the boys. In the meantime, the girls were weaving wreaths of live field flowers (a symbol of virginity) and herbs in preparation for the evening’s rituals, and expectantly singing:
Gracefully weaving their dance, the girls smoothly changed from one figure to another, expectantly circling the ‘Marena.” The boys would tease the girls and attempt to steal their wreaths, but to no avail. At the conclusion of their ritual dance. Ihe girls pensively walked to the stream and. one by one. threw Iheir wreaths into the ritualistic practices. If a boy and girl, holding hands, jumped over Ihe fire logelher without letting go. they could then lake this as an indication they would never part after marriage.
As a final act in this ritual, the straw dummy “Kupalo” was burned or. in the case of the figure “Marena,” was drowned in the 3tream. Much later, as the ritualistic meaning slowly disappeared, the evening took on a more social character with Ihe inclusion of popular village dances, accompanied by musicians. The revelry continued until daybreak. In those regions where the people had left material to be used in the making of the “Kupalo” or for the bonfires, they would gather the ashes the following day and scatter them about their fields and gardens.
One more theme dominates Ihe “Kupalo” ritual — love. It is characterized by a candid declaration of adoration, with a deep feeling of tenderness and passion for a specific person. The courtship was accompanied by the presentation of gifts — wreaths, rings, and the embroidering of shirts, etc. Many of the “Kupala” songs call upon the young boy and girld to marry. In a small number of these songs, unlike in any other cycle, we find the presence of eroticism. This, in effect, is a response to the pagan mystic purposeof the “Kupala” ritual —the inducement of fertility in surrounding life.
The riles and ceremony have been lost in time. Though, as Oleksandr Koshetz. the eminent Ukrainian choral conductor and composer, wrote in his book.” About Ukrainian Song and Music”:
.. The Christian church tried intensively to overcome these pagan manifestations, hut could do nothing with these songs and customs and. because of them. John the Baptist, whose memory was adapted to this festive occasion, himself suffered, because in the end he became Ivan Kupaylo.”
What remains today is the poetic atmosphere of a mid-summer festival, a cheerful collective mood, buoyant, captivating, comprised of dramatic and mysterious elements.
A prominent role was played by those song-dances which contained agricultural symbolism and glorified the fertile land. They reflected the practical aspects of responsible work, which directly affected the accumulation of food stores for the winter months. Through their texts and mystical acts these rituals clearly reflected the activities of the people. In the people’s seasonal calendar the ritual dealing with the harvesting of the crops assumes exceptional.
Importance and gradually evolves into Ihree distinctive periods: “zazhnyvni” (before the actual harvesting is started), “zhnyvni (harvesting), and “obzhynkovi” (completion of the harvestl.
Evidence was still found in a few regions of the Ukraine where the remnants of an age-old tradition existed — a girl would lake the “pershiv snip” (first sheaf of wheatl and, raising if high above her head, in a recitative manner recall the plenty of past crops and ask for an abundant harvest. II is Ihe “obzhynkovi” rituals which became the mosl popular and lasting.
After Ihe crop was in. one small section of wheal or rye was left and laler ceremoniously cul and bound inlo a sheaf with a ribbon. This was the “ostanniy snip” (last sheaf), which later became known as Ihe ‘‘boroda.” The kernels from this sheaf were scattered upon the field afler which a loaf of bread and a bowl of water were placed among Ihe stalks in Ihe field. In the ancient past, this ritual was an expression of the belief in Ihe soul of the fertile soil and. through this adoration and offering lo Ihe “soul.” requested that future harvests be as bountiful, and consequently became a unique representation of this fertility.
The honour of “Isarivna” was then bestowed upon one of the girls as a wreath of wheal and wild flowers was placcd on her head. Led by Ihe “Isarivna,” and carrying the “boroda.” the column of harvesters moved towards the village jubilantly and triumphantly extolling Ihe bountiful harvest wilh ritual songs. Interspersed among the ritual songs were short, humorous “Iryndychky” (song phrases), which served as an accompaniment to the spontaneous and improvizational dancing wilhin the procession. This was Ihe begin ning of Ihe traditional harvest festival “obzhynky-” In the village. Ihe celebration was transformed into a mass banquet wilh songs and dances in which all particpated.
The poetical ritual oftying ihe boroda” was retained even when the belief in the “polyovyk” (“field spirit”! no longer existed and the original pagan meaning had disappeared. The sheaf was placed in tho fronl corner of the house where it remained until Ihe next harvest, not in honour of the “god of the fields.” but in praise of Ihe harvest, and Ihe fulfillment of Ihe harvester’s dream for a prosperous life, “schob v kliati khlib ne vyvodyvsia” (“that Ihe home should never be without bread”). To this day that Iasi sheaf remains a symbol of a bountiful harvest and prosperity.
In spile of Ihe ritualistic purpose of the song-dances the interrelation of the artistic images is completely realistic and is derived directly from Ihe life of Ihe people. The longevity of those festive occasions was due to the fact that tlicir realizal ion was Ihe result of Iheartislic inventiveness specially dedicated to these rituals. Since the actual life of the people is reflected in these creations, the ritual meaning gradually lost its importance The calendar year did not end with Ihe culmination of Ihe “obzhynky.” As O. Koshelz pointed out, autumn was the period of the wedding ritual, “which in the main, was held alter Ihe completion of the field work.”
other oral artistic forms were an integral part of this ritual — the folk wedding, which long ago publicly sanctioned marriage. The presence of unique dramatic art allows us to recognize it as an exceptional folk drama filled with deliberate hyperbolic expression of human emotions and passion.
The wedding ritual’s complex nature required that preparations begin well in advance. The main personages in Ihis human drama were the young couple, their parents, the “starosta” (the matchmaker. who directed everything that took place during the wedding). Ihe “druzhky” (the bride’s girl friends), the “boyary” (Ihe groom’s friends). “svJlylky” (young girls, sisters of the bride or groom), “korovaynytsi” (cooks, who prepared Ihe special wedding bread “korovay”), and Ihe musicians. Although the major portion of the ritual normally lasted three days, it was not unusual, in other regions, lo hold longer weddings.
In addition lo Ihe family and close friends, who had been invited by the young couple, many others came from the village to watch and enjoy themselves. Young people came lo dance and have a good time: the elderly, lo walch the wedding and how the young pass the lime: and children, lo play “zhmurky” (blindman’s buff), and by copying Ihe youth in forming their own small circles, learn lo dance. All Ihis look place on the central wedding day—Sunday. While the guests sat at the tables in Ihe house, the musicians played for the dances in the yard or in Ihe street. As often happened, young
diverse “tryndychky.” “pryspivy” (short, satirical and humorous song phrases), which accompanied the “dribushky” (improvis- alional “stamping” dance routinesl, as well as Ihe popular hopaks, kozachoks. etc Thematic dances, such as: “Shevchyk” and “Kozak-holyar” were also done,
The dances, being an indivisible and organic pan of Ihe wedding. made the wedding accessible lo all. It broughl elements from everyday life into the wedding, enriching its artistic aspect, and enhancing its joyful character. The entire wedding ritual, with its artistic essence (songs, drama, inslrumenlal music and dancesl transformed the marriage ceremony into an event which witnessed the participation of not only the young couple, their family and friends, but also a major portion of Ihe village’s papulation. The wedding ritual presented the young couple wilh a moral responsibility. which was further strengthened by the entire community.
The last festive occasion to take place, as part of the seasonal calendar, occured around the greeting of the New Year. Particular development was achieved, in this instance, wilh the singing of “kolyady” (carols), during Ihe period of the winter solstice, from December 24 lo lanuary 1 (old style), and “schedrivky” (New Year songs), which were sung on New Year’s Eve.
The “kolyady” were sung by groups who visited the homes in Ihe village and, wilh the permission of the “hospodar” (master of Ihe house), glori Red him and his family, and wished them a bounti-
An additional feature lo the singing of I he “schedrivky” on New Year’s Eve was the performance of “Melanka.” or” Malanka.” and “Koza.” These scenes, whose original function was, as magical incantations, to influence the future harvest, later became expressions of goodwill.
The story-line of the “Melanka” is quite straightforward. In one variation, “baba Melanka” (old woman Melanka) or, sometimes “Melanka-molodychka” (voung-Melanka) betrays the “did” (old man). “Smert” (Deathl kills her with his scythe. The “did” then asks Ihe mistress of the house for some money in order lo buy medicine. Receiving the money, the “did” buys the medicine from Ihe “feldsher” (doctor’s helper) and administers it lo Melanka. Melanka is saved by these medicinal drops and the scene concludes with a dance.
“Koza” |”Goat”| is a variation of “Melanka” in which the main
role is Ihe Koza (a boy dressed in a turned-oul sheep-skin coal and wearing a mask of a goal). The Koza dances with Ihe “did.” playing different tricks, kicking and Wealing. Later, when the dead Koza is revived, Ihe “did” dances with a “Isyhan” (gypsyl lo a humorous song. The scene ends with the Koza dancing with Ihe “did. ”
In both the “Melanka” and the “Koza.” all the roles were performed by young men. The performers were always welcome guests, and sometimes both the master and mistress of the house joined in Ihe concluding dance. The actual dances and choreography of the “Melanka” and “Koza” were never notated by pasl ethnographers and, becauseofthis. we do not have any idea of their structure or form, whether they had a specific choreographic structure. or were mainly improvisalional. Only Ihe songs, used in these scenes, are able to give us some idea of the dances’ general characteristics and tempos. However, dramatic action and panlomine played the major role, followed by vocal and instrumental
As a result of Ihe changes and development of society, and as Ihe phenoma of nature were recognized, the people began lo slowly lose their belief in magical powers. Willi this, the ritual song- dances, which depicted the religious beliefs of primitive man. nearly all disappeared. Only those of high artistic quality, representing nature and Ihe patriotic feelings of the people, remained.
As noled earlier, the ancient Eastern Slavs performed their “obryadovi” song-dances lo the accompaniment of the participants’ songs, The choreographic structure is governed by the content of the text. If the texl is in the form of a dialogue, the participants divide into two groups or one person, as soloist-dancer, remains in tho centre of a circle. If the texl is developed in narrative fashion Ihe performers- remain in one group.
The text also influences the choreographic method of representation. Pantomime and illustrative moments assume the main role in those song-dances that reflect the work process. The actions and gestures help to develop the content. Understandably, the mastery of performance depends nol only on the participants’ talent, but also on Ihe knowledge of the specific work described and Ihe character of the people carrying out Ihis work. This function is usually the responsibility of the soloists and rarely of the
A very interesting feature can be obsorved in those song-dances dealing with the everyday life of Ihe people. Their form can be characterized as being pantomime-illustrative or ornamental. The pantomime-illusfral ive form does not differ from that depicting Ihe work process except thal the aclious now delineate the typical trails of Ihe people. In addition, now all the participants lake an active part. Through movement, gestures and pantomime they underline specific momenls of Ihe text thal are important in disclosing the content. In the song-dance “Zayinko” all the participants exiend their arms forward toward the “zayinko.” who stands in the centre of the circle, then lifl them upwards forming lhe”horody” (walls). Anotherexampleofthis form is’Pletu. pletu, lisochku” (“As I weave a fence”) One row of girls, holding hands raised up. stands in one place as a second row of girls weaves through thefirsl line, in front and then behind each successive girl, clearly demonstrating the weaving of a fence. Al other limes. Ihe girls stand in a circle without holding hands and only join them when Ihe text demands il. as in “Lyon” (“Flax”). One girl shows the movements, Ihe rest Ihen duplicate her actions: arms raised up. clapping, bowing, kneeling, stamping, elc.
In Ihe ornamental type. Ihe participants actively develop Ihe choreographic figures required by the text. In the song-dance “Zironka” (“Little Star”) we witness the creation of many variations of the basic “star” figure. Four girls join left hands in the centre and proceed to move in a counter clock-wise direction. They also form a large “slar” wilh Ihe addition of four more girls. These girls hold onto the initial girls’ right hands wilh Iheir left. The “stars” can be reversed, in which case the movement is now in a clock-wide direction. In the Vesnyanka ” Vorotar” (“Gate-keeper”! two girls, holding a kerchief above Iheir heads, form a “gate” through which the rest of the girls pass.
The choreography of the ritual song-dance was not an independent artistic-descriptive element but. with both text and music, aided in the creation of Ihe overall image. The external forms — developed through the variety of figures: one line, circle, rows, semi-circle, two circles, etc, — established the basic choreographic-compositional structure of Ukrainian folk dancing. These elements originated in the ritual song-dances of the ancient Eastern Slavs.