Social Ukrainian dances
Social Ukrainian dances
The first intrusion on the traditional “obryadovi” dances was felt by the appearance of the “pobutovi” (social) dances, although originated much later, they evolved alongside the rituals part of the cultural life of the people. It was in the social dances, more than in any other, that those elements that eventually characterized the national singularity of Ukrainian folk choreography were formed.
With the evolution of the ritual dances the emergence of numerous basic steps, such as “prostiy krok” (ordinary stepl. “potriyniy prylup” (triple stamp), “tynok,” etc., with the addition of the energetic “prysyadka” (squat step), became the foundation of the social dances. The more active steps began to reflect a growing intensity in the development of folk dancing. The existing ritualistic limitations were not present in the social dances and, although parallel themes were evident, their treatment differed both in manner of performance and structure.
The content of the ritual dance was developed through Ihe text of Ihe accompanying song and corresponding movements and gestures. The theme of Ihe social dance was usually depicted Ihrough the basic choreographic structure, and was mainly performed to instrumental accompaniment. Songs that were used with these dances played a completely different role, generally advancing the emotional development of Ihe dance. In lime, many of the social dances were performed only to the accompaniment of musical instruments, such as; “skrypka” (violin), “tsymbaly” (Isymbalon). “sopilka” (llule), “bubon” (drum), bass, etc;. The social dances became quite flexible in form, being performed indoors during evening social gatherings (“vechomytsi”) or outdoors as part of summer outings (“hulyanky”).
The Ukrainian nation was formed under extremely complex socio-economic and political conditions. To defend and retain their cultural and historic identity Ihe Ukrainian people carried on a continuous and deep-rooted struggle against Lithuanian, Polish. Russian. Ukrainian and Hungarian feudal lords, and Turkish- Tartar insurgents. In Ihe process of Ihis struggle, which united the people, the Ukrainian nation crystallized with ils characteristic language, culture and customs. This epoch of Ukrainian history is important because, as Ihe great Ukrainian composer and ethnographer, Filaret Kolessa. wrote, “this period was Ihe era of 25 development of Ukrainian folk art which created the elements of style and form for the rest of lime.”
The increasing feudal exploitation, during the second half of the 15th century, forced many serfs and peasants to leave Iheir villages. With each succeeding decade more and more fled unlil Ihis flight look on the character of a mass migration. These people became known as cossacks — free people. The settling of the central areas along the Dnieper river by Ihe cossacks was accomplished with the building of two fortresses, one in the Kaniv region and Ihe other in Cherkassy. But The armies of the foreign feudal gentry soon colonized Ihese areas and the cossacks were forced to move even farther south. Finally, in the beginning of the filth century. The cossacks established a series of settlements in the steppe regions bordering the treacherous rapids of the Dnieper river. Here, on one of the moslin accessible of all the islands among Ihe rapids, Tomakivka. the cossacks buill their first central fortress, which became (he home for their “Zaporizska Sich” “za” — beyond, “porohy” — rapids, ”sich’’ — fortress). As a result, this cossack organization quickly united all the smaller individual “siches” into one powerful unit. The Zaporizska Sich, supported by the entire nation, soon became the political centre of Ihe Ukraine. Thus, in becoming the army of the Ukrainian people, Ihe Visko (army) Zaporizsko reflected their aspiratiuns. influencing life both in the country and beyond its The majority of the cossacks were peasants and serfs who had brought with them the songs, dances, customs and traditions prevalent in their villages. The dances of ancient and nearly forgotten pagan rituals, whose steps portrayed the character of a people honouring nature and its seasons, were done mainly by girls while the man’s role had been somewhat subordinate. II was a style that could hardly reflect the life of the cossacks.
The cossacks’ internal laws forbade any amusement or diversions during battle preparations, but an entirely different picture unfolded with their return lo the Sich after victory. Now the men roamed the streets shouting, singing, shooting their pistols in the air. telling everyone of their brave and heroic exploits and. of course, they danced.
The wild and tempestuous cossack character inserted a new and hitherto unknown element into the Ukrainian dance — improvisation. The ritual dance had developed along traditional paths governed by specific seasonal events and necessities. The social dance, while looser in format, had also followed similar patterns. Now, each cossack-dancer. dressed in his “sharovary. shyroki yak Chome more” (pants, as wide as the Black Sea), was expressing his porsonal feelings and emotions, unleashing his creative energy, unhindered by any preset conventions. Utilizing any accoutrement fearlessly slashing out at his invisible opponents or. by adapting his stance in the prysyadka. demonstrate his prowess as an exceptional horseman. In friendly and exuberant competition with his fellow cossacks he would try to outdance them, dreaming up new combinations, twisting, turning and leaping.
“flay, play! As I kick mv 14» bohlnd m Till) world will be amazed, whala cossa.
His dance could be humorous or buoyant, intensive and deliberate. frivolous and lighthearted. Changing the tempo at will, he would move from one slep to another without Ihe slightest hesitation. Within Ihis atmosphere the cossacks firmly established a style and form of dancing that has remained lo our day —The Hopak.
As news of the cossacks victorious battles reached the people, many villages reacted with spontaneous uprisings against the feudal landowners. It was a struggle that was to last for many, many years. Bui this was nol the only influence lo be evident in the villages. The rossack victories and feats were heralded by the kobzari men who played the musical instrument “kobza” or “bandura”), travelling from villagelo village, immortalizing events and people in their historical songs and “dumy” (a recitative- poetic-musical form). The people also created songs about the cossacks and their leaders, creating an enormous treasure of stories and legends which were passed on from generation to generation bringing into existencea vivid and living oral history of the Ukrainian nation. In expressing their support the people adopted many of the cossack ways. This was especially evident in the development of the social dances.
The Hopak (“hopaty” — lo jump) was one of the most popular dances of the cossacks and. as already noted, originated within their midsl. Il reflected their heroism, manliness, speed and strength. As и result, the dance became extremely popular with the people, but inentering Ihe general life of the village il went through a number of changes. In the Sich, the Hopak was only danced by men and had an improvisational character, but in the villages and towns both boys and girls participated — as one couple or as a large group, wilh individual dancers or even groups competing with each other. Understandably, the different performing mannerisms of girls and boys decidedly influenced Ihe character and compositional structure of the dance. The leading role was retained by Ihe boys with their traditional cossack slyle of performance. By introducing different nuances, movements, steps and structural elements derived from the older ritual and social dances, the girls gradually established their place in the Hopak, complementing the boys’ active and energetic actions.
Musically, the Hopak is characterized by a varied number of melodies and tempi, each reflecting Ihe immediate dance moment, always governed by the dancers’ improvisational episode, with high leaps calling forth a broad melodic line while turns and prysyadky forced the rhythm Into a breath-taking speed. Only after everyone had a chance to demonstrate his or her ability does Ihe dance finally conclude with a fast and furious Rnale by all the participants.
In time the men began to utilize and perform the many steps thal were first only done by the women: dribushky, vykhylyasy, dorizhky, different turns and variations of many other steps. And so we see that in the performance of Ihe Hopak by villagers and townspeople two tendencies developed which laid the basis for the traditional Hopak: (1) heroism, manliness and strength, and (2) gracefulness, gaiety and jubilation.
The main musical accompaniment for the Hopak was instrumental, but the age-old ritual song-dance traditions persisted and many of the Hopak’s individual episodes were done to song. This was true for the beginning of Ihe dance where not only the melody bul also the words aided in arousing the emotional spiril of the dancers. Later, many of these songs were reduced to si ngle phrases and shouts of encouragement or tryndychky”—short humorous and satirical verses.
An equally popular social dance wicossack). This dance is also closely linked with the life of the cossacks through temperament and emotion although, by its composition, we can see that it originated in the social dances of earlier times. This is evident in the role played by the girls in initiating the change of figures and steps, and also in The structured order of the various figures — reminiscent of the ancient ritual dances. The major change in this couples dance came about through the transition from a basically moderate and orderly form into an extremely quick and ornamental kaleidoscope of figure changes and step variations. This very fast tempo demanded from the dancers a high degree of technical ability. Dorizhky, tynky, prvsyadky. holubtsi. vykhylyasnyky. dribushky and other steps are performed at breakneck speed. The dancers, as if taken up by a whirlwind, change from one figure to another, weaving a living tapestry of choreographic forms. The repetitive sequence of figures and rapid transitions, based oil Ihe oldest of tradilional ornamental figures such as ’’zirochky” (stars), “lantsyuzhky” (chains), etc.. are what differentiate the Kozachok from the improvisational Hopak. As a couples dance the feeling of love between boy and girl is also reflected through an underlying lyrical line.
While Ihe Hopak’s tempi varied accordingly with The character of both steps and individuals, the Kozachok started off fast and gradually speeded up to the end of the dance, rarely slowing down.
As with the Hopak, the songs which sometimes accompanied the Kozachok were used to set the over-all tone of the dance. The themes of these songs encompassed virtually every event in the life of Ihe people; courtship, love, weddings, family life, etc. The dancers did not sing these veises themselves, as was the case in the ritual song-dances. The vocal portion was supplied by interested onlookers. Unlike the Hopak songs, these were quite long, sometimes consisting of ten or more verses. Even so. the main musical accompaniment was the responsibility of the village musicians.
CJiasing a drake wilh a whip: (2)
A very interesting feature of the people’s cultural life at the end of the 16th and beginning of the 17 th centuries was the appearance of the Ukrainian folk puppet theatre Vertep.” This theatre carried on the oral traditions, presenting them in a dramatic setting. One of 31 the featured “actors” in these puppet dramas was the “Zaporizskiy kozak” who played a bandura. sang and danced. His dance was called the Kozachok.
The Metelytsya (snowstorm) is the third of the pobutovi dances which has remained popular to our day. It originated in the ritual song-dances whose theme depicted the manners and customs of the people. The Metelytsya, as a song-dance. was different from the otherritual dances in thal it had a more flexible form, allowing it to represent other themes. It is characterized by the basic structural and compositional elements — Ihe circle (“kolo”) and Ihe large number of participants.
The theme of the dance is transmitted by the dynamic movements. quick figure changes, an exceptionally fast tempo and a variety of turns which imitate the swirling of a snowstorm. The dance was usually performed in early spring when the people gave way to their emotions in welcoming the re-binh of nature after a long and dreary winter. In its ritual form, the Metelytsya was accompanied by song:
ОИ HA ДВОР I МЕТЕЛИЦЯ:
ЧОМУ СТАРИИ HE ЖЕНИТЬСЯ
He hasn’l Iho time to many, because there’s no one lo worry. (2)
To my great regret. he’s bolh nasty and angry.
Pity the miserable one, for loving an orphan…” (2)
Because of its structural characteristics, the Metelytsya was one of the few social dances to be adopted lo The improvisional cossack style of dancing. Although, in its social dance form. The Metelytsya had already entered a different path of development form its rilual counterpart. The unrestricted cossack movements further enhanced its social character. In time, the Metelytsya was danced solely to instrumental music, and because of this the melodies changed tonally and rhythmically, resulting in an extension of the basic thematic line yet retaining its characteristic spontaneity.
As the ritualistic concepts of The rarious festive occasions gradually faded into the background the social dances began to play a more prominent role. Although they did not completely displace the remains of the mystical past, the social dances did have The effect of extending Ihe overall character of the occasion by generating a spirit of communal gaiety and rejoicing. This became visible in the Kupalo. and harvesl and wedding events, which generally concluded with the many existing social dances.
Unhindered by seasonal prerequisites or ritual timing, the social dances were decidely more flexible than The ritual song-dances. They were performed during any part of the year. Even individual dances were adopted to changing conditions. The improvisational Hopak was especially suited for this, while the traditionally structured Kozachok could also be done by a single couple. The Metelytsya remained as the one dance in which the largest number of dancers could participate.
Some social dances, such as the “Chabarashky” and ”Shumky”. did not remain popular long enough to be recorded. Except for their music, virtually nothing else is known about them.