Ukraine dance Hopak is not the only Ukrainian Dance.
Archaeological finds show that Ukrainian dance, like many aspects of modern Ukrainian culture, takes its roots from the Pre-Christian pagan rituals of the Slavic tribes which inhabited the lands of Kievan Rus’. The main occupation of our ancestors was agriculture, it was vitally important for them to get along well with nature and the numerous Pagan gods and goddesses.
That’s why since as early as the 3rd millennium BC, music and ritual dances have been used by the Slavic tribes as a very important form of communication.
For centuries Slavic peoples used these “Christianized” ritual dances in order to ask their gods to be kind to them.
Even today, in some villages you can watch the Spring Dances or Vesnianky. Ivana Kupala Day, the day of summer solstice, is one of the most spiritual Eastern Slavic holidays. Its ritual songs and dances inspire modern Ukrainian choreographers and remain a favorite theme for their creative work.
A visit to Ukraine during either of these dates must include a viewing of these events. Another type of Ukrainian dance is the story dance. During this dance, the performers entertain their audience by telling stories through movement.
The stories are about many different subjects including particular professions, social groups, funny situations and more. Here are a few examples of common story dances; “Shevchiky” (“The Shoemakers”), “Kovaly”(“The Blacksmiths”) and “Kosary” (“The Reapers”).
Perhaps the most numerous of the Ukrainian folklore dances is a social dances group. The main feature of the social dances is improvisation. Watching social dances you will never watch the same dance twice.
Many of Ukraine’s regions have their own style of dance, form of dress and music. Central Ukrainian or Cossack Dance, Hutsul, Transcarpathian, Boiko, Bukovynian and Volinian Dances each performance is noticeably different than the others.
The Cossack dance “Hopak” (gopak) is the most well-known among them. Its name originates from the Ukrainian verb “hopaty” (to jump), which is a key part of the dance. Hopak is mainly a men’s dance. It is quick, physically demanding and requires good acrobatic skills and energy. It is nearly impossible to sit still while watching this Ukrainian dance. Let’s watch this video clip courtesy of YouTube.
Today, hopak has become a foundation for the new style of the Cossack martial art- Boyoviy Hopak. This idea was created by Vladimir Pylat in 1985. Pylat believes that hopak used to be a kind of physical training for Cossack’s.
Not all Ukrainian scientists support his claim. But most agree that a hopak-based Ukrainian martial art is a good way to bring up a generation of patriotic, brave and strong young Ukrainians. It looks like they are right as the Ukrainian youth are ready to absorb the spirit and knowledge of their glorious ancestors. Let’s watch some of their training.