Dance Happens Here Haliburton (DH3) is reintroducing the public to traditional Ukrainian dance, culture, and food Feb. 25, bringing the popular Kolomeijka celebration back to the Highlands after a six-year hiatus.
Taking place at the Haliburton Legion, the event will double as a fundraiser this year with all proceeds to support the arts in wartorn Ukraine. Organizer, Jim Blake, said it would be an evening of fun and reflection for those in attendance.
“We had over 100 people out for our first event in 2017, and it was incredible – the dance floor was full, everyone had smiles on their faces, and there was a real appreciation for Ukrainian culture,” Blake said. “We did a poll of the people that came out last time, and about a third of them had Ukrainian ancestry, so there’s a strong presence in the Highlands.”
The Russian invasion of the eastern European nation has hit many in the community hard, which was a big reason for bringing the celebration back, according to Blake.
“It’s pretty shocking what’s been happening over there – people in the Ukraine are dealing with some very serious issues right now, and they require assistance from people in so many different ways,” he said. “We’re viewing this event as an opportunity to get together again and have a big celebration post-pandemic, while also raising some money to send to folks who really need it.”
Jenn and Paul Doroniuk of the Winnipegbased Verba Ukrainian Dance Company are returning for the event. Explaining the origins of Kolomeijka, Blake said it started out as a traditional music genre in the Ukraine but was adopted as a social event by Ukrainian immigrants in western Canada in the 1950s and 1960s.
“It is a dance… it begins with participants forming a circle and then moving, usually counter clockwise, then clockwise, or by forming a spiral. As the dance progresses, individual or small groups of dancers go into the middle of the circle and perform their favourite dance ‘tricks’ involving lifts, spins and high kicks,” he said. “It’s considered to be the highlight of Ukrainian weddings and dances.”
Vincent Rees is helping on the fundraising side through his non-profit Cobblestone Freeway Foundation (CFF). Initially launched in 2020 to assist people who were out of work due to COVID-19, CFF pivoted last year to assist people affected by the Russian invasion.
Blake hasn’t set a fundraising target but noted 100 per cent of the proceeds from ticket sales would be diverted overseas, with CFF having identified a Ukrainian dance troupe requiring support.
“Because of the war, many of these arts and dance organizations haven’t been able to do much. Their government funding has diminished quite a bit, but they still want to continue performing. Even though they’re going to war, people still need to celebrate,” Blake said.
Doors open at the Legion at 6:30 p.m. Tickets are $25 for adults, $15 for students, with youth under 18 free. For more information, visit dancehappenshere.com.