Volume 91, Issue 16

Wednesday, September 24, 1997

Beep beep


These army boys can dance!

By J.P. Mudryj
Gazette Writer

Thursday night saw the Ukrainian National Army Song and Dance Company continue the North American leg of its world tour with a performance at Centennial Hall and those in attendance were treated to a surprisingly loose and friendly performance.

The only visible remnant of the Ukraine's recent communist past under Soviet rule were the military uniforms worn by the choir. Gone is the cold and serious attitude of the now defunct Red Army Chorus and Band, an organization to which many of the night's performers could claim former membership. The Ukrainian Company has replaced this rigidity with a light-hearted approach to its traditional folk music and dances. However, it was obvious that its Soviet past is looked upon with resentment, as demonstrated when a performer dressed as a Cossack (a Ukrainian freedom fighter) would not co-operate with a high-ranking military official by refusing to sing. That does not mean that its treatment of the music was any less dignified. The musicians were truly virtuosos and the choir's power was often chilling.

Fortunately, the program gave an extremely brief summary of each song for those who did not speak Ukrainian, the majority of which described the Ukrainian landscape or told stories about their national heroes. Many of these songs recalled fond memories for many of the people present, as they would sing or clap along. One song describing the difficult and tragic life of a young peasant girl brought tears to the eyes of more than a few concert-goers.

The acrobatic dancers and their colourful costumes were just as charming as the music. Their impressive grace and precision was highlighted by humourous routines such as a "dance-off" between the tall and short company members (ending in a tie) and three comical suitors chasing after a rather burly dancer dressed in drag.

The concert ended with a twist as the group performed their rendition of the popular American show tune "Hello Dolly." It was a fitting ending to the evening, as it highlighted the growing friendship between North America and the now independent Ukraine.

To Contact The Entertainment Department: gazent@julian.uwo.ca

Copyright The Gazette 1997