Traditional and Popular Ukrainian Dances

many people dancing on scene in traditional ukrainian costumes

Ukrainians are well-known for their love to partying with merry songs and energizing dances. The party traditions of Ukraine have their roots in the old times – in mass holiday celebrations in the Ukrainian villages and even in the Cossacks` fun time in Zaporozhian Sich. Let`s check out the historical background and the typical features of the most popular traditional Ukrainian dances.

Kazachok Dance

Kazachok is a Ukrainian folk dance, named after the brave Cossacks. This fast dance has much in common with Hopak, but it is simpler and includes less complicated acrobatic feats. Besides, Kazachok is considered as more smooth and lyric dance than Hopak due to the fact that it is often danced by girls. Kazachok can be performed by pairs, groups or solo dancers. There are many versions of this dance – Ukrainian, Belorussian, Russian, Kuban. However, Ukrainian version is the most popular one in the world of folk dances. The first musical arrangement of Kazachok was supposedly made by Polish lute player and composer S. Dusiatsky in the XVII century.

Hopak Dance

Usually Hopak performances have inspiring and heroic character, reminding viewers about victories of the great Ukrainian Cossacks. Anyone can make sure about that while watching videos with Ukrainian Hopak dance, for example, this one:

Hopak is the most well-known and probably the most amazing traditional Ukrainian dance. It first appeared in Zaporozhian Sich in the XVI-XIII centuries – not as a dance, but more as a specific kind of martial art. While dancing Hopak, the Cossacks practiced the basic fight elements – speed, powerful kicks and cuffs, special stands and tactics. Of course, the art of Hopak was for men only. Nowadays, Hopak is danced by both men and women, but anyway men play the main role in any Hopak performance. Hopak includes many difficult elements as high jumps, quick squats, rapid turns and so on. This dance can be performed solo, in pairs or groups.

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Kolomyika Dance

Kolomiyka is a name of traditional folk Carpathian dance and songs genre. No one knows when exactly the first Kolomyika was danced, but judging from the name it definitely happened in Kolomyia town in Ivano-Frankivsk oblast` of Ukraine. This dance quickly gained popularity in Kolomyia and surrounding towns in the middle of the XIX century. Kolomyika songs lyrics are usually humorous or tell about some historical events. The dance is performed in pairs or by even number of dancers standing in a circle.

Metelytsia Dance

Metelytsia (“Snowstrom”) is a fast folk Ukrainian dance performed by groups of people. While dancing Metelytsia, all participants stand in circle facing each other. The leading pair of dancers is chosen in advance. The people dance in pairs holding each other`s hands and spinning around, which makes the dance look like a snowstorm. The dance is accompanied with humorous songs and vivid folk music. Metelytsia dance, which is usually performed by girls, is popular not only in Ukraine, but also in Belarus and Russia.

Pleskach Dance

Pleskach is a pair dance that can be performed by unlimited number of couples at the same time. Rhythmic hands slapping (“pleskannya”) is an important element of the dance that explains its name. While performing Plesckach, couples hold hands like in Polka and go round in circles counter-clockwise. Then they stop and put their hands down. After this, the couples stand in circles and do specific triple stamp with the left foot. Finally they do three hand slaps, and then after some other moves repeat everything once again. Pleskach is a very energizing and merry dance.

Khorovod (Round Dance)

Khorovod (literally translated as “Round dance”) is an ancient ritual dance of the Eastern Slavs that also includes games, singing songs and playing musical instruments. In the old times, the performance of Khorovod was related to traditional rituals of welcoming spring, celebrating Ivan Kupala (summer solstice), starting New Year and so on. Khorovod is danced by many people standing in a large circle that symbolizes the Sun. After establishment of Christianity, traditional Khorovods underwent changes and became bound to the ecclesiastical calendar. Nowadays, Khorovod dance has almost lost its ritual meaning. This dance is extremely popular among professional and amateur dancing groups.
And what about traditional Ukrainian dance costumes? As we can see from the videos above, men usually wear white shirts (vyshyvankas) with red or blue bloomers, while women tend to wear embroidered dresses and chaplets with flowers and colorful ribbons. As for shoes, Ukrainian dancers (both men and women) usually choose red high boots.
Watching Ukrainian dancers performing Hopak or Kazachok, you will surely get inspiration to try some of these energizing moves. Let`s dance!

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