“Volya” is the Ukrainian word for freedom. It’s also the name of Edmonton’s globally renowned Ukrainian dance troupe, which is preparing to celebrate its 25th anniversary.
But, considering the ongoing tensions between Russia and the Ukraine, the name of the troupe is especially poignant. While no dancer in the group was born in the Ukraine, most have Ukrainian lineage.
And, the group is also nervous because the composer and some of the musicians need to travel from their home base in Kyiv to be at the 25th anniversary show at the Jubilee Auditorium. While the western part of the Ukraine is still open to the world, they are concerned that things could change if tensions with Russia become more heated.
The show will go on — and audiences can expect to see one-third of the night spent on new choreography, while the rest of the program will see the dancers recreate some audience favourites from over the years.
“Our culture is unique,” says Zhenia Bahri, who has been Volya’s artistic director since 2000. “Canada is a cultural mosaic, and if you don’t come to the show, then you miss a piece of the mosaic. And while the style is Ukrainian, the show was created in Canada. It belongs to Canada.”
Volya has toured the world; since 2002 the group has been to the United States, Brazil and throughout Europe. It’s a rigorous schedule for a troupe that fiercely holds on to its amateur status. Dancers rehearse two to three times a week, fitting it around their life schedules.
“When we travel internationally, and when we perform, people say that they can’t believe that we are amateur, that we must be professionals,” says Bahri. “No one believes that we are amateurs, even people in the Ukraine don’t believe we are amateurs.”