The Flying Ukrainians of Texas

[Dallas, TX] “Zorya” Ukrainian Folk Dance Ensemble of Ukrainian American Society Of Texas (UAST), brings colors, spirit and fire of carefully preserved art of traditional Ukrainian dance culture to Texas. Many Dallasianas and guests of the city who attended WordFest in Addison, Texas State Fair in Dallas, was able see original “Hopak”, “Sword’s Dance”, performed by the local ethnic dance group.

Zorya Ukrainian Dance Ensemble of Dallas is a unique folk dance group that has been entertaining audiences throughout Texas for over 36 years. The name “Zorya”, meaning “Rising Star”, was chosen not only to reflect the group’s Ukrainian roots, but also its ties to the Lone Star State – a nick name of Texas. From its home grown “Texan” dance to its traditional performance of the quintessential Ukrainian dance “Hopak,” Zorya offers a spirited and exciting combination of Ukrainian folk dance.

Below is a The Dallas Telegraph Newspaper interview conducted with the Director of Zorya dance ensemble.

– Would you please introduce yourself.

– My name is Andrew Chobany. I am a director of Zorya Ukrainian Dance Ensemble of Dallas, TX. We just finished a performance here at WorldFest in Addison. We did nice a 40 minute show. We started our performance with the dance we choreographed which we call “The Texan”. This dance ties our roots here, in Texas, with our Ukrainian dance-steps. The music is Texan music performed on Ukrainian instruments. We closed our show with Hopak a Ukrainian signature dance.

– What is the history of Zorya?

– We have been doing the Ukrainian dance show since 1976. We started at the Bicentennial of U.S. I joined the group in 1984, and I have been dancing ever since. By the way, I never danced before joining the group. My wife joked that I had two left feet. But she was the one who had me start dancing. I used to play soccer as a hobby. Now I love dancing. I can’t stop doing it even though I am 61 today. I will keep doing it until I can’t dance anymore.

– What does it means for you to be on a stage and dance with other Ukrainian dancers?

– I dance to remember my grandparents and my Ukrainian roots. My grandparents came from the Western Ukrainian city of Uzhgorod in 1905. Since I don’t speak much of the Ukrainian language, we keep culture in a family by following lots of traditions from the Church and traditional Ukrainian holidays. For me the dance is another way to reconnect with Ukrainian culture and our family in Ukraine.

I went to Ukraine in 1989, and I visited my relatives. I taught some of the Ukrainian dances while I was there. So it is like a kind of circle: we learn here and we go back and teach over there. It has been really gratifying to be on a stage among people who love Ukrainian dance. This is something that we can give people. It makes them feel good and understand Ukrainian people and culture.

– What is the history of the ensemble?

– An interesting fact about our group is that we have started from Ukrainian gentlemen who learned dancing from the famous Ukrainian dancer Avramenko who came to New York from the old country. In 1920-30 Avramenko was traveling around United States, teaching Ukrainian communities traditional Ukrainian dance. Alex Besney was our first director and instructor who started our dance group at St. Seraphim’s Orthodox Church. Besney learned Ukrainian dance from Avramenko, the father of Ukrainian dance in America. Today some people who see our dance can say this is kind of an old school dance. Yes, it is old style dancing. And this is the most valuable thing about our dance. It is not modernized and not melted with other cultural influences.

– How many people dance in a group?

– We have 30 dancers, including children with their parents. Just to get to WorldFest I had to buy 100 tickets. We have our announcer and our support staff. Our friends help us carry stage decoration (props). We put decorations on the stage to present a story of Ukraine and Zaporozhye Cossacks.

– Who makes such beautiful costumes for your dance group?    

– A lot of it is made by our people. “Head pieces” that we use for some of the dances are made by our dancers. We have a girl from the University of Kiev who came over here, and she showed us how to make head pieces (вiночок). We have a lady who makes our vests. She sews all our vests for us. We made our own traditional Ukrainian red pants called “sharovary”. By the way, they are made from tablecloths. This material is very strong and keeps the color nice. We made our own garments. And normally we buy Ukrainian shorts made in Ukraine. Sometimes the shorts are handmade for us.

– When and where we can see your next performance?

– We are a part of “From Ukraine with Love” show at Courtyard Theater, (1509 H. Avenue, Plano, TX) on December 7th, Friday, 7:00 pm.  Also you can visit our website  to see our schedule.

– Thank you. We wish  The Flying Ukrainians of Texas to fly high!

Dallas Telegraph Newspaper, By Serge Taran

Photo by Serge Taran

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