2004 dance camp recital at Soyuzivka showcases Roma Pryma-Bohachevsky's legacy

by Karen Chelak

KERHONKSON, N.Y. - The indo-mitable cultural legacy left to the community by Roma Pryma-Bohachevsky was in full glorious display on Saturday evening, August 21, as the 26th annual Ukrainian Dance Camp recital was performed by students, counselors and teachers at the Ukrainian National Association's resort, Soyuzivka, nestled in the beautiful Shawangunk Mountains.

The Veselka Hall buzzed with excitement as parents, family, friends and guests, laden with video cameras, took their seats. At 8 p.m., the lights dimmed and the storyteller for the evening, Bohdana Puzyk, the children's camp coordinator at Soyuzivka, began to relate the romantic story of "The Frog Princess." This "kazka," or tale, was one of Pani Roma's favorites to produce because it is a perfect foil to showcase the various regional dances of Ukraine.

The show opened with a romantic couple's dance that included three princes, sons of a regal queen from a faraway kingdom. The Queen, performed by Kristine Izak, an associate artistic director of workshop and the dance camps, gathers her sons and tells them it is time for them to take a bride. Each prince shoots an arrow and follows its path, vowing to marry the woman who finds it.

The first prince's arrow falls in Zakarpattia. The wedding dance from this region is crisp and joyful as it culminates in the bride draped in a "rushnyk," or ritual cloth, head covered with an elaborate "vinok," waving a beribboned maypole, while held up high by her beloved. Sonia Gargula, who traveled from Adelaide, Australia, to participate in the workshop as well as the dance camps, performed the bride's role with a seamless blend of character and technical ability. Her prince, Zenon Borys of Rochester, N.Y., was equally outstanding.

The next handsome prince, Yarko Dobriansky of New York City, finds his arrow has fallen in Bukovyna. His bride, Larissa Pagan of Queens, N.Y., and six other couples, performed this fast-paced, aerobically challenging dance with sharp footwork and bold character. The distinctive, fascinating female costumes of this region are characterized by striped skirts and headpieces adorned with grass. The visual effect was stunning.

But, alas, the third prince, Andrij Cybyk, an associate artistic director of workshop and the dance camps, finds his arrow has fallen in a mysterious swamp. He encounters delicate water lilies, playful nymphs, mischievous fireflies and then the strangely beautiful Frog Princess. Performed en pointe by ballerina Sophie Panych of Albany, N.Y., the Frog Princess tells the prince how the evil Baba Yaga has put a spell on her. The only way for it to be broken is for her to be truly loved for what she is. The duet was performed with lyrical grace and character. The Frog Princess tells her prince she will meet him in the kingdom for their wedding.

But who is naive enough to think that the evil Baba Yaga would let the beautiful princess go to her beloved without a fight? As the princess arrives at the kingdom, she is kidnapped by the old witch and taken to her lair. Baba Yaga, performed by Orlando Pagan of Queens, N.Y., an assistant artistic director of workshop and dance camps, was a mixture of dread, doom and a hint of the absurd. With eyes blazing, he forces the poor princess to stir his cauldron filled with spiders and nasty potions. With make-up that truly sent shivers down the audience's spines, this was an outstanding performance by a truly versatile dancer.

As the prince embarks on his journey to save the princess, he passes through the Hutsul region in search of her. This dance is always a rousing crowd pleaser with its criss-crossing lines, high-kicking steps and the warm rich costumes finished off by the bright "keptar" or vest. The prince also encounters charming "berry pickers" in the fields and young children celebrating spring.

When it seems that all hope of finding the princess is lost, the prince meets a wise old man who presents him with a magical crystal ball that will lead the him to his bride's location.

Since all great fairytales have happy endings, the prince finds the lair and saves the princess after he fights with the evil Baba Yaga. The power of good magic in the crystal ball overcomes the witch. Upon a triumphant return home to the kingdom, everyone celebrates with the inspirational national dance of Ukraine, the Hopak. The entire camp performed this show-stopper in a swirling flash of color, gravity-defying leaps and dizzying spins.

The choreography for the ballet was created by Ms. Pryma-Bohachevsky and adapted by Mr. Pagan. The dance from Zakarpattia was choreographed by Boris Bohachevsky, associate artistic director. The other regional folk dances were created by Pani Roma. Ms. Izak choreographed the Hopak this year, while also creating the costumes, scenery and props for the show. This talented woman also was the "old man" in the ballet, plus she found the time to choreograph the berry picker dance, as well as the delicate dance of the water lilies.

During intermission the audience was treated to a wonderful performance by the beautiful and talented Olya Chodoba-Fryz, who sang a medley of Ukrainian songs, accompanied on the piano by Andrij Stasiw.

The true stars of the show, of course, were the campers. Children ranging in ages from 8 to 16 - from veteran campers of eight years to some who were first timers - accomplished something that made them proud, made their parents proud and made the community proud.

Although this was a bittersweet summer due to the passing of Pani Roma this spring, the newly formed Roma Pryma-Bohachevsky Ukrainian Dance Foundation has taken the torch from Pani Roma and proved that it is truly committed to continuing her legacy. The foundation's aim is to continue to teach this wonderful part of Ukrainian culture to future generations and to expand the number of schools in the community.

The Roma Pryma-Bohachevsky Ukrainian Dance Foundation is under the executive direction of Anya Bohachevsky-Lonkevych. Its artistic advisors are Mr. Bohachevsky, Mr. Cybyk, Ms. Izak and Mr. Pagan. It has also been announced that Mr. Cybyk has been named artistic director of the Syzokryli Dance Ensemble and Mr. Pagan its ballet master.

The evening ended with an exciting "zabava" (dance) to the tunes of Fata Morgana at which the dancers still had enough energy to perform a rousing kolomyika.

Copyright © The Ukrainian Weekly, September 5, 2004, No. 36, Vol. LXXII

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