WHIPPANY, N.J. – Iskra Ukrainian Dance Academy held its traditional spring recital on May 8, performing on stage at the Ukrainian American Cultural Center of New Jersey before a live audience in its first performance in approximately 20 months.
Also performing were Tsvitka Ukrainian Dance Academy of Rockland County, N.Y., and Iskra Ukrainian Dance Ensemble, which comprises advanced dancers, who premiered a new Lemko dance and joined Iskra Academy in the show-ending Hopak. The program, with a cast of over 50 dancers, also included dances from the Hutsulshchyna, Polissia, Poltava and Zakarpattia regions of Ukraine, performed by Iskra’s four performing groups – Beginner, Intermediate, Junior and Senior – and Tsvitka’s two groups (Iskra also offers a non-performing pre-dance class).
Andrij Cybyk, artistic director of all the groups that performed, was thrilled to have dancers once again perform in front of a live audience.
“I am very happy that Iskra, together with Tsvitka, could bring this show to our community,” Mr. Cybyk said. “After all of these months of living online, it was great for the kids to be on stage with each other in front of people and for the audience to be able to witness a live show. We are happy to be part of the process of re-opening the world.”
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in the spring of 2020, Iskra Academy switched to virtual classes for the remainder of the school year; the usual spring recital and festivals were all canceled. The school returned to hybrid classes in September, following COVID-19 protocols, with dancers who weren’t comfortable in the studio joining classes via Zoom. Both Iskra Ensemble and Tsvitka followed similar plans of action.
The recital’s organizers adhered to all applicable COVID-19-related guidelines, including having the dancers wear masks while performing – not always a comfortable thing.
In the end, however, all the effort seemed to be worth it, as expressed by Terenya Nynka, a dancer in Iskra Academy’s intermediate group.
“The show was full of lots of energy,” Ms. Nynka said. “It was great to be in costume and so incredibly good to be onstage again. There’s nothing else like it. Pan Andrij [Cybyk] pushes us to do our best and this show made life feel normal again.”