Journey Artwork

This special exhibit, presented by the Rusalka Ukrainian Dance Ensemble and curated by Rusalka alumnus Markian Tarasiuk, was a multi-dimensional, immersive presentation of the legendary style of Ukrainian dance. It opened on June 5th, 2023, and ran until September 30th, 2023 at the Oseredok Ukrainian Cultural and Educational Centre.

The exhibit was a deep dive into the history and art form of Ukrainian dance while celebrating the illustrious 60 years of the Rusalka Ukrainian Dance Ensemble.

Visitors to Oseredok had the opportunity to explore brand new interactive displays, gain both historical and artistic knowledge, and examine the unique and diverse world of Ukrainian dance like never before.

Click here for the Ukrainian translation


We greet you with the traditional offering of bread and salt. The kolach (round bread) is a symbol of eternity and represents hospitality. The sil (salt), which acts as a preservative and was historically a rare product, is a symbol of wealth. These items are offered as a humble offering to visitors.

This greeting and other traditions represent the continuous thread that connects everyday life with the spirit of Ukrainians throughout the millennia. What makes the sharing of bread and salt and other traditions so powerful, is that despite the attempt of many foreign enemies who have tried to eradicate the Ukrainian people… they remain.

This exhibit can be encapsulated in its four distinct touchpoints:
First Steps, Knowledge, Performance, and Evolution.

Feel free to scroll the excitement that is the Journey through Ukrainian Dance


​​Pryvit (Ukrainian: Привiт), which means hello, is a welcome dance that was created by Pavlo Virsky (1905-1975) of the State Ensemble of Ukraine. It was an opening performance piece that sought to introduce the audience to a variety of regions and styles that they would experience throughout the show. Virsky cleverly took a centuries-old tradition and turned it into a very uniquely Ukrainian stage spectacle.

Many groups picked up on this idea and now most Ukrainian dance ensembles around the world begin their performances with what is now known as the traditional “Pryvit!”

The dance usually begins with a medley of dance excerpts, woven together in a tapestry of different colours and movements. Spectators are treated to a sprinkling of études from the various regions of Ukraine and then welcomed to the performance with the customary presentation of bread and salt on an embroidered rushnyk (towel). The dancers present them to the audience with a simple bow of welcome. The bread and salt symbolize the hospitality and friendship extended to those watching.

Today, Rusalka uses the song Oh, the Red Viburnum in the Meadow (Ой У Лузі Червона Калина) as the background for its version of Pryvit. It is a Ukrainian patriotic march from the time of the Kozak (Cossack) Hetman, Bohdan Khmelnytsky, and was first published in 1875 by Volodymyr Antonovych and Mykhailo Drahomanov and became the anthem of the Ukrainian Sich Riflemen during WWI. 

Due to the song’s association with the Ukrainian people’s aspiration for independence, the singing of this anthem was banned during the period in which Ukraine was a Soviet Republic (1919-1991). Nevertheless, it was sung by Ukrainian patriots, with defiance. Anyone caught singing it was jailed, beaten, and even exiled.

Ой У Лузі Червона Калина has become the unofficial second anthem of Ukraine. Its popularity and importance has risen since the beginning of the ongoing invasion by Russia which began in 2014.


First Steps

The first step of any Ukrainian dance journey begins when a parent enrols their child in weekly Ukrainian dance lessons at a church hall or community centre. This is where the passion and excitement for Ukrainian dance is nurtured.

Early Beginnings

In the 1920s, Vasyl Avramenko (1895-1981), a charismatic and ultra-nationalist dance instructor from Ukraine, began teaching and opening up schools all across Canada. Early participants in Ukrainian dance were new immigrants from Ukraine that began arriving in Canada in the late 1800s. Today, the descendants of these immigrants continue the tradition of the art form. Others join because they love the music and energy.

Boys and girls learn the basic steps and develop their musicality, muscles, and coordination. They learn dances from the various regions of Ukraine and hear stories and legends from Ukrainian history, culture, and mythology. Dance lessons are usually held once per week. During the year, the dancers perform at local festivals, competitions, and a year-end recital.

Avramenko was instrumental in popularizing Ukrainian dance across North America and around the world. The fact that there are so many groups in small towns across the prairies is due to his influence. Avramenko’s “disciples,” eventually tiring of the same old patterns and rigid structure, broke free and began creating their interpretations which have contributed to Ukrainian dance being such a vibrant art form today.


There are a great many Ukrainian dance schools in Winnipeg and the surrounding area that contribute to the talent pool of dancers that eventually make it to the semi-professional level and represent Canadian Ukrainian culture.

Rusalka UNF, Rozmai, Troyanda, Zaverukha, Sopilka, Zoloto, Selo, Romanetz, and Kazka to name a few. Others have come and gone over the decades. There are too many amazing instructors to list but each of them has contributed enormously to the development of the art form as well as the students they inspired.

No matter where you dance, you would start class with some cardio exercises and stretches to prepare your muscles for the workout ahead followed by classical ballet exercises to strengthen your body and add maturity to your movements. Also, some character dance exercises would give you the sharpness and attitude required to portray the various regions. Then, you would train to perfect specific Ukrainian dance steps.

Historically, you would learn dances from the Poltava and Hutsul regions first, which is a legacy from the Avramenko era. But over time, as Ukraine opened up, more information became available through workshops and videos and more instructors came to Canada. Consequently, other regions and styles were introduced. Today’s dancers can explore a wide variety of regions at any age.

Throughout many years of instruction, students would learn more regional dances and advanced steps, tricks, and turns. The footwork would become more complex and the patterns on the stage even more intricate. Ukrainian dance is so diverse and multifaceted that one could spend a lifetime studying its nuances.

The Hall

The Ukrainian National Federation of Canada (УНО Українська Національна Об'єднання Канади) was founded in 1932. Within ten years of its creation, the UNF had 91 branches across Canada – essentially every stop along the Canadian National Railway. The UNF through its halls, cultural programs, and activities promotes the organization’s objectives and values for Ukrainian communities. Today, there are 11 UNF branches across Canada, serving most of the major urban centres in which Ukrainian Canadians reside. 

The UNF Branch located in the North End of Winnipeg at 935 Main Street was built in 1937 and has served as a community hub. The hall also housed a Ukrainian school, administrative space, library, and bar. 

Since Rusalka’s founding in 1962, UNF hall on Main has served as the rehearsal space and home for the dance group. The UNF pub located in the basement of the building acted as a social club for dancers after rehearsals and performances until its closure in the early 2000s. The deep history Rusalka has at “The Hall” can be felt by each dancer that comes through its doors.

It is in this hall that Rusalka dancers have honed their skills and prepared for their various performances. They developed strong friendships, celebrated successes, and helped each other through tough times. The bonds that were created between these four walls cannot be overstated. They are literally marinated in the blood, sweat, and tears of dancers who have dedicated years – sometimes decades – to Ukrainian dance and their Rusalka family.

Rusalka UNF School of Dance

While the Rusalka UNF School of Dance can trace its roots to the late 1940s, it was a resurgence, initiated by Walter Klymkiw, a decade or so later, that commenced the unbroken chain of dance instruction at UNF to the present day. The school was revived in the 1950s with Peter Hladun as director. Initial instructors were Bob Hawryluk, Mary Ripak, and Sandra Stefanyshyn. However, the name that became synonymous with the UNF School of Dance is Dianna Bryk-Grabinski. 

Bryk-Grabinski’s tenure as director for fifty years guaranteed that generations of young dancers gained the skills to enable them to continue their stage careers with Rusalka. In the early 1960s, most Rusalka members traced their roots to the UNF School of Dance. At the initiative of Ben Hewak and Don Bryk, a “Junior Rusalka” was formed, to serve as an informal feeder group for Rusalka. There have been as many as 500 students in the school and up to 25 instructors and assistants, with most of those being current Rusalka members. In 2014, the school was formally renamed the Rusalka UNF School of Dance and is still in operation today.



Ukrainian dance is the study of the history, culture, and traditions of Ukraine. When young dance students are studying the various dance regions and styles, they also learn about historical figures, outside influences, and yearly traditions that make Ukrainian culture special.


Ukraine’s unique position and geography have made it central to developments in world history since long before there were written records. It is suspected that the horse was first domesticated on the vast steppe grasslands north of the black sea. Trypillian mega-settlements dating to 4300 – 4000 BCE were discovered in this area on both sides of the Dnipro river.

The Dnipro river was a major trade route and the unification of the Slavic tribes around the empire of the Kyiv state. The Kyiv state, known as the Rus’, was strong and influential. One of their leaders, Yaroslav the Wise (c.978-1054), is known as the father-in-law of Europe. He married his four daughters to various Kings of Europe including his daughter Anne who married King Henry I and became Queen of France.T

he Kyiv state took the brunt of the onslaught of the Mongol invasion of 1240, which led to its split and decline. After Kyiv fell, its power was split, but Danylo of Halych (Galicia) assumed the title of King of all Rus’ and still maintained the empire until the southern portion was swallowed by the Polish-Lithuanian commonwealth. The northern part fell under the Mongol yoke and a small trading village on the far East of the empire called Moscow began to grow in importance.

Different parts of Ukraine were controlled by foreign powers at various times over the next several hundred years, except for a brief period when the Kozaks (Cossacks) became strong enough to force Poland out, only to be swallowed again by the growing power and influence of the Russian tsardom.

It was only after WWII that Ukraine took its current geographic shape under the Soviet Union and then became fully independent in 1991. Today, Ukraine is currently the largest country fully located in Europe and has a population of approximately 43 million.

Ukraine has some of the richest black soils on the earth known as chernozem. Because of this, Ukraine has been known as the breadbasket of Europe and therefore the envy of many foreign powers for centuries. 

After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Ukraine experienced much turmoil as it attempted to implement economic and political reforms. Many protests and revolutions took place including the Orange Revolution in 2004 and the Revolution of Dignity in 2014. This led Russia to send troops and occupy the Ukrainian autonomous republic of Crimea and invade the Donbas, in an attempt to take control of parts of Luhansk and Donetsk provinces.

On February 24, 2022, Russia invaded Ukraine. At the time of writing, Ukraine is at war with Russia and it is estimated that at least 5 million people have fled the country.

The Art of Ukrainian Dance

Ukrainian dance refers to the traditional folk dances of the Ukrainian people, but may also refer to the dance of other ethnic groups within Ukraine. More formally, Ukrainian dance became recognized as an art form when it appeared on stage in the opera Natalka Poltavka (1889). However, it was the vision of Vasyl Verkhovynets, who began a theatrical troupe, combining dancing with theatre, which solidified a new direction for this art form.

As Verkhovynets traveled the country with his troupe, the performances began to gain popularity. After the Russian Revolution, Verkhovynets continued to train new performers and shared his choreography skills with the next generation.

Verkhovynets is also the author of the first Ukrainian choreographic textbooks, Ukraïns’ki narodni tantsi (Ukrainian Folk Dances, 1913) and Teoriia ukraïns’koho narodnoho tanka (Theory of the Ukrainian Folk Dance, 1919; four later editions).

Verkohvynets had a huge impact on Vasyl Avramenko, who is credited with being the founder of Ukrainian dance in Canada as well as Pavlo Virsky, who was next in line to revolutionize this art form.  

In 1937, Pavlo Virsky along with Mykola Bolotov founded the State Folk Dance Ensemble of the Ukrainian SSR in Kyiv and was its ballet master and artistic director from 1955 onwards. In 1977, the ensemble was renamed in his honour after his death.

Virsky’s impact on Ukrainian dance cannot be understated as he led the ensemble to new heights of spectacle, technical brilliance, creativity, and storytelling.  In 1962, the ensemble toured the United States and Canada and had a huge impact on the Ukrainian dance community.

Most Hopaks are now at least in part inspired by the Virsky Hopak, and no performance would be complete without a Pryvitalnyi Tanets (Welcome Dance), which Virsky first conceptualized for the stage.

Although Virsky is still the premier Ukrainian dance group in the world, there are many other amazing ensembles throughout Ukraine and in the diaspora that contribute to the Ukrainian dance mosaic.

Built on a foundation of discipline, devotion, and camaraderie, Rusalka dancers are an integral part of the Winnipeg arts community. Dancers also serve as ambassadors for Manitoba and Canada across the globe. International audiences have delighted in the range of artistry of the ensemble’s athleticism and gymnastic precision through to the group’s trademark balletic grace. Those same audiences have been surprised to learn that it is a company of “amateurs;” unpaid volunteers dedicating body and soul for the love of dance!

Dance Regions of Ukraine

Click to read about the dance regions of Ukraine

Poltava has several distinct elements that make it relevant to Ukrainian history and also Ukrainian dance.

The Ukrainian language is based on the Poltava dialect and some people would say that it is the purest form of Ukrainian spoken. Several famous authors call this region home including Taras Shevchenko, Mykhailo Kotsiubynsky, and Nikolai Gogol. The Battle of Poltava was a defining moment in Ukrainian history when the Swedish army with the support of Hetman Mazeppa, lost to Tsar Peter I of Moscow ending the semi-independent Kozak state known as the Hetmanate.

‍The Poltava region is the general area around the city of Poltava, which is located southeast of Kyiv, on the left bank of the Dnipro river in Central Ukraine. It is often the generic term to describe all of the dances of Central Ukraine.

All the main Ukrainian dance steps are based on or are variations of, steps from the Poltava region. Well-known dances from Poltava (Central Ukraine) are Hopak and Kozachok. What makes dances from Central Ukraine stand out is their large and wide movements and occasional improvisational appearance.

The men’s costumes for these dances are styled after the Kozak dress and usually consist of an embroidered shirt, poyas (sash), and sharovary (billowy riding pants). The women’s costume consists of a blouse with embroidery and a plakhta (straight skirt) with many colours. The most famous features of the costumes from Poltava are the women’s red beaded necklaces, the vinok (headpiece of flowers and ribbons), and of course… the red boots. The costume of Poltava has been deemed the national costume of Ukraine.


Volyn was always important as a trade route between Kyiv and Warsaw but was generally more sparsely populated than Galicia to the south due to its geography which included many lakes and marshlands. However, this isolation contributed greatly to the preservation of old traditions that are unique even today.
‍Volyn is a historic region in the northwestern corner of Ukraine. It borders Poland to the west and Belarus to the North.

Volynians are one of the oldest of the Slavic tribes to be counted among the early Kyiv state under Volodymyr the Great and they were mentioned in the Primary Chronicles. Later, together with Halych (Galicia), it became a central power as part of the Galicia-Volynia Principality under King Danylo.

The proximity of Volyn to Poland had a significant impact on its culture and traditions. Several dances dominate this region and you will more often find a kadrille (waltz), krakoviak, or mazurka. The Volyn dance style is bouncy and rhythmic yet smooth, noble, and proud.

An interesting fact regarding the Volyn costumes is that birch bark shoes called lychaky are worn. The men usually wear long swirling coats over embroidered shirts, a poyas (sash), and straight pants. The women have skirts that swirl, worn with an embroidered blouse and vest with lappets.


The region of the Hutsuls is an area in the Carpathian Mountains in the southwest of Ukraine. This unique sub-ethnic group is often called Highlanders and they are spread out over the mountain tops and spill into the valleys of the three provinces of Ivano-Frankivsk, Zakarpattia (Transcarpathia), and Bukovyna. There are also some Hutsul settlements in Romania.

The Hutsuls are unique in that they have their unique traditions, costumes, music, songs, dances, superstitions, architecture, and overall culture. They speak a Ukrainian dialect that is sometimes difficult to understand.

The Hutsuls were sheepherders and lumberjacks and lived quite isolated lives and were self-sufficient. This isolation allowed them to keep their ancient traditions longer than in other parts of Ukraine.

The Hutsul dances are quite high-spirited and energetic and the music plays at a very fast tempo. Well-known Hutsul dances are Hutsulka, Kolomyika, and Arkan. Hutsul dancing is unique in the way the head bobbles and the whole body tends to shake with joy.

Hutsul costumes vary from one sub-region to the next but generally, they follow a unique Hutsul pattern. Both men and women wear a special sheepskin vest called a keptar. Footwear includes brightly decorated leather slippers called postaly, although men also had a pair of black boots as well. Hutsul costumes usually incorporate orange, brown, green, and yellow embroidery.


Bukovyna is a historical region located in the southwest part of Ukraine and the northwest part of Romania, in the shadow of the easternmost Carpathian mountains. Bukovyna gets its name from the forests of beech or Buk trees, which grow in the area.

Bukovyna was an important territory for trade and therefore changed hands many times. It is officially designated the Chernivtsi province, but unofficially it is still referred to as Bukovyna. The ethnicity of Bukovyna is diverse and there has been significant mixing of cultures including Ukrainians (Rusyn or Ruthenians), Romanians, Moldovans, Germans, Austrians, Jews, Poles, and others.

Bukovynian dance is unique in that it is a mix of different influences including from Hutsuls to the west, Romanians and Molodovans to the south and south-east, Podillians to the north-east and Pokuttians to the north-west. One will find that the culture and customs are unique from other parts of Ukraine with the most obvious influence from Romania.

The dances from this region are lively and energetic with stamping and rhythms that are created through syncopation which gives this dance an earthy feel. There is usually a lot of partner work, circles, and line combinations. One of the most recognizable Bukovynian dances is Toporivtsi.

Women’s costumes in this region vary but usually feature a narrow wrap skirt, worn over an embroidered slip. They wear a traditional white blouse with embroidery, and the sleeves are usually done with patterns of stitches or flowers. Women’s headpieces are very crown-like with flowers and beading. The men are usually dressed in white or off-white embroidered pants and shirt, with a decorated vest, belt, and hat.


Transcarpathia (Zakarpattia) is a geographic territory that finds itself furthest from Kyiv and lies beyond the Carpathian Mountains. It is located on the southern slopes of the mountains on the Pannonian or Hungarian plain and borders Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, and Romania.  

Several sub-ethnic Ukrainian or Rusyn groups live in Transcarpathia including the Lemkos, Boykos, Hutsuls, and Dolyniany. In addition to the Ukrainian (Rusyn or Ruthenians) populations, you also have a plethora of other nationalities making up the population of villages and towns across the region and they include Roma (Gypsy), Slovak, Hungarian, Romanian, Jewish, German, Armenian, and others.

Because of the mountainous terrain and vast diversity within Transcarpathia, one will find that certain areas of the region bear no similarity to others. For example, the Lemko region of western Transcarpathia where the dance Bereznianka is from has no similarities with the Hutsul region in eastern Transcarpathia where the dance Rakivchanka is from.

Some characteristics of this region in terms of movements are the snapping of the heels by men and women and the rhythmic slapping of the body and the boots, which is an influence from Roma and Hungarian culture. You will also find sharp twisting movements as well as high knees and snappy finishes.

The costumes of Zakarpattia are equally diverse but generally, the women wear a full skirt that twists and floats while the men wear straight-leg pants. Both men and women wear short decorated vests while the women wear a bonnet with ribbons and the men wear a hat with feathers or flowers.


Polissia is the northern forest region that straddles the border between Ukraine and Belarus. It begins near the Volyn region in the West and goes as far as Sloboda in eastern Ukraine. It gets its name from the word lis which means forest. Due to its proximity to Belarus, there is much overlap between Polissian and Belarus cultures.

It is one of the poorest and least populated regions of Ukraine and therefore, due to its isolation, has preserved some of the oldest and most unique traditions. These are expressed in the folk songs that have been passed down from ancient times.

Polissian dances are lively and energetic and include a great variety of polkas and cadrilles as well as dances inspired by work life. They may appear similar to Central Ukraine in style but bouncier and perhaps a bit quirkier with even more energy and enthusiasm.

Costumes from this region usually incorporate red and white as the main colours. Men wear longer shirts and straight-legged pants tied at the waist with a poyas (sash) and can be accompanied by a straw hat. Women wear a blouse with red embroidery, and a long linen skirt with an embroidered apron, sometimes paired with a shorter dark vest. Headpieces are usually a simple band with flowers or a scarf tied around the head.


Zaporizhia is the ancient homeland and the birthplace of the famous Zaporizhian Kozaks (Cossacks). Zaporizhia means “beyond the rapids.” It was here, on an island called Khortytsia, in the middle of the Dnipro river, where the Cossacks built their stronghold or fort called a Sich.

The location of the Sich was kept secret and started as a refuge for runaway serfs, mostly from Polish-controlled territories. These Kozaks preferred to take their chances with their freedom in the wild and dangerous steppe that was prone to Tatar attacks than be subjected to slavery on the estates of wealthy landowners.  

The Kozaks cherished their freedom above all else and it’s this spirit that still fuels the struggle for sovereignty and independence today. However, their historic influence cannot be minimized as the Kozaks published the very first constitution which predated the French Revolution and the American Constitution by decades. 

It was in these encampments, to the accompaniment of a Kobzar (a musician who sang and played on a multi-stringed bandura or kobza), that the free-spirited and improvisational Hopak was born. The Kozaks would kick, swirl, stamp, and jump about while expressing themselves boisterously. The dancing is varied but can be epitomized by its tricks and use of swords, spears, and whips as props. Here some of the most well-known Ukrainian dance steps evolved like vykhyliasnyk and plettenia

The Zaporizhian costume is colourful and multifaceted with the men wearing sharovary (baggy Turkic-style pants), a brightly coloured poyas (sash), an embroidered colourful shirt, or also perhaps a plain linen cloth. They wore a wide variety of hats and often carried a sword but also sometimes a musket or a short bow.

The Costumes

No journey of a dancer is complete without being properly fitted. A costume fitting is a ritual that each dancer experiences and constitutes the final step of a very time-consuming process involving research, design, fabric hunting, measuring, stitching, and sewing by hand or by machine. Such intensive labour takes talented and devoted individuals with a critical eye for details and a passion for making a dancer look good on stage. 

Currently, Rusalka has over 2000 items of costuming in its wardrobe closet (the Garderoba). Its traditional costumes represent the many ethnographic regions of Ukraine. Other costume pieces reflect a more contemporary design. After performances, costumes have to be washed, dry cleaned, repaired and organized for the next performance. Maintenance and logistics are also key components in maintaining such an extensive wardrobe. In the past, this time-consuming and labour-intensive process was usually undertaken by one or two individuals voluntarily. Today, most of Rusalka’s costumes are outsourced to private enterprises located in Canada or Ukraine. 

“The magic truly begins when the dancer takes the stage, captivating the audience with the beauty, colour, and artistry of their flowing garments.” 

During its six decades entertaining audiences all over the world Rusalka is greatly indebted to the many “unsung heroes” of its Garderoba such as Nettie Sheremeta, Lesia Romaniw, Sherri Ripak, Karen Luchak, Donna Talbot, Gayle Swan (Shipley), Iryna Wilson (Holowczynsky), Ivanka Waplak, and Christine Hur.



Being on stage is one of the most thrilling aspects of being a Ukrainian dancer. Once a young dancer becomes older and more confident on stage, the dancer will often join a professional or semi-professional ensemble such as Rusalka. This point of the journey is where the world stage opens up to them!

Past, Present & Future

In 1995, world-renowned artist and sculptor Leo Mol began sketching the Rusalka Ukrainian Dance Ensemble in rehearsal. His goal? To capture the spirit of the elusive rusalky and create a sculpture in the traditional Leo Mol style. On November 10th of the same year, Rusalka unveiled a truly exquisite piece of art. This elegant work, simply titled Rusalka, became available to the public in 1996. During the making of the sculpture, which took almost a year from start to finish, a film was produced as a special art tribute to Leo Mol and the Rusalka dancers. The film premiered at the Centennial Concert Hall on Feb 1 & 2, 1996. It also featured the premiere of a dance piece choreographed by Brenda Gorlick. A sculpture of the Rusalka now resides in Assiniboine Park.

Leo Mol

Leo MolLeonid Molodoshanin (1915-2009) was born in Polonne, Ukraine. He studied at the Leningrad Academy of Arts, Kunst Academy in Berlin, Germany, and the Academy of Arts in The Hague, Netherlands. In 1948, he made his home in Canada. He received multiple honorary degrees and was inducted into the Order of Canada. Mol created his sculptures using the Lost Wax method. In this process, clay is modeled on a rebar and wooden structure and then covered in liquid rubber to form a mold. Plaster is layered over the mold, creating a cast. The cast and mold are separated from the model and melted beeswax are pressed into the rubber mold. A cement mixture is then poured inside the wax layer. After the cement hardens the molds are removed, leaving a wax model with a solid cement core.

Anyone who danced with Rusalka has that feeling of family. Once you have been a member of Rusalka, you are always Rusalka member.

– Donald Bryk –

Founder & Visionaries

Peter Hladun

Peter Hladun (1922–2005) was the founder and director of Rusalka for its first 12 years. Born in Horodok, Ukraine in 1922, he came to Canada in 1938. Hladun, or “Coach” as the dancers lovingly called him, had been dancing since the age of 17. In Winnipeg, he became involved with the UNYF School of Ukrainian Dance and went to fulfil his dream that he would someday organize a lasting Ukrainian dance group and become a meaningful force in the preservation of Ukrainian culture. He chose a group of the best dancers from the school and gathered the 12-year-olds into a dynamic ensemble that continued to grow into a professional-calibre dancer group. 

During the day, Hladun was a talented carpenter and interior builder. The sickles, scythes, and tsymbaly were made by Hladun. He also constructed the crates used in shipping Rusalka’s costumes and props around the world. In 1972, Hladun announced that he was retiring from Rusalka, and later moved to Guelph, Ontario.

Joanne Sinkevich

Joanne Sinkevich (1942-1989) was born in Grimsby, Ontario, and came to Winnipeg at the age of eight with her parents. She began dancing with the Ukrainian National Youth Federation and was appointed lead instructor of the newly formed Rusalka Ukrainian Dance Ensemble. She later moved to Thunder Bay, Ontario to teach dance.

Sinkevich was employed by the Bank of Nova Scotia for many years, where she held various positions in customer service. Joanne moved back to Winnipeg later in life and had tremendous rapport with young people and inspired them with her talent, intensity, and optimism.

Donald Bryk

In 1950, at the age of five, Donald (Don) Bryk began dancing with Peter Hladun at the UNF Hall in the Junior and Senior UNF Dancing School groups until Rusalka was formed. After Joanne Sinkevych left the ensemble, Hladun asked Bryk to take over, which he did until 1972. Peter Hladun acted as the director, and Don Bryk, Don Stebnicki, and Ihor Pona were the instructors. Bryk expanded the ensemble’s repertoire to include dances from different regions of Ukraine.Justice

Donald Bryk graduated in law from the University of Manitoba in 1969 and was called to the Bar of Manitoba in 1970. He was then appointed a judge of the Court of Queen's Bench of Manitoba on February 17, 1999.

Benjamin Hewak

Benjamin (Ben) Hewak (1935–2017) joined as Rusalka’s administrator in the 1960s. He is quoted as saying: “I saw my role as being the one to find revenues to have Rusalka perform and be exposed to greater audiences.” 

He became deeply involved with Rusalka with the assistance and talents of Oleh Romaniw. Ben and Oleh saw things on a grander level. Hewak was responsible for the many early successful fundraising activities for the group and engineered Rusalka’s first international tours to Scotland (1973) and Ukraine (1979). 

The Hon. Benjamin Hewak graduated from the Manitoba Law School in 1960 and then practiced law as a Crown attorney. In 1977, he was appointed a judge in the Court of Queen’s Bench. He served as Chief Justice from 1985 until his retirement in 2003.

Oleh Romaniw

Oleh Romaniw (1944–2016) served from 1972-1984 on the Rusalka Board of Directors and was pivotal in enhancing the international reputation of Rusalka. He organized trips for the ensemble to perform all over the world, including a private performance for Pope John Paul ll at his summer residence at Castel Gandolfo.

Oleh received his BA from St. Paul's College at the University of Manitoba in 1966, his Bachelor of Law in 1969, and was called to the bar in 1970. He was appointed as Queen's Council in 1993 and practiced law for 35 years.

My Red Boots

Every dancer dreams about getting their first pair of red boots. Because boots were expensive, not every family could afford them. Frequently, old boots were passed down from generation to generation and new ones were only purchased for special occasions or when necessary.

Boots were very symbolic, used in rituals, and were indicative of wealth. The red boot is a signature of Ukrainian dance. A good boot maker is hard to come by, and over the years, dancers have had their boots custom-made in Canada, the USA, Mexico, and Ukraine.

Because boots are still expensive, the tradition has been that dancers don’t receive their boots until their feet have stopped growing. Today, getting fitted for your first pair of boots is a coming-of-age ritual for Ukrainian dancers. When dancers finally retire, it is said they “hang up” their boots. 

The relationship between a dancer and their red boots is very unique and emotional. This connection is on display in the personal anecdotes provided by Rusalka alumni.

Andriana Tarasiuk

Dancer 2005-2017

I danced in the same red boots my entire Rusalka career. They had holes in the bottom by the time I retired. In 2013, we had the privilege of visiting and touring Ukraine. On this trip came many of the most memorable dance experiences in my career. Travelling by bus to Chernivtsi, we were stopped by police which began an hours-long ordeal – a story for another time. When we finally made it to the venue, we were so late that we barely had time to go through a technical rehearsal or warm-up. On top of that, the show was to start more than an hour earlier than we had expected. What followed was a frantic panic to get ready and even less time to change between numbers. Stress levels were high amongst the dancers, including myself. At one point, I had to cut myself out of a costume as I could not undo the knot in time to make it onstage for the next number. By the time we finished our final bow of Hopak, we all felt exhausted and a little defeated. This had not been our finest performance. However, the reaction from the crowd, the applause, and the appreciation began to be heard, loud and clear. I stood onstage with tears in my eyes as we received the longest-standing ovation that I had ever experienced. What started as one of the most stressful performances ended as one of the most gratifying I had ever experienced.

Adam Fuga

Dancer 2002-2011

My time in Rusalka started when I was 17 and it instantly became my second home. There was school, work, and dancing. Between the practices, rehearsals, shows, and social events I spent more time with my Rusalka family than my own family. I made great memories and my best friends while in the group and even found my partner in life. I loved dancing as it kept me connected to my roots, my Ukrainian heritage, which kept me grounded, and allowed me to embrace, celebrate and share the rich Ukrainian culture. My favourite performances were those connecting with Ukrainian history in Manitoba like Canada’s National Ukrainian Festival, the Gardenton Ukrainian Festival and a number of small town malankas. Like dancing was to me, a dancer’s red boots keep them grounded and connected to the stage, allowing the show to come to life. I’m truly honoured to have been able to wear a pair on stage with Rusalka.

Shelley Karpa (nee Todoruk)

Dancer 1990-1996

Although red boots are a universal symbol of Ukrainian dance, to me, they represent family. When I toured Ukraine with Rusalka in 1992, I had the opportunity to perform Hopak at the Lviv National Opera House. I remember standing in the wings with all my friends nervously waiting for the music to start. Once I stepped onto the stage, my nervousness turned into excitement. I can still hear our red boots tapping on the old wooden floor and the audience clapping in unison chanting, “Molodtsi, Molodtsi”. After I retired from Rusalka, I passed my red boots down to my daughter, Orycia, to wear during her time at Rusalka. I was able to watch her, and my son, Alexander, perform on tour with Rusalka in Ukraine in 2019, where the audience chanted, “Molodtsi, Molodtsi” just like they did for me in 1992. My red boots not only represent my Rusalka career, but my children’s as well. I feel fortunate to know my red boots have two chapters in their story

Wally Welechenko

Dancer 1989-2014

My 25 year journey as a dancer with Rusalka began in 1989. There are so many good memories of performances and trips all over the world, but one in particular is dear to my heart, Kyiv, Ukraine, 2001. Rusalka performed its iconic Pryvit dance and Chervona Kalyna. That day about 100,000 people gathered in front of a large, beautiful, wooden stage in celebration of the 10th anniversary of Ukraine’s independence. Knowing the patriotic meaning of this particular song and its deeply rooted emotional ties to Ukrainians was one thing, but performing that dance in Kyiv was an unforgettable moment. As the first note played you could feel the love, joy and pride of the audience as they instantly stood up and sang to the music. The emotion was overwhelming and we were filled with tears. When the dance ended, we received a thunderous applause. As I stood on stage in my costume and red boots I was so thankful for this experience and proud to be a part of the Ukrainian heritage that inspired my journey as a Rusalka dancer…a moment frozen in time.

Merv Pichlyk

Dancer 1978-1989

My Rusalka dance career allowed an amazing opportunity for multiple performances across several continents. A request to choose a favorite performance is difficult. It is somewhat like asking a parent to choose their favorite child, impossible, as you love every child equally. Each stage performance was an opportunity to love and cherish that particular moment. Two highly memorable and emotional dates included performances for Pope John-Paul II and performing as a Canadian Ukrainian in communist- suppressed Soviet Ukraine, both shows validating our culture as alive and significant. But personally, the most fun ever on stage occurred in the small Italian town of Rocca Prioria. A technical issue occurred during our opening dance, Pryvit….oh my, no music! As we continued to dance, we began to loudly sing out the melody and after several minutes, once corrected, the music was once again audible. Our singing was exactly on count with the musical timeline; the crowd went ballistic! The connection with the audience was magical and for the remainder of the show, a palpable energy fed back and forth between spectators and performers. We felt like rock stars: autographs, kisses, and premium local wine followed. Best audience feedback and most fun on stage ever!

Lynda Thompson (nee Stokotelny)

Dancer 1987-1992

I’m secondhand. I was custom-made for someone else, but I found my forever home in 1980 with Lynda Stokotelny – a skinny 13-year-old Zirka dancer in Dauphin, Manitoba. At first, her feet were too small and narrow, so I was stuffed with felt insoles cut from winter boot liners and three pairs of socks! Over the years she grew into me and we danced together on trips across Canada, from coast to coast! I burned my bottom on the hot black stage of Canada’s National Ukrainian Festival and needed help from a shoemaker after dancing on the pavement down the Main Street parade route. We were nervous but we even danced for the Queen! It took us a couple of tries, but in 1987, our dreams came true, and we made it into Rusalka! We travelled around the globe to places like New York, Hawaii, and Austria. We performed in Australia’s famous Sydney Opera House and in Ukraine we met family we never knew we had. Eventually, she hung me up for a couple of decades while she married and had two kids, but I was never forgotten. We have started a new chapter in our journey together, Lynda and I, making more memories in the Rusalka family – now continuing as alumni. By the way, her feet are a little wider now, no stuffing required!

Taras Luchak

Dancer 1974-1980

Lesson from the Rusalka handbook: “If your boots look good, it doesn’t matter what happens on stage, as the audience will be dazzled by your red flash” – Peterhead, Scotland, 1979. I had two back-to-back dances with a costume change and no actual time to change. First Zaporozhetz and then Dzhihunets. Problem solved as I wore both costumes at the same time! As Zaporozhetz ended, I pranced off stage and posed like a statue as the motorsport pit crew team peeled off my outer Zap shirt, poyas, and sharavary. Bzzt Bzzt, done in seconds. The music to Dzhihunetz started and I dashed back onto the stage. It took maybe 15 seconds for the pants to drop and the striptease to be complete. On that night in Scotland, one of the pit crew had undone one too many layers. The boots never looked greater!

Joanne Malenko

Dancer 1973 - 1982

I got my Red Boots when I was 16 years old. I joined Rusalka with the rest of the Junior Rusalka dancers. A few months after joining, we were fitted for our very own red boots. What a thrill! This was a sign we were officially members of Rusalka. These red boots were custom made to fit and were ordered from Toronto. I still have these boots and treasure them. I was privileged to dance across Canada, U.S.A. and Europe. My fondest memory is performing for Pope John Paul II in 1982 in Castel Gandolfo, Italy (the summer residence of the Pope.) We performed in the courtyard which had cobblestone flooring. Even though the ground was uneven, I danced as if we were on air. I don’t remember my red boots dancing on the floor. It was as if they had wings!

Don Cilinsky

Dancer 1962- 1979

In my teens, Rusalka became my extended family! I would look forward to seeing my friends there regularly where we would practice, interact, and make plans for the weekend. There was always something going on. Peter Hladun was like a parent to us all, as he guided us through those adolescent years. Rusalka grounded us during those tumultuous teen years. It is where you felt safe and always accepted for who you were. If life took a sad turn, your Rusalka family was always there to help you up and get you going again. The excitement of traveling and seeing the world with your Rusalka family took life to another level, where all of us shared so many first time experiences together. First time on an airplane...first time in Europe... first time in Ukraine! Too many to list here! Sharing that part of my life with my Rusaka family will always be in my memories and make me smile.

Christine Preachuk

Dancer 1992-1999

Red Boots – a Ukrainian dancer’s rite of passage. Finally getting to wear red boots on stage fills a Ukrainian dancer with pride. As a young dancer, I remember going to see a Virsky concert, and dreaming of the day I would get my red boots and dance in Hopak. When that time finally came, my first pair were borrowed, and never fit quite right. So when I finally saved enough money, I ordered my very own - custom-made by the late Viktor Stepovy of Edmonton. They fit perfectly. The first time I performed in them was at Rusalka’s 30th Anniversary Show, my first performance on the Winnipeg Centennial Concert Hall stage, and my first time having a solo in Hopak. My boots saw many performances during my time as a Rusalka dancer. They have even come out of retirement a couple of times. But that first performance in them will always be the most memorable.

Mikhas Chabluk

Dancer 2004-2011

What magic gets sewn into each new pair of red dancing boots as the boot maker completes the final stitch? The significance of receiving my first pair of dancing boots and slipping them on for the first time is something I will never forget. It is a rite of passage that holds a special place in the heart of every Ukrainian dancer. Although it is early in your journey as a dancer, you immediately feel as though you can jump higher and spin faster than the week before. I remember dancing in the town square in Aberdeen on Rusalka’s tour to Scotland in 2006. Feeling the cobblestones beneath my boots and realizing that my father and many of the Rusalka alumni I grew up idolizing had danced the same steps on these same stones on Rusalka’s tour to Scotland in 1979. The gaps between the cobblestones were wide enough to easily lose a heel in, yet our boots carried us seamlessly from the first step to our final pose – as though they had been there before, many of them had. Maybe the magic in those red boots is the memories and stories we create while we wear them. Stitched into our souls and passed down to the next generation to create their own footprints.

Evelyn Piush

Dancer 1962-1974 & 1978-1981

I recall how excited I was to be measured for red boots. I wish I could recall the date of that particular year. The issue at home for many of us was that our parents said they could not afford the $16.00 - or was it $18.00 - for us to wear red boots. Imagine if there was more than one dancer in the family! Our dear Mr. Peter Hladun (lovingly called “Coach”) said, “I will talk to your father. It will be okay.” To this day I do not know how he made it happen, but he did! I was so happy and proud to dance in my red boots.


In 1962, the founding group of twenty-four dancers included four sets of siblings. Since then, many more siblings have danced in Rusalka. Furthermore, for countless young individuals, Rusalka has proven to be a Ukrainian “dating service,” and the group has witnessed many marriages of dancers. In 2016, Rusalka welcomed its first third-generation dancer, Oksana Preachuk. This further solidifies the sentiment that Rusalka is more than an ensemble - it is a family. The bond that is Rusalka is featured in the above video which was made by Leanne Koroscil and Simeon Rusnak - created for the 55th Anniversary concert Generations in 2017.

THe Legend of Rusalka

Rusalka’s most ambitious project in its history, The Legend of the Rusalka was a collaborative production with The Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra. It featured classical and ethnic dance, music, and song that premiered on March 19th, 2006. This was a uniquely Ukrainian-Canadian product, showcasing the extraordinary talents of Winnipeg’s arts community. Choreographed by Anna and Vasyl Kanevets, the suite explored the folklore behind Rusalka’s mythical namesake. Rusalka commissioned an original score by Volodymyr Gronsky of Ukraine and it was professionally recorded at the Centennial Concert Hall.

The Art of Walter Kulyk

In 1970, after graduating high school at St. Vladimir’s College in Roblin, Manitoba, Walter Kulyk joined Rusalka as a dancer. Around the same time, he was enrolled in the graphic design/advertising art program at Red River College, graduating in 1973. As a design project for his courses, he befriended Orysia Tracz to write a brochure about Rusalka. He solicited his photography instructor, James Hammel, to professionally photograph the group for this brochure. This became the initial piece that made Rusalka look as professional and polished as they were. As Walter’s career in design and advertising began to flourish, so did Rusalka’s promotional image. In particular, the colourful graphics for the 1976 show included award-winning posters, billboards, and programs to promote the concert to Manitobans. Walter maintained his relationship with Rusalka throughout the 70s and 80s as a board member while creating countless beautiful graphics, especially for the 25th and 50th-anniversary shows. He says, “Thanks to Rusalka, I was blessed with life-long friendships with Justice Ben Hewak, Oleh Romaniw, Gene Zwozdesky, and numerous other alumni.” 2023 marks Walter’s fiftieth year in business, as a partner and creative director at Palmer Jarvis Advertising, and president of Traffic Advertising.

The Logo

Deeply rooted in Ukrainian folklore, Rusalka, the mythical water nymph, comes to life during the feast of Ivan Kupala (summer solstice). During that night, she roams the forest searching out the male companion for which her heart longs. When she finds him, she uses her magical beauty to entice him into the water world. The current treatment of the Rusalka logo tells this story. Designed in 2001, by Winnipeg art director Ron Sawchuk, the striking image is reminiscent of a Ukrainian woodcut, showcasing the elements of the spirit, her male target, her enchanting gaze, and the watery grave.

The Legend and the Legacy

The Rusalka historical book project was originally commissioned by the Rusalka Alumni committee in 2013. The project was led by Myron Tarasiuk and Orysia Tracz and was to be published to celebrate Rusalka’s 50th Anniversary. Following Orysia’s sudden passing in 2016, the book’s design process was then headed by Markian Tarasiuk. The book, titled The Legend and Legacy, was published in the spring of 2019. It is available at McNally Robinson Booksellers, Oseredok Ukrainian Cultural & Education Centre, and Kalyna Ukrainian Bookshop. The book is the most extensive collection of Rusalka history dating back to its beginnings. Each decade is highlighted in this hardcover book that features over 300 photographs, 50 personal anecdotes, an authored history, and a detailed member directory.


For the past 60 years, Rusalka has worked towards an increased awareness of Ukrainian dance. In Canada, work done by other groups such as Shumka (Edmonton), Chermosh (Edmonton), Tryzub (Calgary), Pavlychenko (Saskatoon), Troyanda (Selkirk/Winnipeg), and Rozmai (Winnipeg) has elevated Ukrainian dance to the point where it is now a prevalent form of entertainment to view and take part in. Rusalka has performed with many of these ensembles over the years including the marquee collaborations in Razom 1 & 2 that brought together multiple groups to perform in cities across the prairies. 

Locally, Rusalka has closely collaborated with many cultural organizations. Most notable: Hoosli Ukrainian Male Chorus and O.Koshetz Ukrainian Choir. The groups have been inseparable over the years, teaming up for many performances. Hoosli often joins Rusalka by singing in the men’s Zaporizhian Kozak dance.

Chai Folk Ensemble has been a close partner to Rusalka on many occasions including a 1999 concert and most recently the Hora Hopak concert and tour (Israel and Ukraine) in 2019. 

Over the years, Rusalka and The Royal Winnipeg Ballet have been closely linked. Rusalka has performed as guest artists in The Nutcracker, Swan Lake, The Ecstasy of Rita Joe, Romeo & Juliet, and The Princess and the Goblin. Many RWB performers and alumni have offered their expertise and skills in ballet instruction to Rusalka. This partnership has elevated the capabilities of Rusalka dancers and the group’s visibility in the Winnipeg community.

Rusalka has been a staple at festivals such as Folklorama (Winnipeg), Ballet in the Park (Winnipeg), and Canada’s National Ukrainian Festival (Dauphin) and has been requested to perform at weddings, charity occasions, galas, and special community performances. Rusalka has offered workshops and instruction at various dance schools throughout the province. Rusalka’s charitable initiatives over the years have raised funds for many causes and most recently collaborated with Hilary Druxman Jewelry, raising thousands of dollars for humanitarian aid in Ukraine. 

The ongoing community involvement ensures that the traditions of Ukrainian dance are passed down to future generations. Rusalka has woven its threads into the tapestry of the Winnipeg arts community forever.


Since its inception, Rusalka has captured the hearts of people everywhere. The list of performances given by the ensemble is long and impressive. Major tours throughout Asia, Europe, North America, Mexico, Ukraine, and performances for Heads of State and Royalty, have made Rusalka one of the most widely recognized dance ensembles in the world. Through these concerts, Rusalka can pass on the traditions and excitement of Ukrainian dance to a diverse range of cultures and people around the world.

North America

Newfoundland/Labrador: Cornerbrook, St.John’s
Nova Scotia: Sydney, Cape Breton Island
Quebec: Montreal, Quebec City
Ontario: Hamilton, Ottawa, Sault Ste. Marie, Thunder Bay, Toronto
Manitoba: Dauphin, Ethelbert, Flin Flon, Gardenton, Gimli, Portage La Prairie, Selkirk, Swan River, Thompson, Winnipeg
Saskatchewan: Foam Lake, Regina, Saskatoon, Swift Current
Alberta: Calgary, Edmonton
British Columbia: Vancouver

United States
Anaheim, California (Disneyland Park), Bismarck, North Dakota, Chicago, Illinois, Detroit, Michigan, Duluth, Minnesota, Glen Spey, New York, Grand Forks, North Dakota, Las Vegas, Nevada, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Minneapolis, Minnesota, New Orleans, Louisiana, Orlando, Florida (Walt Disney World)



United Kingdom
Aberdeen, Scotland, Edinburgh, Scotland, London, England

Chernivtsi, Drohobych, Kolomyia, Kyiv, Lviv, Ternopil, Truskavets

Castel Gandolfo, Rocca Priora, Rome, Viterbo


Bangkok, ThailandHong Kong, People’s Republic of ChinaKaohsiung, TaiwanTaipei (capital of Taiwan)Tokyo, Japan‍


Brisbane, Geelong, Adelaide, Gold Coast, Melbourne, Surfers Paradise, Sydney


South America

Callao, Peru, Trujillo, Peru


Hopak is Ukraine’s most famous dance and is always the grand finale of any Ukrainian dance performance. It is a uniquely Ukrainian dance and musical form that originated as a solo improvised male dance amongst the Kozak (Cossack) settlements of central and southern Ukraine in approximately the 16th and 17th centuries.

The word Hopak comes from the word hopaty which means “to jump.” When Kozaks wanted to celebrate, they would have the musicians play and they would dance to their heart's content. It was very improvisational and could be done as a solo, duet, or group. During the dance, Kozaks would jump, squat, kick, stamp, and twirl about.

The melodies for hopak are a unique and independent genre. Over time, the Hopak evolved into a mixed couples dance that would be performed by men and women in villages throughout central Ukraine.

The jumping, flying, spinning acrobatic version of what we know as Hopak today continued to evolve into the 1970s when its form generally stabilized. Although, every time a group creates a new Hopak, its evolution continues. Now, every group has its own version of Hopak and dancers train for years to perfect the style of dance that has become synonymous with Ukrainian culture itself.

Hopak begins with an energetic entrance to excite the audience and is generally followed by a lyrical section. Next is a series of tricks, turns, and acrobatics by both men and women. After the dancers have flown around the stage with their ribbons, the Hopak ends with a grand finale. This consists of fast footwork and steps that bring the audience to their feet, who often demand an encore. The whole world knows about Ukrainian culture because of the Hopak.



The final step in the journey of Ukrainian dance is when a dancer decides to “hang up their boots.” Although a dancer may choose to retire from the art, the lasting legacy and impact of their journey is felt for the rest of their life. When one journey ends, another begins…

The Journey Continues

The decision to retire or “hang up your boots” is not easy to make. There are many reasons a dancer might make this choice – whether it be career priorities, increasing family responsibilities, or nagging injuries. This point of the journey is one where the dancer evolves: from member to lifelong alumni. 

A dancer will usually announce that their retirement will follow a major performance or tour. After their final bow, the ensemble gathers backstage and sings the traditional Ukrainian song Mnohaya Lita and presents the dancer with a gift. During this emotional ritual, the retiree is given an opportunity to say their final farewell. The friendships developed in Rusalka often last a lifetime. This sentiment is reflected in the below video titled A Dancer Dies Twice by Leanne Koroscil.

For some, after retirement, the journey of Ukrainian dance continues. Many alumni become deeply involved with the organization in different capacities. This could include joining the board of directors, volunteering, chaperoning on tours, and organizing special events. 

Rusalka’s foundation has been built on the commitment and love of Ukrainian dance and culture. The many hours of volunteer work put in by Rusalka alumni and friends is the backbone of what has been accomplished, and the key to any future development. Rusalka stands firm in its commitment to promoting and preserving Ukrainian culture through dance, just as it has for the past 60 years.

Creative Team
Markian Tarasiuk
Curator/Creative Director

Markian Tarasiuk is a multidisciplinary artist originally from Winnipeg but has called Vancouver, BC, home for the past 12 years. He is now based out of Los Angeles, CA. He is a graduate of the Studio 58 Theatre program at Langara College. 

Markian is predominantly an actor and has appeared on screens and stages across North America. He was nominated for a Canadian Screen award for his work in Christmas Jars (CityTV) and a UBCP/ACTRA award for There’s Someone Inside Your House (Netflix). Markian was a founder of SpeakEasy Theatre (Vancouver) and served as its General Manager for its six-year history (2015-2021). SpeakEasy’s productions garnered critical acclaim and Jessie awards nominations. Markian also produced four instalments of the Pull Festival: Vancouver’s 10-minute play festival. 

When not acting or producing, Markian designs and consults for arts organizations across Canada. His marketing company, The Art Left Creative Group, has built itself as a leading design and marketing agency in the performing arts world. Clients include Bard on the Beach, Carousel Theatre, Green Thumb Theatre, Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, Urban Ink, Touchstone Theatre, and Chai Folk Ensemble to name a few. 

Markian’s favourite design jobs have been the ones he has been able to collaborate with his father, Myron on, including The Legend and Legacy book and the Journey through Ukrainian Dance exhibit. Markian spent four years on and off as a dancer for Rusalka and toured with the ensemble in 2013 to Ukraine. Over the years, he has stayed connected to the group from afar. 

“Being able to explore my Ukrainian heritage and strengthen the relationship with my dad through Rusalka has been one of the greatest privileges of my life.”

Myron Tarasiuk
Project Manager

Myron is one of Rusalka’s original members. Since 1962, Myron has fulfilled many roles within the group: dancer, instructor, choreographer, artistic director, board member, and Alumni Committee chair. There have been many proud moments in Myron’s journey with Rusalka such as sharing the stage with family members, tours with Rusalka, publishing the commemorative book The Legend and the Legacy, and being project manager for this exhibit. 

Myron completed his studies at the University of Manitoba with a Bachelor of Arts degree and a certificate in Education. He began his teaching career at Happy Thought School, Lord Selkirk School Division. It was there that he pioneered a Ukrainian language arts program. Five years later he took a position with the Seven Oaks School Division as a teacher in the English Ukrainian Bilingual program at R.F Morrison School. After 38 years as a public school teacher, Myron retired in 2014. Now, Myron devotes his time and energy to volunteer initiatives — most notably the Rusalka archival project at Oseredok. Myron’s involvement with Rusalka continues to this day.

“You can take the dancer out of Rusalka, but you can’t take Rusalka out of the dancer” is a motto he holds close to his heart.



Curator/Creative Director
Markian Tarasiuk

Project Manager
Myron Tarasiuk

Nicholas Luchak - Area Man Studio

Vincent Rees 
Markian Tarasiuk
Myron Tarasiuk

Ostap Hawaleshka

Orysia Luchak
Simeon Rusnak
Andriana Tarasiuk
Markian Tarasiuk
Myron Tarasiuk

Laryssa Semchyshyn
Shelley Karpa 
Jay Knysh 

Ivanka Waplak

Winnipeg Picture Framing

Leanne Koroscil
Simeon Rusnak

Archival Video Editing
Markian Tarasiuk
Text Panels
Valerii Pasko - Iqonic Design

Collective Broadcast

Knysh Construction Ltd

Rusalka Ukrainian Dance Ensemble Board of Directors
Laryssa Semchyshyn - Chair
Ken Nazeravich - Vice Chair 
Antin Stowell - Treasurer 
Janet Paterson - Secretary
Shelley Karpa - Director
Jay Knysh - Director 
Stacey Kutzak - Director
Fred Mazepa - Director
Christine Preachuk - Director 
Morgan Shipley - Director
Lynda Thompson - Director 
David Turchyn - Director
Dylan Turchyn - Dance Member Liaison


Deborah Capek, Mikhas Chabluk, Don Cilinsky, Evelyn Derlago, Adam Fuga, Jim Hammel Photographer, Shelley Karpa, Jay Knysh, Randy Kohuch, Leanne Koroscil, Walter Kulyk, Orysia Luchak, Taras Luchak, Dr. Brian Lukie, Joanne Malenko, Dr. Patricia Mitchler, Oseredok Ukrainian Cultural & Educational Centre, Merv Pichlyk, Evelyn Piush, Christine Preachuk, Lizanne Roziere-Penner, Simeon Rusnak, Rusalka Ukrainian Dance Ensemble, Sarah Sommer Chai Folk Ensemble - Reeva Neepon, Laryssa Semchyshyn, Andrew Sikorsky Photography, Bob Talbot Photographer, Andriana Tarasiuk, Hannia Tarasiuk, Markian Tarasiuk, Myron Tarasiuk, Lynda Thompson, Orysia Tracz, Ukrainian National Federation - Winnipeg Branch, Ivanka Waplak, Wally Welechenko


Canada Council
Carpathia Credit Union
Knysh Construction Ltd
Manitoba Sport, Culture, and Heritage - Heritage Grants Program
Oseredok Ukrainian Cultural & Educational Centre
Rusalka Ukrainian Dance Ensemble
Shevchenko Foundation
Wasyl Topolnicky Memorial Foundation Inc.
The Winnipeg Foundation

Funder Logos