KOLO Dance Show: The Spirit of Modern Ukraine opens at Glendale’s Alex Theater on September 23, 2023 after premiering last December in Florida.

According to its UNESCO designation, “Kolo” is a “traditional, collective folk dance from Eastern Europe performed by dancers who are interlinked to form a chain, usually moving in a circular line holding hands with their arms down. Performed at private and social gatherings, Kolo also is preserved and practiced by cultural societies and folk dance troupes as a symbol of national identity.”

KOLO Dance Show - Photo courtesy of the company.

KOLO Dance Show – Photo courtesy of the company.

Taking the theme of Kolo as a circle connected with national identity, KOLO Dance Show references Ukrainian traditions and today’s dance. The score is derived from that country’s folk tunes and the video screen background projects art produced by Ukrainian artists since Russia invaded Ukraine.  The linkage is also evident in the video preview at the website that opens with female dancers in white with woven leaves in their hair and bare-chested men with scythes. That homage to folkloric roots in the preview as well as in the show, quickly segues to contemporary Ukrainian dance culture that is much more, if not strictly, ballroom. The focus is on smooth gliding couples, fast footwork and breathtaking partnering.  Think Forever Tango more than folksy group dances characteristic of Ballet Folklorico de Mexico or the Moiseyev Dance Company.

Kolo Dance Show Executive Producers Iaroslav and Liliia Bieliei - Photo courtesy of the artists

KOLO Dance Show Executive Producers Iaroslav and Liliia Bieliei – Photo courtesy of the artists.

The endeavor is brought to the stage by professional ballroom dancers Iaroslav and Liliia Bieliei. Both were born in Kyiv before establishing themselves in the world of competitive ballroom dance. Now based in Los Angeles, the pair recruited ten prize-winning ballroom dancers in various genres and present them in more than 20 separate numbers covering the ballroom spectrum.  Launched in Florida last December, this is SoCal’s first look at the show described as “expressing the cultural heritage and spirit of Modern Ukraine through dance.” The show’s score draws on Ukrainian melodies. Arranged by Adrian Hernandez and Scott Arcangel, the soundtrack is available to buy through the website and various platforms. The website previews also capture the eye-popping video artwork projected onto a custom-designed LED backdrop behind the dancing.

Kolo Dance Show - Photo by ©sandrasonik-редакт

KOLO Dance Show – Photo by ©sandrasonik-редакт

Almost all of the ten-member cast are originally from Ukraine and started their ballroom careers there before emigrating to the U.S. and conquering the ballroom world here.

Anastasia Shchypilina and Mykhailo Bilopukhov were part of the All Ukrainian Dance Sport Federation connected with the World DanceSport Federation. They represented Ukraine at major national and international competitions specializing in Latin dance until 2015. Since then, they have represented the U.S. in ballroom competitions.

Kolo Dance Show - Photo by ©sandraonik-редакт

KOLO Dance Show – Photo by ©sandraonik-редакт

Tykhon Zhyvkov and Yana Zhyvkov both came to the U.S. from Ukraine in 2015 and soon switched from Latin to what is known as American Smooth, a style little-known outside of the U.S., but fast increasing in popularity. Until the Russian invasion, the couple frequently traveled to Ukraine to introduce American Smooth to Ukraine’s vibrant ballroom dance community.

Serhiy Averkov and Olena Barna danced in Ukraine before coming to the U.S. in 2014. After time in New York, the couple settled in Los Angeles from where they established a reputation as fast-rising young ballroom competitors. The pairing of the two non-Ukrainians, Craig Smith and Andrea Harvey, brings together the worlds of ballroom and ballet. Craig Smith emigrated to the U.S. from South Africa in 2017 and soon teamed up with Pennsylvania-born, ballet-trained Andrea Harvey who had danced with Orlando ballet. Now based in Florida, the two established their ballroom champion credentials in lift-centric cabaret competitions.

Andrii Voloshko and Kateryna Kyrylenko are another Ukrainian couple who were that county’s 2015 Amateur champions before emigrating to the U.S. in 2016 and racking up wins in competitive ballroom’s Latin category.

Kolo Dance Show - Photo by ©sandraonik-редакт

KOLO Dance Show – Photo by ©sandraonik-редакт

After this SoCal performance, a tour is in the works for New York, Chicago, Washington D.C., San Francisco and Miami.

Details on the performance, tickets, video previews, and the planned tour are at https://www.koloshow.com/

The KOLO Dance Show: The Spirit of Modern Ukraine at the Alex Theatre, 216 N. Brand Blvd., Glendale; Sat., Sept. 23, 5 pm, $55-$165. https://alextheatre.org/event/kolo-dance-show

For more information about KOLO Dance Show: The Spirit of Modern Ukraine, please visit their website.

Written by Ann Haskins for LA Dance Chronicle.

Featured image: KOLO Dance Show – Photo by ©sandraonik-редакт