The P. Virsky Ukrainian National Folk Dance Ensemble, also known simply as “Virsky”, will be celebrating its 80th Anniversary in 2017. During its long history, Virsky’s creative artists have enriched Ukrainian culture not only at home, but also abroad. In 2015, the famous Ukrainian choreographer, Myroslav Vantukh marked his 25th anniversary of managing the dance troupe.
Today, the Virsky Dance Ensemble is in its prime, with Myroslav Vantukh actively leading his dancers to improve the company’s professional skills while continuing to create and motivate, and promote Ukrainian choreographic art both in Ukraine and abroad.
Mr. Vantukh, please tell us about your teaching methods at the Virsky Dance School. Also, how do you select your students?
First, I’d like to declare that the Virsky Dance School is our pride and joy, and it is also, undoubtedly, the future of our company. I’m happy about the fact that, along with my wife Valentyna, we founded this school, which today teaches over 300 talented kids. We have a three-tiered system of choreographic studies: school-studio-ensemble. Ten years of study is required at the school before being able to enter the studio, which was created by Pavlo Virsky. Then students continue training at the studio for another two years, before officially dancing with the ensemble.
As to the selection process at the school, the criteria is that a youngster should naturally have some of the characteristics we are looking for, such as the proper foot soles, straight legs, long arms, appropriate development, we even take into account the body frame of his/her parents. What usually happens when we have an opening is that 25 kids immediately target that spot. Our search stops only when we have found the best candidate.
However, what is important is when a student of six years, or a teenage graduate comes to study and work with us, they become a part of our dance family forever, a true patriot, a human being full of motivation and achievements, worthy of their country.
In a few words, what’s your main message representing Ukrainian dance to the world community? Which Ukrainian dance would you compare Ukrainian culture to?
Definitely with the “Hopak.” Naturally, there is something ethnic in each region of Ukraine. For example, the Hutsul region is famous for their “Kolomeykas,” while in Polissya and Volyn, typical dances are called “Krutyak,” “Volynianka,” and so on. Ethnic compositions affect the stylistic features of dance accordingly, as much as the choreography of Ukrainian dance introduces elements of many other nations.
A perfect example of all of this is the “Hopak.” And just recently, Ukraine’s Ministry of Culture held a conference covering that subject, “Preservation and development of national stage dances in regions of Ukraine,” where they spoke specifically about the “Hopak,” as a symbol of Ukrainian choreography.
We set a goal for ourselves, to have the “Hopak” be listed on UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage, registered as an achievement of Ukrainian chorographical culture.
You’ve demonstrated the art of dance in more than 80 countries around the world, and you continue to share your unbelievable expertise and passion. What’s the secret to your success?
Undoubtedly, the main secret of success is hard work. A person can have talent, but not putting in much effort, you won’t get very far in life. I always tell artists that talent multiplied by work will always deliver results. And one more thing, there’s so much information available for us today, where we can constantly learn new things, all you need is to be focused and driven. In art, there’s one standard rule for me, no mediocrity. Creativity is needed especially in cultural dance, in addition to high performance level, elasticity, ease, technique, that’s what our dance group is all about. We have distinct methods in our dance company, our technique stands out. If you don’t know much about Ukraine, go see a Virsky Dance Ensemble performance.
Mr. Vantukh, it’s no secret that you are in great shape, and get up every morning ready to teach a class. What’s the source of your energy and inspiration?
Every morning for the last thirty years, I run at least 10 kilometers. Then I shower and go to work. Today, I’m very happy doing what I love, so, when I walk into a dance studio and see 120 pairs of eyes looking at me, waiting for me and counting on me to teach them, I’m motivated. It’s a great responsibility, and a wonderful feeling to love what you do.
Please share your plans with us for 2016, what creative projects should we expect from the Virsky Dance Ensemble?
We continue to dance for Ukraine and for the world! We have hundreds of requests for performances all over the country. I’m always grateful to our audience for all their love and support. This just goes to show that people want to see our work, because they enjoy it!
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