Control in Ukrainian Dance
By Dick Oakes
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Control is a most important consideration in the dances of the Ukraine. While this is true to a great extent in all nationality dances, many folk dances leave a little "wobble" room. The dances of the Ukraine leave little of this.
The toe in most steps is extended or pointed but not so much as to stiffen the entire leg into "shakiness." The leg itself is rotated outward when extended above the floor and is many times slightly bent at the knee. The Ukrainian dances are primarily leg and footwork dances but when body, arms, and head are used, they are used with the same control as in the legs and feet.
Body carriage is as important in the Hopak as in the Flemenco, although extreme rigidity is the exception rather than the rule. A high chest, raised chin, and pleasing smile are essentials. The arms, while used more for balance by the men, serve an even greater function for the women by holding down beads, skirts, and over-anxious partners.
Control of head and face are just as necessary in folk dancing as the rest of the body. One problem seems to be the lack of ability of the cheek muscles to krinkle the corners of the mouth upward. This gives your partner the feeling that you are dancing for, by, and with yourself, particularly if you are constantly looking at your feet, your partner's feet, other couples' feet, the audience (whoever they may be), or what have you, and never at your partner.
Two smiles by one couple puts that couple many notches higher on the enjoyment scale, couple-wise, group-wise, and audience-wise. Smile, and your partner smiles with you; frown, and your partner will also; cry, and you have no partner.
And, in conjunction, there is one more area of control not usually associated with folk dancing, the lack of which sometimes even retards folk dancing. This is the control of emotional displays of bad temper and deep discouragement.
Have you ever tried to be angry or even discouraged while smiling? Try it! You'll be happy that you did!
UKRAINIAN NAMES FOR VARIOUS STEPS
BELL STEP (PDB kick to side)
BELL STEP (with high knees)
BUZZ TURN (individual)
CROSS-KICK-PDB (to side)
KNEE-KICK-PDB (with high knees)
LUNGE STEP-PDB (with high knees)
PDB-KICK (moving backward)
PDB TURN (couple)
TOE-HEEL STEP (double)
TOE-HEEL STEP (double)
KOZACHE MERIASHKA (M only)
KOZACHE VEHENENYA (M only)
KOCACHE VEPAD (M only)
KOLESENYAM (W only)
PODVENY DETORKANYA (W)
PODVENY VEXHOLYASNEK (M)
PRESCHIDS (M only - see SQUAT-KICK)
SQUAT-ASTRIDE (up to heels)
SQUAT-KICKS (to one side)
SQUAT-KICKS (alt. irreg. to sides)
SCHUPAKS (M only - remaining low)
SQUAT-KICKS (remaining low - basic)
SQUAT-KICKS (with foot-slap to floor)
SQUAT-KICKS (with circular side sweep)
SQUAT-KICKS (both heels to one side)
Copyright © 2011 by Dick Oakes