Barveenok Dance Club to be inducted into Prince Albert Arts Hall of Fame

A long-time fixture on the local cultural scene is headed to the Prince Albert Arts Hall of Fame.

The Prince Albert Barveenok Ukrainian Dancers have hosted two of the city’s biggest annual cultural events while entertaining audiences across Western Canada. Now, they’re headed to the Arts Hall of Fame as the lone inductees for the class of 2020.

“(We’re) just extremely elated and humbled,” said Tony Pellerin, the club’s information, publication and social media director. “Our club’s a 43-year-old club, and we’ve been recognized in various facets with different accolades, but this one ranks right up there for our kids, (and) not just for our current generation.”

Since their creation in 1978, the Barveenok Ukrainian Dance Club have been a community-minded organization, and a fixture at local festivals and events. That includes everything from large gatherings like Tapestrama and the Prince Albert Exhibition Parade, to regular appearances in Prince Albert care homes.

Pellerin said they community has been kind to them over the last four decades, and they’ve tried to return the favour.

“It’s important to give back,” he said. “The community has given us so much. Whether it’s through our Obzhynky (Harvest Festival) or our festival, this is our way. We dance as a way to give back.”

Prince Albert arts board member Cara Stelmaschuk said choosing the club was an easy decision. The group’s community involvement and large number of appearances made them great community representatives, she explained.

“They’re prolific,” she said with a chuckle during an interview on Monday. “If there’s a chance to entertain people, you can count on the Barveenok Dancers being there. They’ll perform for care homes. They’ll do the exhibition parade. They’ll be there.”

Stelmaschuk isn’t a dancer, but she is related to a few. A niece and nephew are two of the roughly 60 dancers who currently perform with the club. She’s always been impressed with the endurance and commitment of the club’s performers, along with the ability of the instructors to get the most out of their charges.

“There’s an incredible amount of confidence (Ukrainian Dance) can instil in kids,” she explained. “I think it’s a team building skill just as much as a sport.”

Although the annual induction ceremony typically isn’t held until the end of September, the arts board has already decided to cancel it. Stelmaschuk said they expect around 180 people would want to attend, and unless all COVID-19 restrictions are lifted, they won’t be able to accommodate that many attendees.

Instead of forcing some people to skip the event, they’ll postpone it until next year, when they jointly honour the Barveenok dancers with next year’s inductees.

While the club is disappointed, Pellerin said it will only make the celebration that much sweeter when it comes.

“It’s something we can look forward to and anticipate,” he said.

The Prince Albert Barveenok Dance Club started in 1978 after a group of parents banded together and applied for grants to send four local students to Saskatoon for an instructor’s course. Nellie Bachek was the club’s first president. They chose the club’s name from a type of ground cover used in Ukrainian ceremonies.

The club eventually started its own Ukrainian dance festival, which is in its 34th year. They’ve also hosted their annual Obzhynky (Harvest Festival) for the last 25 years.

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