The Prince Albert Barveenok Ukrainian Dancers Obzhynky Fall Harvest Celebration at the Ches Leach Lounge on Saturday was more than just a celebration and a sold out fundraiser.
For Kaylee Smisko, it was also a homecoming.
Smisko danced with Barveenok for 13 years before joining the Saskatoon-based Yevshan Ukrainian Folk Ballet Ensemble in 2008. On Saturday, the Yevshan ensemble was among the guest performers at Barveenok’s Obzhynky celebration. She said it was great to return home.
“It’s a full circle moment just growing up and performing with this group and then moving on, but always feeling welcome coming home and seeing them,” Smisko said.
“(It’s) very special—a lot of familiar faces. I’m very excited to share my first dance group with my new dance group.”
Smisko said performing with Barveenok helped developed a passion for Ukrainian Dance that continues today.
She moved to Saskatoon for University right after high school and joined Yevshan Ukrainian Folk Ballet Ensemble shortly afterwards. She currently sits on the board for Yevshan, a semi-professional folk ballet ensemble and is the coordinator for performances. That’s the reason the legendary performers came to Prince Albert.
She said Yevshan is doing well after the challenge of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We have the most dancers we’ve had in many years. We have over 30 dancers currently and a lot of performance opportunities like tonight,” Smisko said.
“You meet a lot of people at competitions and you meet all the other dance groups and you form friendships and bonds that are very special,” she added. “Joining a group after you graduate and after you leave Barveenok here allows you to connect with some of those other people.”
Persevering through COVID-19 wasn’t easy. The group’s artistic director taught them multiple new dances over Zoom, an experience Smisko said was crazy.
She said that experience taught her to cherish the ensemble, and club’s like Barveenok.
Saturday’s festival featured a catered supper and performances by Yevshan, the Pavlychenko Folklorique Ensemble and the Barveenok Beginners, Juniors and Intermediates.
As people entered the fundraiser Half Na Piv, who performed for the dance which followed the ceremony, entertained the crowd.
After supper and before the performances deacon Harold Salahub led the audience in a moment of silence for those at war in Ukraine and Israel/Palestine.
Final fundraising numbers were not available by deadline.