Obzhynky gives a glimpse of Ukrainian talent and traditions

Adam Breckner (right), a Ukrainian dancer and instructor with Pavlychenko Folklorique Ensemble in Saskatoon, performs at Obzhynky at the Exhibition Centre on Nov. 16, 2019. (Jayda Noyes/Daily Herald)


“It’s just such a beautiful dance to watch—the colours and the excitement and the energy and the music.” – Trena Hoffus-Preston

The Obzhynky festival on Saturday night had hundreds with their phones out to capture Saskatchewan’s Ukrainian talent.

The Prince Albert Barveenok Ukrainian Dance group hosted the 35th annual festival to fundraise and celebrate a successful fall harvest.

The night began with a traditional meal, which included cabbage rolls, perogies and wheat salad.

Once everyone’s stomachs were full, they cheered on both Barveenok and Pavlychenko Folklorique Ensemble (PFE) dancers. PFE is a semi-professional Ukrainian dance group based out of Saskatoon.

There was also a silent auction, children and adult raffles, a balloon pop and a balloon drop.

Trena Hoffus-Preston is the president of the Prince Albert Barveenok Ukrainian Dance group. She said Obzhynky is one of their largest fundraisers, drawing between 400 and 500 people every year.

“It really helps support the dance group and support our new costumes and festival,” she said.

Hoffus-Preston and her two children who dance at the club don’t come from a Ukrainian background. Regardless, they love they excitement that stems from the culture’s entertainment.

“We had some friends that were Ukrainian dancers and we loved to come and watch them dance. My daughters decided that they wanted to try it, so we came on board and joined three years ago,” she said.

“You don’t have to be Ukrainian to enjoy the festivities. It’s just such a beautiful dance to watch—the colours and the excitement and the energy and the music.”

The audience’s energy especially lifted during a humorous performance by PFE dancers filled with spins, lifts and tricks. Adam Breckner was one of the dancers.

He’s been Ukrainian dancing since he was about eight years old.

“For many people, (dancing is) kind of like their first view into Ukrainian culture and it’s a good way to get involved and kind of expand your knowledge on the traditions,” he said.

For his entire life, Breckner has been immersed in the culture. His mom’s family came to Canada from Ukraine, and she got Breckner involved at a young age.

Seven years ago, he started teaching Ukrainian dance at a variety of levels—from age four to 18—whom he said are also involved in Obzhynky.

“It’s really cool to see them involved here, even if it’s just small things like helping out clean up here at Obzhynky or set up,” he said.

“Obzhynky is a great cultural experience. They’ve been doing it for many, many years and I hope it carries on because as you can see, people really enjoy it.”

Hoffus-Preston encourages everyone to try Ukrainian dancing, even if you’re an adult.

“We welcome everybody to come out and try and if not, even come out and see what Obzhynky is about because it’s a fantastic night. You’re not going to forget (it).”

Sponsors for the event included Mann Northway, Beau Lac Funeral Home and the Midtown Community Club.