Title of Original Illustration: Cheremshyna Ukrainian Dance Ensemble of Vancouver BC: Commemorative Reunion Celebration
Medium: Graphite and Pencil Crayon
From its inception in 1970 under the direction of John Kaminsky, Cheremshyna celebrated Ukrainian dance and culture for 25 years. As it grew and evolved, many important artistic directors and instructors contributed their talent and passion. The group traveled throughout Canada and the United States, energetically performing in a diversity of festivals and programs, and was strongly associated with Vancouver BC’s Ukrainian dance and multicultural community.
This collage, depicted in the Vancouver, West Coast setting, celebrates the history of Cheremshyna. “Cheremshyna” is Ukrainian for the bird cherry (a European species of the North American choke cherry). The blossoms and cherries are woven with wheat and poppies, both important symbols in Ukrainian culture. With an enthusiasm for storytelling, Cheremshyna became known for its New Year’s Eve theatrical dance performance of the folkloric tale of “Malanka,” the daughter of Mother Earth. The feast of Malanka celebrates her liberation from the Evil One on New Year’s Day, which became an occasion to look forward to a happy and prosperous new year. Men dressed up as bears, Malanka and Vasyl, who would bring along a goat, also in costume, a gypsy, as well as many other characters and musicians. They would parade the streets of Ukrainian villages on New Year’s Eve in celebration.
The symbol that identified the Cheremshyna Dance Ensemble for so many years consisted of two dancers in Poltava costume, framed by three cherries. Cheremshyna’s iconic rushnyk, used for their Pryvit or welcoming dance of bread and salt throughout the years, weaves the images together with vibrant energy.
The camaraderie and long-term friendships that developed over the course of so many years have come together 45 years after it first began, to celebrate Cheremshyna’s colourful cultural history and contribution.