2 brothers join efforts to bring more than 100 dancers on stage in Calgary to support Ukraine

More than 100 dancers from junior ensembles across Alberta will hit the stage in Calgary Saturday night in a show of solidarity for Ukraine.

The show, BRAVO!, was organized by Vasyl Kanavets, artistic director of Vykrutas Ukrainian Dance Society in Calgary, to raise money for humanitarian aid in Ukraine. 

“What we will do in our show, we will try to show how good our dances are,” said Kanavets.

“Lots of different regions, lots of different variety of dancing.”

In addition to Vykrutas, there will be performances from Alberta dance groups Cheremshyna, Chumak II, Studia Shumka, Yalenka Ukrainian Dancers, Barvinok Ukrainian Dance Society, Junior Tryzub, Troyanda Ukrainian Dancers and Polanie Polish Folk Dance Ensemble. There will also be singing by Ukrainian-Canadian Mezzo-Soprano Stephanie Romaniuk and Ukrainian-Croatian Soprano Slava Sles with accompaniment from pianist Todd Adams.

Dancers with Vykrutas, pictured performing at the Calgary Dance Stampede, will be performing at the BRAVO! show. (Submitted by Ukrainain Dance Society)

This is the second time Kanavets has organized the show, the first time was in 2020 before the pandemic hit.

However, he wanted to bring it back again to show support for his home country of Ukraine after Russia invaded in February.

“This is a show for everybody. We would like to stand up and show our culture. We are not afraid. We would like to tell everybody, ‘people pay attention.’ What’s happened in Ukraine could happen to anybody,” he said.

“We need to be together. Solidarity it’s very, very important at this moment.”

Both Vasyl and his brother Mykola Kanavets grew up in Kyiv, Ukraine and moved to Alberta in the 1990s to teach Ukrainian dance.

Mykola, who is the artistic director of the Cheremosh Ukrainian Dance Society in Edmonton, is bringing his junior dancers between the ages of 11 to 17 to perform in the sold out show.

Dancers with Cheremshyna will be performing in the show BRAVO! Saturday night. (Submitted by Mykola Kanavets)

These past few months have been tough for both brothers who still have cousins and relatives living in Ukraine.

“It’s very difficult,” said Mykola.

He remembers vividly the moment Russia first struck Kyiv with missiles two months ago. He was at rehearsal with his dancers when he heard the news.

“I said, ‘I’m sorry, I can’t do anything because it’s in my city. I grew up there, I was born there’,” Mykola recalled.

“I couldn’t believe it…This was very hard.”

Since then, Mykola has been helping support family members trying to come to Canada and Vasyl has taken in a mother from Ukraine and her two daughters who were forced to flee.

Our passion for our culture will be forever.– Mykola Kanavets

Both brothers have been hard at work in the studio with their dancers preparing them for upcoming performances, including this show.

“We have to show the whole world how we stay with Ukraine,” said Mykola.

He says dancing can be used as a weapon to preserve culture.

“We will show the world how strong we are.”

For Vasyl, who remembers living in Ukraine and voting for the country’s independence during the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, it’s a bit surreal to see his home country once again fighting to remain free.

“We decided we have to do something,” he said. 

“The show is sold out and we are very proud.”

More than 500 people are expected to be in the audience at the University Theatre at the University of Calgary Saturday evening. Tickets are also available for people to watch the show online. 

Net proceeds from tickets will be donated to the Cobblestone Freeway Foundation and Canada-Ukraine Foundation.

“Our passion for our culture will be forever,” said Mykola.

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