Rusalka is mystical, graceful and beautiful.
It is with this ancient Ukrainian folklore in mind that our founder, the late Peter Hladun (2005) named a group of promising young dancers in October 1962. Hand-picked from the Ukrainian National Federation School of Dance, the eager and dedicated students, under Hladun’s watchful guidance, soon developed into one of the most exciting and enticing Ukrainian dance ensembles in the world. The tradition continues!
Rusalka’s rich repertoire is brimming with Ukrainian dances representing a diverse range of that nation’s regions, styles and moods to captivate any audience. World-renowned choreographers such as Anna and Vasyl Kanevets, Roma Pryma-Bochachevsky and Roman Strockij of New York, Markian Komichak of Pittsburgh, Valery Debelly from Kyiv, as well as Olha Dvorovenko and Petro Nebrosky from the Veryovka Dance Ensemble, have all left their mark on Rusalka and its extensive collection of dances.
From its Winnipeg roots, Rusalka has expanded its horizon to reach out to an ever-widening audience. Major tours throughout Asia, Europe, North America, and Ukraine, and performances for heads of state and royalty, have placed Rusalka among the most widely recognized Ukrainian dance groups in the world.
Internationally Rusalka has performed with rave reviews at the Mundial Festival in Guadalajara, Mexico in 1972 and at the International Festival of Youth Orchestras in London, England, Aberdeen, Scotland and Rome, Italy in 1973, 1979 and 1982. Rusalka returned to warm crowds in Aberdeen in August 2006.
In 1979, Rusalka became the first Ukrainian Canadian dance ensemble to visit Ukraine and study under Veryovka Ukrainian Dance Ensemble of Kiev. Rusalka returned to Ukraine in 1991 and again in 2001 as the dancers performed in Ukraine’s 10th Anniversary of Independence celebrations in Kyiv and Lviv.
In 1982, its 20th anniversary year, Rusalka gave a command performance and was granted a private audience with His Holiness Pope John Paul II (1920 2005) at his summer residence outside of Rome. In 1986, Rusalka embarked on an ambitious and highly successful tour of the Orient including shows in Japan, Taiwan, Thailand and Hong Kong.
The ensemble carried the spirit of Manitoba as it toured North America extensively. Tours to Newfoundland in 1971, Nova Scotia in 1975, the Montreal Olympics in 1976, Toronto and Hamilton in 1985, and Vancouver for Expo ’86 have all helped raise the profile for Rusalka in Canada. In 2004, Rusalka was the headline performer at the Bloor Street Festival in Toronto and has also participated in festivals in Edmonton and Saskatoon. At shows in Disneyland, Las Vegas, Chicago, New Orleans, New York, and Detroit they have always been crowd favourites.
In 1977, Rusalka became the first amateur dance group to share the stage with Canada’s Royal Winnipeg Ballet. Rusalka again showcased their dancing versatility in a performance with the RWB in 1999 in their production of Swan Lake. Rusalka’s ability to entertain audiences of all ages and cultural backgrounds was proven again when the dancers performed Hopak for a Winnipeg Blue Bomber half-time show in 1999, stopping the audience in the aisles.
One of the highlights of the 2006 artistic year in Winnipeg was the premier of The Legend of the Rusalka, Rusalka’s most ambitious project to date. The Legend of the Rusalka was a collaborative production with The Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra, featuring classical and ethnic dance, music and song. This was a unique Canadian product, showcasing the extraordinary talents of Winnipeg’s arts community to Canada and the world. Choreographed by Anna and Vasyl Kanevets, the suite explored the folklore behind Rusalka’s mythical namesake.
Rusalka has also acted as an ambassador for Winnipeg, Manitoba and Canada on several occasions. The Ensemble was the official gift from Canada to the city of Chicago for the American Bi-Centennial celebrations in 1976, and it represented Winnipeg while visiting the sister city Setagaya, Japan in 1986.
In August 2006, Rusalka returned to warm crowds in Scotland to perform at the Aberdeen International Youth Festival. This festival included 10 days of stunning entertainment, music, theatre and dance celebrating the best youth talent from all over the world. As one of the main headliners, Rusalka was featured on banners, newspapers, and postcards all over Scotland. Rusalka had the opportunity to perform The Legend of the Rusalka for the first time overseas for an enamored international audience.
In 2007, amidst a devastating earthquake in Peru, dancers once again enchanted audiences at the XIV International Festival of Folk Dance” in Trujillo, Peru. The Ensemble was named Festival Ambassadors. Rusalka also became a local spokesperson for the tragedy in Peru, encouraging the Winnipeg community to raise funds for aid in Peru.
The spirit that was the inspiration for its founding is still alive today, helping to ensure that Rusalka remains an integral part of the arts community, in our city, our province, and on the world stage!