San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Ensemble Brings Cultural Diversity

CANADA’S Verkhovyna Ukrainian Song and Dance Ensembleis scheduled to perform “Rhythms of the Soul,” a unique celebrationinspired by the diversity of Ukrainian culture, while focusing on theuniversal theme of rhythms.Woven together with spectacular dancing, traditional music,song and multicolored costumes, this breathtaking show can be seenat the Tamarindo Diria Amphitheater tomorrow, and in San José atthe Melico Salazar Theater Tuesday and Wednesday.The Verkhovyna Choir and Dunai Dancers are composed of 65talented performers ranging from 16-60. “Rhythms of the Soul”expresses the traditions, rituals and folklore of the Ukraine’s manyregions.Act I celebrates the seasons in a fusion of dance and music –from a winter scene with carolers, to spring and summer when ayoung man’s fancy turns to love, and culminating in the gatheringof the harvest’s bounty and a festive wedding.Act II represents the vigorous distinctiveness of Ukrainian danceand music that is also influenced by bordering nations. For the finale,the ensemble performs the unforgettable Hopak, an extraordinarycombination of color, gracefulness, athletic feats and an explosion ofsong that organizers say will leave the audience flabbergasted.THE Verkhovyna Choir and Dunai Dancers are part of the culturalarm of the capital of Alberta, Edmonton’s Ukrainian YouthAssociation. The choir, founded in 1959, was originally a femalevocal ensemble, but in 1976 became a mixed choir and remains sotoday, while the dance group has been performing alone, or togetherwith the choir since 1974.Verkhovyna has enraptured audiences throughout NorthAmerica and even Brazil. Costa Rica seems an unlikely destinationfor them to choose. However, thanks to Larissa Banting’s and herCosta Rican husband Roberto Leiva’s dedication, the tour, whichhas taken one year to plan, is now in place.Banting, a professional dancer, danced her first solo when shewas 4.“My mother taught Ukrainian dancing and would take me to herclass. It became an integral way of life for me,” she said.Her degree in dance led her to research Ukrainian dance, performwith the Canadian National Folk Ensemble and for 13 yearswith Edmonton’s Ukrainian Shumka Dancers.THE Verkhovyna Choir and Dunai Dancers are composed ofpeople who are interested in preserving the heritage, culture andancestral traditions brought to Canada by the large number ofUkrainians settlers. Most members of the Choir and Dunai Dancershave other jobs, but find time to rehearse at least three times a week.“Nobody gets paid for their talents,” Banting said. “It’s the passion,and the love of what they’re doing that drives them.”The elaborate costumes, many costing more than $1,000 aremade and hand-embroidered by family members and friends. Whenthey go on tour, group fundraising and some of the box-officeincome helps, but the rest of the expenses are paid out of the performers’ pockets.Banting and Leiva are not onlyorganizing the performances in SanJosé and Tamarindo, but have alsoset-up outreach programs. Membersof the ensemble will perform minipresentations at various schools,including in Quepos, on the centralPacific coast, and Arenal, in north-centralCosta Rica.They will also conduct a danceworkshop with the National DanceCompany and a choral workshop atthe University of Costa Rica.Verkhovyna will leave a legacy totheir host country through a donationto the Melico Salazar Theater of amuch-needed dance floor worth thousandsof dollars, which they’re bringingwith them.“The Ministry of Culture isdelighted,” Banting beamed. “We’vebeen working round the clock to findsponsors.”THEY acknowledge the cooperationof the Melico Salazar Theater,Canadian Embassy, Hotel Presidente,Hotel Tamarindo Diria, Latitudes –the Adventure Company and TherapyOne, who is providing the service of amasseuse.Don’t miss this enthralling entertainmentsuitable for all ages. Ticketsare on sale for the San José performancesat the Melico Salazar Theatreand Banco Promérica.Prices start at ¢4,000 ($9). Ticketsfor the Tamarindo performance areavailable at the Tamarindo Diría. Allshows at 8 p.m.For more info, contact LarissaBanting 203-5272 or

Comments are closed.