'We are stronger together': Ukrainian dancers across Alberta unite for benefit performance

Watch: The atrocities unfolding in Ukraine daily are hard to witness. Many Canadians feel helpless and heartbroken. But as Jill Croteau reports, a Calgary dance group is taking its talents to the stage in a performance with proceeds going to humanitarian efforts.

The annual performance for the Vykrutas school of Ukrainian dance is taking on an elevated sense of significance.

BRAVO! Ukraine, We Believe in Your Glory! is a benefit fundraiser collaborating with six other dance ensembles for a performance on April 30.

Poster for benefit performance.

Poster for benefit performance.

Jill Croteau/Global News

Vasyl Kanevets is the artistic director for Vykrtuas. He hopes the benefit performance will be a spiritual lift for his home country.

“The Russian federation deny my existence. Russian militants deny my culture, my history. We Ukrainians can stand up for this. This is bravo to show everybody we are stronger when we are together,” Kanavets said.

Vasyl Kanevets, Vykrtuas Artistic Director

Vasyl Kanevets, Vykrtuas Artistic Director

Jill Croteau/Global News

Kanavets will also host three people from Kyiv in the coming days.

“When I immigrated, I made my choice. They have no choice, they just need to go. It’s very very tough,” Kanvets said. “They will be devastated. They need to find shelter and peace.”

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Sibling dancers Stefan and Stefanya Maruschak-Love said they are looking forward to performing.

“I feel most Ukrainian when I’m on stage and you feel the spirit of your people and all people around you. It’s exhilarating, there’s nothing quite like that,” Stefanya said.

“So many groups are coming together to support us so it’s lovely to see,” Stefan said.

Vykrtuas dancers rehearsing.

Vykrtuas dancers rehearsing.

Jill Croteau/Global News

The performance will close with Stephania Romaniuk singing the Ukrainian national anthem.

“Honestly, singing is the only thing that makes sense, everything else makes no sense,” Romaniuk said. “I have felt so much strength and energy from the music we sing.”

She said the anthem has taken on a whole new meaning.

“Now when you sing ‘Ukraine, glory and freedom, they haven’t been conquered,’ or when you sing ‘our enemies will fall,’ these words didn’t have resonance before but now we feel this in our blood and bones.

“Ukraine will survive and we will conquer our enemies and live free on our soil.”

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Calgary charities prepare support for Ukrainians: ‘No one can do this alone’

Romaniuk has a close friend on the front lines in Ukraine and said the two share a love of music.

“My dear friend said, ‘If you don’t ever hear from me again, please keep sending me music.’ It’s all so unjust.”

Jesse Wilms with Polanie dancers, Sophie Partyka and Viktoria Skiba.

Jesse Wilms with Polanie dancers, Sophie Partyka and Viktoria Skiba.

Jill Croteau/Global News

Jesse Wilms is the artistic director for the Polanie Polish Song & Dance Association. Wilms said it’s important to connect with the Ukrainian community.

“They are our neighbors and we are helping out. They would do the same for us.”

“For me, preservation of culture is one of the most important things and are a part of my values,” Wilms said. “If I can help to help them promote theirs, I will do it.”

Tickets are still for sale for the event at 7:00 p.m. at the University Theatre in Calgary

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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