Krista Samborsky has returned
2017 - Yavir - Krista Samborsky

After an absence of four years, Krista Samborsky has returned to Yavir excited to share her vast amount of experience both nationally and internationally; having danced and studied in Canada, the United States and Ukraine. Krista has danced and performed with Yavir, the Kozaks (Toronto), Virsky, Veryovka, Yunist, Horiy Svit (Ukraine) and Ukraina (Chicago).

Krista is passionate about Ukrainian dance and the Yavir community. She envisions seeing Yavir becoming, not just one of the best; but the best Ukrainian Dance company in Toronto.

Catch the Spirit & Passion of Edmonton's Pride
2011 - Yavir - Tamara Tatuch

Coming in on the eve of the school's 50th Anniversary celebration, Tamara Tatuch begins her tenure with extensive experience as a dance instructor and choreographer in the most highly acclaimed groups in both Canada and Ukraine. Her dance training includes Ukrainian, ballet (Vaganova, Cecchetti and RAD) and character. She holds an Honours Diploma in Professional Dance and Dance Education through the Avramenko Institute of Ukrainian Folk Dance. Tamara worked for the Alberta Ukrainian Dance Association organizing workshops, festivals and conferences and has been integral in the development of invaluable resource material for the Canadian Ukrainian Dance Community.

Tamara rolls up her sleeves and enthusiastically teaches with high quality precision and shares her passion for the beautiful art form of Ukrainian dance in imaginative choreography, music and staging that reflects the rich Ukrainian culture and tradition.

Evolving Ukrainian Dance in the Canadian Context
2008 - Yavir - Krista Samborsky

Krista's academic and technical qualifications in dance, and her highly innovative approach to thematic choreography typified her creative contributions to Yavir during her three season tenure. Krista led the school through two Youth Festivals of Ukrainian Dance during that time. Original dances like "Zirka Zabava" -- harkening back to the era in Canada when the Zabava (Social Dance) was the highlight of social events, "Super Taranta" and "Rockin' Dubky", and other choreography set to contemporary Ukrainian music, became audience favourites. Krista demonstrated how Ukrainian dance is evolving in our Canadian context.

Canadian-Ukrainian Spirit
2004 - Yavir - Paul Olijnyk

Paul Olijnyk began his tenure with Yavir in 2004 introducing the Shumka Syllabus for Ukrainian Dance (SSUD). For both the ensembles and the school, Mr. Olijnyk has introduced his signature thematic pieces while augmenting folkloric choreography. Mr. Olijnyk spent part of the summer of 2005 studying dance at the Institute of Culture and Art in Kyiv under Professor S.L. Zubatov, and at the Studio Virsky. He shares his learnings with the dancers of the ensembles and the school to provide a broad spectrum of technique and choreography.

Maintaining our Tradition
2002 - Yavir - Taras Semkiv

In 2002 Taras Semkiv assumed the role of artistic director for the ensemble and school. Drawing on his knowledge of dance from years of performance with the "Yunist" Dance Ensemble of Lviv and the Military Song and Dance Ensemble, Precarpathian Region, he focused on teaching the dancers traditional choreography. With his extensive contacts in Ukraine, Taras Semkiv arranged for the dance school to commission original music which has been added to the precious assets of the school.

Growth to 40 Years
1993 - Yavir - Alexander Nebesny, Director

In 1993 Alexander Nebesny assumed the role of Director. With his extensive choreographic experience, he led the group to new heights in performance. The focus of the school still rested in solid training in folk dance, ballet and creative movement. Performance highlights include the Verkovyna Festival in New York, the Ukrainian Youth Festival in Philadelphia, the International Folk Festival in P.E.I. and the annual Youth Festival of Ukrainian Dance in Toronto. In 1996 Yavir toured Ukraine with performances in Kyiv, Lviv, Ternopil, Chernivtstsi, Khmelnytsk, Kamyanetz-Podilsk and Vinnytsya. While on tour the group had the honour of performing at the celebration of the Fifth Anniversary of the Independence of Ukraine. In 1999 Dnipro Ensemble (the senior ensemble in the dance school at that time) traveled to Ukraine. Trembita Ensemble (the senior ensemble for that time) traveled to Ukraine in 2002. Yavir and the dance school also performed at the 35th Anniversary Concert in 1997, as well as the 40th Anniversary Concert at the Living Arts Centre in 2002.

During Alexander's tenure a number of instructors played key roles in assisting the dancers: Tamara Chandon, Lydia Chopiany, Taras Demerson, Natalia Golimbievskaya, Mark Hrycyna, Julia Krekhovetsky, Stefan Kuziw, Ihor Lytwyn, Maria Nebesny, Olena Nebesny, Tania Nebesny, Paul Olijnyk, Christine Rapa, Slawko Sekunda, Raisa Schnayder, Amanda Shymko, Tanya Shymko, Ola Siatkowski, Walter Teres, Mark Witiuk and Stephanie Woloshyn. Costuming was managed by Danusia Witiuk and Jean Schnayder, and administration was ably carried out by Irene Rapa.

Heart, Soul and Spirit Linked to Ukraine
1985 - Yavir - Reverend Bohdan Hladio & Cathy & Tina Shewchuk, Co-Directors

In 1985 Reverend Bohdan Hladio inspired the group with his devotion to song and dance, rooted in the heart, soul and spirit of Ukraine. It was during his tenure that the Troista Musyka, a group of talented musicians including Alex Fesiak, Ivan Franko, Bill Hawryschuk, Reverend Hladio, Walter Holyk, and Andrea Kiselyk played for the dancers and entertained audiences with traditional music. The dancers learned to sing while dancing, which added a traditional element to performances. Stella Wizniak and Marilyn Siden co-ordinated costuming. Highlights included a workshop with Lev Kertsberg of Pittsburgh.

Perhaps the greatest accomplishment of Father Bohdan's tensure with the group came in 1988 when 20 Yavir dancers traveled to Ukraine to partner with the Halychyna Ensemble of Lviv for two weeks of dance workshops. This immersion into Ukrainian dance plunged the dancers - heart, soul and spirit - into the life and tradition of their ancestors.

From 1991 to 1993 long-time Yavir dancers Cathy and Tina Shewchuk led the dance school. With their Yavir experience in Ukraine, and training with choreographers provided by the Alberta Ukrainian Dance Association at seminars and workshops, the sisters led a home-grown crew of instructors. Lara Babbie, Mike Biljetina, Taras Demerson, Dmytro Dutka, Christine Fodchuk, Larysa Knauer, Stefan Kuziw, Donna Lawryshyn, Andrij Pilkiw, Kathy Slobodian and Christina Yarmol were part of that crew along with teaching assistants Catherine Chemij, David Gludish, Andrea and Olanna Taskey and Stephanie Vaccari. Cathy's goal was to build a structure that would allow promising dancers from the school to continue teaching the art of Ukrainian dance. Nicholai Plechanov, trained in ballet, character and Ukrainian dance, was brought from Lviv, Ukraine to teach the dancers in 1992-3.

Pride in Culture
1982 - Yavir - Danovia Stechishin

Danovia Stechishin undertook the direction of the dance school in 1982, with Evan and Yuri Pawluk, Kathy Slobodian, Darya Sosinsky, Darryl Wizniak and Karen Yarmol as instructors. After consultation with Justyn and Jaroslawa Iwanchuk from the Hutzul region of Ukraine, Wardrobe Mistresses Jennie Richardson, Elsie Schueller, Marilyn Siden and a group of volunteers assembled new Hutzul jackets, and completed Transcarpathian (Zakarpatski) costumes. Danovia's flare for dances of Western Ukraine was enhanced by these costume additions. She introduced new dances such as Rakivchanka, Dubotanetz and Hutzulka. She also instituted workshops for dancers to focus on perfecting their skills.

As director of Yavir beginning 1984, Danovia oversaw performances at the Beamsville Ukrainian Festival, and Ontario Place Ukrainian Heritage Day where Yavir won first place among the Southern Ontario groups competing. Yavir also helped celebrate 25 years of the dedicated service of Right Reverend Mitred Archimandrite John Tataryn.

Technique and Character
1982 - Yavir - Shania Hohol, Yavir Director

In the summer of 1982, the direction of the group rested with Andrij Nahachewsky and Kim Osowetski as the group waited for the arrival of its new directors. Andrij and Kim conducted workshops and introduced a more stylized form of Ukrainian dance.

When Shania Hohol became the choreographer, she stressed technique and character in Ukrainian dance, and reinstituted ballet to develop these skills. A dance committee was formed with Jeffrey Hlynski as chair, Ernie Antoniw as co-chair, Elsie Yarmol as director, Michael Neprily as treasurer, Laurie Iskiw as public relations and booking co-ordinator, Ron Demeda as musical director and Elsie Schueller as costume co-ordinator.

Concerts during this period included Victoria Day Celebrations, Harbourfront, CHIN Concert, Ontario Place-Ukrainian Heritage Day and the Stroud Polka Festival.

Dedication and Growth
1973 - Kolomaya Dancers & St. Demetrius Dancing School - Bob Wojcichowsky, Director

Bob Wojcichowsky directed the dance school and the Kolomaya Dancers with his wife Oksana, Hanya Bratisiuk, Terry Gula, Debbie Mazurenko, Paula Yarmol, and later, Janice Gula, Theresa Melnyk, John Nestor and Karen Yarmol. He devoted eight years to choreographing and teaching the growing numbers of students. Some of the most significant moments in the history of the school and the performing group occurred during his tenure.

In 1973, the dancers provided the entertainment for St. Demetrius Church's first Caravan Multicultural Festival Pavilion - Kolomaya. Thus the new name, the Kolomaya Dancers, was conceived. The pavilion won the Zena Kossar Award for "Best Overall Pavilion" in that year.

The dancing school was divided into four groups according to age and ability. The tradition of year-end concerts continued, but the more advance students performed at Caravan, Kipling Acres Nursing Home, Sherway and Yorkville Shopping Centres, the Canadian National Exhibition and many other venues in the city.

Over the years the Kolomaya Dancers became more skillful and drew additional members from the dance school. The group raised funds for studio mirrors that were installed in the Youth Centre. The same mirrors are still used in the newer studio today.

In 1980 the Kolomaya Dancers adopted a new name, the Yavir Dance Ensemble, to represent the Canadian-Ukrainian duality of its members. Yavir, the Ukrainian word for maple, represented the dancers' pride in their Canadian-Ukrainian heritage.

The group expanded its repertoire to include a Hutzul folk orchestra and vocal pieces performed by some of the dancers.

Yavir was selected as the Canadian representative for international festivals in the Belgian towns of Jambes and Mechelen. For the tour, the ensemble supplemented its repertoire with Acadian and French-Canadian step dances. With their enthusiastic performances, the dancers were well received at the festivals.

In 1981, due to construction at St. Demetrius Church, the ensemble left it usual Caravan home of Kolomaya to perform at the Odessa Pavilion.

In July, the ensemble performed at the CHIN/MOLSON Folk Competition on Centre Island and capture the $1000 first prize for the second time in four years.

In the fall, Yavir joined the Canadian-Ukrainian Opera Association and the Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra for the stage production of "Zaporizchian Cossack Beyond the Danube", at Hamilton Place and the O'Keefe Centre (now Hummingbird Centre). Difficult choreography and fully orchestrated music demanded the complete dedication of each dancer.

During this period the group introduced "Me Z Ukrainy - We are from Ukraine", the Weaver's Dance, Harvest Dance, Shawl Dance and Mannequin Dance. Helen Gula devotedly searched for new fabrics for the required costumes and painstakingly assembled enough wreaths for each female dancer. She conscientiously adjusted costumes before the dancers went on stage. Michael Neprily managed the group's financial matters. Live dance music for Yavir was provided by various groups including Ron Cahute, Bohdan Skalij and Danny Stolarchuk, and the Caravan orchestra led by John Lockwood.

New Leadership
1972 - St. Demetrius Dancing School - Sam Dzugan, Director

In 1972 Sam Dzugan taught the dancers, stressing precision and unity. The annual concerts moved to the auditorium at Richview Collegiate. Anne Hlynski, Marion Melnychuk and Elsie Yarmol braided wool for Hutzul headpieces and painstakingly assembled Hutzul jackets. They somehow acquired postoly (leather slippers), and sharavary (boys' pants) before any costuming was available from Ukraine. Seven girls and boys proudly wore what they saw as strange costumes for the final concert in 1972.

Expanding the Repertoire
1965 - St. Demetrius Dancing School - Mykola Baldecky, Director

Mykola Baldecky and his two daughters Maria and Elaine, taught the quickly growing numbers of children from 1965-1971. Costumes for the boys' Kozak dance, the Chumak, and the Hopak, where the older girls first wore Zhupany (women's vests), were sewn with the assistance of Marion Melnychuk and Elsie Yarmol. Every Saturday after Ukrainian school, the children walked from All Saints School to the St. Demetrius Hall for dance classes. They anticipated with excitement, performing for their parents and grandparents on Mother's Day. Mykola Baldecky recalls many concerts at St. Demetrius where the biggest supporter, Father John Tataryn, helped by hanging guests' coats in the cloakroom.

Ballet and Folk Dance
1964 - St. Demetrius Dancing School - Gwen Truss, Director

In 1964, the direction of the school rested in the able feet of Gwen Truss, with the help of her husband and two sons. With her extensive background in ballet, she taught the children grace and poise, which enhanced their folk dancing. The children clutched wooden chairs that served as makeshift barres while parents watched through the narrow windows in the doors of the Youth Centre. Highlights during Mrs. Truss' tenure included the annual Mother's Day Concerts at St. Basil's College and Sviachene dinners. Perhaps most important to the older dancers were the red vinyl boots purchased by the dance committee to adorn their enthusiastic feet. Ella Manasterski and Theresa Worobey assisted parents in making costumes.

Humble Beginnings
1962 - St. Demetrius Dancing School - Morris Lewicky, Director

The Yavir School of Dance has come a long way since the first practices held in the basement of Maurice and Slava Pastyr's home in the fall of 1962. Morris Lewicky, the original choreographer and instructor, remembers moving to St. Josaphat's Hall to prepare for the opening of St. Demetrius Church Hall in the fall of 1963. Twenty-one children arrayed in costumes meticulously sewn and embroidered by eager mothers and grandmothers, danced to recorded music and watched their choreographer perform and Old Man's Dance with Gerry Fabian.