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Meet Maria, Our Ukrainian Dance Teacher

Updated: Dec 5, 2021

Throughout our club's history, we have had many successful Ukrainian Dance Troupes. Maria is our current lead teacher and today we interview Maria to acknowledge her dedication and hard work.


What is your full name?

My name is Maria Holt.

And your Ukrainian name and background?

Marusia Pankiw. Both my sets of grandparents were originally from Ukraine, so my background is 100% Ukrainian.

How long have you been a member of Huddersfield Ukrainian Club?

All my life.


Give us a brief history of your activities at the club when growing up.


We spent most of our weekends at the club. Friday nights was for dancing and Saturday afternoons we attended shkola (school).
We danced at many different events to celebrate our culture and traditions. I took part in concerts where we danced, read poems, sang traditional Ukrainian folk songs and played instruments.
We performed at concerts celebrating Ukrainian Mother’s Day, and famous Ukrainian people such as Taras Shevchenko.
There were also other things that took place throughout the year such as our traditional Ukrainian Christmas meal (sviat vechir), Mykolai, egg painting at Easter (Pysanky) and our famous annual volleyball competition.
It was a good place to grow up, where I made friends for life.



What made you resurrect the dancing troupe?

After speaking to Petro Dorotiak, my fellow committee member and dance partner from when we were children, we decided to start teaching our children Ukrainian dancing, especially as there hadn’t been any dancing at the club for around 25 years.
After some social media advertising, the dance troupe grew very quickly, and I decided to take on the lead teaching role. I am not a professional dance teacher, just someone who wants to pass on what I learnt to the next generation in our community.


How long has it been running and how many children do you currently have?

We-started in October 2019 with just 2 girls. This quickly increased to 3 and then 4 by February 2020. Unfortunately, the pandemic meant that we were unable to dance for several months. Now we are back up and running I have 8 girls and 1 boy.


What kind of dances do you perform?

Traditional Ukrainian dances such as hopak & kolomeyka.

What is your biggest achievement to date?

Our performance at Malanka in January 2020 was a fantastic achievement. The girls had only been dancing for 3 months and they were able to learn and perform a hopak dancing to a live band to an audience of over 100 people. That was just amazing, the reaction of the audience was fantastic.
The group also danced at the annual national AGM in front of representatives from clubs across the UK. Again, an amazing achievement for the group who had not long been back dancing after the pandemic.

What difficulties have you faced?

The pandemic was difficult as it meant that we couldn’t dance and all the dancers just wanted to get back to it. We’ve also faced difficulties in sourcing costumes and footwear as they are not easy to get and are very expensive to buy.

What’s in store for the future?

Hopefully lots more opportunities to perform.

Final message to parents or children who would like to reconnect with their Ukrainian heritage?

Come along and see what’s happening at the club. It’s important to maintain traditions and along the way we are trying to modernise our approach so that people feel they can reconnect.
I think about how proud my grandparents would be to see their great-granddaughter performing dances like I did when I was a child. That makes me feel proud about what we’ve achieved so far.

 

Maria has been a member of Huddersfield Ukrainian Club all her life and so have her family.


She joined the committee in 2019 and not only runs the dancing troupe, but is also a member of the bar sub committee. She is responsible for advising on HR and personnel related matters.


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