Kalyna Ukrainian Dance Festival

Yorkton bustled with dancers from across the prairies on April 29th through May 2nd. The Kalyna Dance School of Yorkton hosted its 9th annual dance festival, attracting crowds that overflowed the Anne Portnuff theatre.

"We've grown past more than just the city limits and province wide-we're international now," said organizer Larry Kitchen. This year the Kalyna dance group was approached by Virsky, the national dance company of the Ukraine.

Virsky National Dance Company heard about the Kalyna dance festival, and booked a tour date in Yorkton for October 20th.

Kalyna's dance festival is currently the largest. "We've got 28 groups and over 800 competitors," said Kitchen. In comparison, Regina's festival hosted nine groups and Prince Albert had 11 groups.

The Anne Portnuff Theatre, where spectators watched four days of competition, could seat 700-and often did.

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"We just want to encourage and promote the Ukrainian culture through our dancing," said Kitchen. "The kids have practiced from early September until now and they want to strut their stuff."

Volunteers helped the event run smoothly, from helping prepare Ukrainian dishes in the cafeteria to welcoming guests at the admissions table. A total of 37 local families and an additional 20 past members showed up to support the festival.

"It's a big fundraiser for our group, but also for the city. All the motels are booked." Kitchen said they are planning a big festival for next year-their 10th anniversary-and expect to arrange for extra lodging.

"We have such a strong Ukrainian background in the area." The culture is transparent in the dancing, as dancers have either homemade or imported costumes.

When the festival came to a close on Sunday, the audience was spilling into the aisles and their cheering sounded clear over the traditional Ukrainian music. It might have been a competition, but it was a fun one.

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