What started as a small group in a church basement decades ago has since become a thriving cultural organization in Saskatoon.
Since 1967, Boyan Ukrainian Dance Association Inc. has been offering Ukrainian dance instruction to local youth ages four to 18. On April 29, Boyan will celebrate its 50th anniversary with an event at TCU Place that starts at 7 p.m.
“What we have tried to do is piece together part of our history with our present, and we found some video footage of dances from many years ago. We’re going to blend that in with our new dances,” said Boyan president Sherry Rawlyk.
“We have tried to get the word out to as many alumni (as possible) — for old board members, parents, dancers, instructors. So, actually, on our committee is one of the first dancers with Boyan — and then she instructed with Boyan — and so it’s been really good to have all this alumni, because there’s all this history. We’ve spent the past almost two years trying to get pictures and information and year-end concert programs and stuff like that, just to kind of put together a little timeline for people.”
The Celebrating 50 Years event will feature performances by Boyan Ukrainian Dance and Boyan’s performing group, Boyan on Tour, as well as guest performances from Yevshan Ukrainian Folk Ballet Ensemble, Lastiwka Ukrainian Orthodox Folk Choir & Orchestra, and Pavlychenko Folklorique Ensemble. There will be a dance and social to follow in TCU Place’s Centennial Hall. The dance will feature music from Half Na Piv, and a midnight lunch will be served. The attire will be semi-formal, with no jeans.
Rawlyk said Boyan’s 176 dancers are set to perform during the evening, including four performances from Boyan’s tour group, which has travelled internationally. She said 50 years is a long time for an organization like Boyan to operate — and it wasn’t always the thriving club that it is today.
“At times the numbers were really small. It was maybe 10 years ago or 12 years ago the club didn’t know if it was going to be around. There was like 40 dancers on record,” she said.
“With something cultural, like probably Irish dancing or Ukrainian dancing, it just depends kind of what’s going on across the province. And I find that right now it’s exciting because all the clubs seem to be doing well, and parents are still wanting to hold onto a bit of that Ukrainian tradition.
“That’s what means the most — is that after 50 years to see a club being stronger than ever. We have more numbers than we’ve ever had, so that’s really nice to see.”
Boyan’s roots go back to 1967, when Rosalie and Joseph Kitz decided to take over a club that was operating out of a church basement. Although the club was doing well at the church, Joseph Kitz had learned that the city would provide grant money for cultural groups such as theirs if they were a separate entity. The club then applied for non-profit status and Boyan Ukrainian Dance Association Inc. was born.
Rawlyk is excited for Boyan’s older alumni to see how the club has grown and evolved over the years.
“They just had this idea that, ‘You know, we just want our kids to dance. Let’s get some teachers and let’s get them dancing in the basement of the church.’ And now we have our own studio and five instructors, and so it’s really kind of incredible. You hope to see that kind of growth continuing.”
Rawlyk, who has three children dancing with Boyan, said groups like the dance association play an important role in keeping parts of the Ukrainian culture alive in Saskatchewan.
“There’s such a richness to Ukrainian dance and there’s so much history and storytelling in the choreography and in the costumes; they’re all very meaningful as far as what region of Ukraine they represent,” she said.
Tickets to the 50th anniversary event are $29 for adults and $12 for children ages 12 and under. Tickets are available through the TCU Place box office by calling 306-975-7799 or by going online to tcutickets.ca. For more information about the event, or about Boyan, visit boyandance.com.