During winter break, my cousins and I took a trip into New York City, at the La MaMa Ellen Stewart Theatre, to watch the Yara Arts Group perform Midwinter Night, an Ukrainian concert. Mostly preformed in Ukrainian, with some English translations throughout and a scene or two in Spanish, it really helped to show the diversities and similarities of different cultures that I am familiar with.
Being a Ukrainian group, going into the theatre I expected to not understand anything they were singing or saying and simply absorbing the traditions of the culture, such as I had done in St. Petersburg when we saw the Russian group give a concert. It was nice that they translated some of their songs into English and sang part English, part Ukrainian throughout the songs.
The costumes also definitely helped to infer what was being sang in Ukrainian so that I would understand what was happening. When I saw the headbands and dresses for the opening theme, I guessed that one girl represented the starts, one girl the moon, and the woman the sun. With the English translation halfway through the song, my predictions were proven true. The nativity scene was started with the Three Wise Men. Once they came onto the stage, I assumed they were the three wise men, then when "Kind Herod" asked who they were (in Ukrainian), the leader of the wise men responded (in English) "We are Three Wise Men", again confirming my thoughts. The costumes definitely helped me to understand what was going on. The costume designer did her job very well.
I've been dancing since I was about 4 years old, and being a dancer I could see a lot of the same moves that are still used today in dance styles taught everywhere, even though this concert gave the traditional songs and dances of the Ukraine. It was interesting that a lot of the steps we use today in dancing were preformed so long ago. Third and fifth positions of the feet that are required for ballet dancers today were used, along with the down-down-up combination found in modern and jazz dances. Simple turns and spins, relevés, and contractions were also used. A flamenco dance was performed (in Spanish), incorporating more cultural diversities, making it clear we were in New York.
The show ended by having the dancers select people from the audience to come onto the stage and dance with them. One of the people picked me! I dragged my cousin, Elena, with me and together we danced with the Yara Arts Group. We did some traditional Ukrainian line dances that we were familiar with from weddings, and we spun until we were dizzy. It was so much fun!
When Natalie wanted to take me to see Midwinter Night, I was hesitant at first, but it honestly was so much fun and taught me a lot. It was only available from December 27-30, 2012, but I'm sure there will be many more concerts and plays done by the Yara Arts Theatre, so if you're ever in New York City and want to learn a bit, I would definitely suggest going to the La MaMa Theatre to see if anything is going on. Who knows, you might even get called on stage!