Marco Levytsky, NP-UN Western Bureau.
A traditional Ukrainian folk song was fused with the Beatles iconic 1967 anthem to the flower power movement to create the Ukrainian Shumka Dancers’ delightful Mosquito’s Wedding (All We Need is Love), which premiered at Edmonton’s Northern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium,
October 5 and 6.
The 50-minute all-ages dance theatre production features a number of insect characters from various “regions” of Ukraine. The dance lexicon, musical compositions, and sets, costumes and props are associated with these ethnographic regions. The theme of the production is poignant, being one of acceptance, diversity, and overcoming stereotypes.
“I can’t think of a timelier message than ‘all we need is love’,” explains Shumka’s Executive Director Darka Tarnwasky. “Acceptance of our differences means celebrating what makes each of us special. Letting go on stereotype means we can all be what we truly are; not what we are expected to be,” she adds.
The story line includes many of the elements present in the whimsical folk song, including the fly-wife who can’t sew, clean or cook (but is most adept at splitting logs), the giant oak and the windstorm (shura-bura) which propels the mosquito forward with great force, but which he ultimately survives, unlike in the song itself.
Considerable imagination went into both the costumes by Anna Ipatieva and sets by Andrii Zlobin, both of Ukraine, which most expressively reinforce the regional Ukrainian character of the piece.
The various insects and anthropoids which populate the cast all have their own characteristics, from the spider-like priest who marries the mosquito and the fly to the vicious cockroaches, dressed in easily-identifiable Russian costumes, who attack the mosquito.
While maintaining deep respect for their heritage, Shumka continually challenges conventional boundaries in order to define the experience of Ukrainian dance in the context of today’s society and Mosquito’s Wedding is yet another example of that mission.
It is a fast-paced and colourful choreographic delight that breaks new ground in Shumka’s never-ending quest to lift traditional Ukrainian dance into another dimension of global artistic expression.
Shumka put on a special production for Ukrainian bilingual students the day prior to its gala premiere, and even prepared a study guide for students to introduce or reinforce our rich Ukrainian culture through a variety of activities, projects and critical thinking opportunities across several curriculum subject areas.
Mosquito’s Wedding is directed by Les Sereda, with consultation by John Pichlyk. Choreographers include Les Sereda, John Pichlyk, Tasha Orysiuk, Paul Olijnyk, and Joseph Hoffman. Music is by Andriy Shoost. Local designers Elijah Lindenberger & T. Erin Gruber, Jeff Osterlin and Randall Fraser, brought their expertise in the area of projections, lighting and puppetry, respectively.