On stage, Ukrainian dancers find ‘a way to celebrate, a way to heal’

Yellowknife’s Aurora Ukrainian Dancers hold their yearly recital at NACC this weekend, this time acting as a fundraiser for Ukraine war relief.

The dancers will be joined in their recitals by Bella Beats, CKDance Company, YK Elders Folk Dance Collective and Yellowknife Dance Collective.

Dance teacher Erin Suliak said the fundraiser also represents the Ukrainian dancers’ first performance since the pandemic.


“For people who may not be aware of Ukrainian dancers and what they do, it’s an opportunity for them to learn more,” Suliak said, “and then, at the same time, they know that the cost of their ticket is going towards a good cause.”

A prop for the recital. A traditional Ukrainian welcome is the offering of bread and the sunflower is the national flower of Ukraine
A prop for the recital. A traditional Ukrainian welcome is the offering of bread and the sunflower is the national flower of Ukraine. Photo: Hughie Graham

The theme of this year’s recital is hope.

The conflict “is always in our minds,” said Aurora Ukrainian Dancers’ head instructor, Donna Marie Ouellette.

“This recital is all about celebrating the culture. There are a lot of dances that are fun and lively and energetic, and so it shows that even during times like this, there is space for that.”

One hundred percent of ticket sales from the performances will be donated to the Ukraine Humanitarian Appeal via the Canada Ukraine Foundation and Help Us Help. These foundations provide tactical medical supplies, relocation of vulnerable and institutionalized children, emergency shelter, food security and medical care.


Yellowknife's Aurora Ukrainian Dancers in 2020
Yellowknife’s Aurora Ukrainian Dancers in 2020. Photo: Brent Currie
Yellowknife's Aurora Ukrainian Dancers in 2020
Younger members perform at the 2020 dance recital. Photo: Brent Currie

Uniting dancers from different Yellowknife dance schools this weekend is a way to show others that the community can help by showing up, the two dance teachers said.

The students, said Suliak and Ouellette, are excited to share their culture with Yellowknife residents.

“We have a map in the studio and some of the students will say, ‘Oh, where’s this place? where is that place?’ And we use the map to be able to speak about the different regions of Ukraine and the different types of dance that happen in each region,” said Suliak.

“Some of our kids are of Ukrainian descent so the conflict might weigh on them a bit more. We use dance as a way to celebrate and a way to heal.”


The recital will be held on Friday and Saturday at NACC starting at 7pm. Tickets are $30 and can be purchased online or at the box office.