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“Oh You’re Ukrainian –Who do you dance for?” The Joys of growing up as Non- Ukrainian Dancer in a Ukrainian Canadian Community

Posted on 29 February 2016

If I had a Hryvnia for every time I was asked “who do I dance for?” I swear I could refinance Ukraine’s future!   Seriously, what is with the need to assume I must be a dancer if I am Ukrainian?  Don’t get me wrong – I love the art of Ukrainian dance. I always boast that I think it is the BEST ethnic dance in the world ( it is! ) and am always up front and center cheering those I know on at their performances or Kolomeykas.  And yes, I wish I could dance! Believe me, it isn’t pretty! I have no coordination, even in my gym class I am confused with the “choreography” of lifting weights to timed music ”. It’s embarrassing , I know, but I have accepted it.  Do I want to get out in the middle of a Kolomeyka? Heck Yes! Would I? Hell NO! I’ll leave that to the brave and professionals. (Besides I am a really good side line clapper!)

When I am being asked this question I find myself digging up a small and very distant past memory of me Ukrainian dancing when I was about 6 or 7 when we first moved to Canada. It was really insignificant and I can’t even remember how long I did it for. My answer is typically along the lines of “No, I am not a dancer, BUT BUT BUT (BEFORE YOU LOOK DOWN ON ME),  I did dance when I was about 7 for a little bit!” saying this with a trusting smile as if I am having to prove my validity to some stranger of my Ukrainian heritage.  Even Ukrainians from Ukraine understand this as majority of them do not Ukrainian dance! (Although not speaking the language fluently is a big flaw to them which is a Whole other blog! )

Why is there a certain need to have to belong to a Ukrainian dance group for me to find my place within my community? I fundraise for Ukraine, I volunteer at Ukrainian events, I donate my personal funds to Ukraine,  I am a member of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress, I co-own the beautiful online Ukie Boutique (Check it out at www.ukieboutique.com ;)  ), I have a Tryzub Tattoo on my wrist (Shocking!), I went to Zeleny Hai Camp, Ukrainian was my first language, I have family in Ukraine, I have travelled to Ukraine on numerous occasions, I don’t like Kutya but I’ll eat it, I have a tato named Bohdan, A chocha named Slava, A brother named Maskym, I celebrate most traditions, I am passionate about my Ukrainian heritage and the list goes on and on ….

Look, I understand that dance has played a significant part of preserving our heritage along with other continued customs and this is super! I want it all to continue and thrive and I will always be a huge advocate for these traditions to continue. I am just saying that although I do not dance, I still contribute to my community in many ways, even just by attending and supporting these events. THAT should be enough for me to prove my love for my heritage.  Dobre?  

So next time you catch yourself speaking to someone of Ukrainian roots, remember that not everyone was or is a dancer, and that, is ok.

So I am ending this by proclaiming that I, Emma Nahaylo-Surkan am a PROUD UKRAINIAN CANADIAN NON UKRAINIAN DANCER and will continue my passion for my heritage in my own ways.

Rant over.


Emma xoxo

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