Virsky!July 30, 2019 in Ukraine ⋅ ⛅ 22 °C
Wow! After staying up for 27 hours straight, boy did I sleep great. I don't think I even stirred once during the night. Apparently Brooke woke up 5:30 AM, wide awake and felt rested. She laid there for the next hour, trying not to disturb me, but was secretly willing me to wake up. I woke up around 6:45 AM (still an hour before the alarm I set) and we headed down to breakfast.
Breakfast was a great European selection of breads, meats, cheeses, fresh fruit and hot selections. There was even hot cabbage rolls! European breakfasts are always so wonderful and fresh!
After breakfast, Shane offered to take us for a quick walk to show us where to take money out and exchange CDN dollars. Took out 5,000 hryvni which was about $250 CDN. We also walked to the supermarket to buy a bunch of bottled water. Then it was back to the hotel to get ready for the Virsky workshop! We actually went down to the lobby early so I could start stretching out the back since I'm a little tight from the day of being on an airplane.
The Virsky studios is literally right across the street from our hotel, so everyone was dressed in dance gear and we walked over. The actual dance studio is on the 3rd floor with a main lobby area that we put our bags in. There was a bit of miscommunication where our group thought we were starting at 9:30, but the actual start time was 10:00 so we had extra time to get ready. Took some photos by the Virsky sign and also did a group message for an alumni wedding that we are missing.
Going into the Virsky studio was quite the experience. The studio is massive, almost 3 times the size of ours and has a full wooden dance floor. The workshop was run by Halyna and Vova, alumni principle dancers in Virsky. We started with a ballet barre warm up. The exercises weren't the most complicated, but they were still intense because the instructors were quite critical. There were many times where they gave us corrections to the entire group for things to focus on.
After a short break (pretty sure so the instructors could have a smoke) we went into center work and technique. I promptly put myself in the 4th line, not 1st but not last (Brooke was 2nd or 3rd line, much more confidence). The exercises were similar to what I have seen in the past, but I always find it tough to figure something out after being shown once (hence the 4th line). After the center work and some cross-floor, they split us into boys and girls and went through more jumping and spinning exercises.
After another 10 minute (smoke) break, we went into combinations. This part the overall consensus was that they seemed to not have a real plan in mind for what to teach. They asked if we knew the Virsky Pryvit which some of us do and it turned into learning the different combinations from the opening of that dance. Brooke and I were able to keep up quite well, but that is because we have done it in big shows from the past few years. However it seemed that the two instructors didn't know the exact intricate details of each combination and I personally would have preferred to learn an excerpt from some other dance that we don't know.
Final thoughts on the Virksky workshop:
-very exciting to dance in the studio where they rehearse
-great experience to learn from two people who performed with them years ago
-it was incredibly hot and I was sweating like you wouldn't believe
-A bit too short and it would have been cool to see part of an actual rehearsal
-FYI they asked us not to post any photos from inside their studio so we will have some cool things to show when we get home
After the workshop we were directed to head back to the hotel and be ready to go in 15 minutes. I don't know if we've mentioned it yet, but our tour is through Cobblestone Freeway so everything is pretty planned and arranged and there are 4 representatives with us as guides. What that means is that we have a schedule to keep and needed to be getting on our way to lunch. Brooke's opinion here was that more time could have been planned so we could have a moment to breathe. Anyways, we had the quickest shower of our life since we were soaked, changed clothes and headed downstairs.
Lunch was at Salo Bar. The pre-arrangement of meals is excellent because we show up and they have everything ready. Lunch was a multi-course meal of a cabbage salad, borscht, meat cabbage rolls, potato pancakes (Dad you would have loved them), and perogies. It was all fabulous and delicious. Also ordered a round of beers with some dancers since we earned it this morning. Halfway through we were told that we were leaving in 5 minutes and we pretty much had a repeat of Nuremberg where I had to finish my beer plus some of the girls'.
The afternoon consisted of memorial sight seeing. First up was the Holodomor Memorial museum. For those that don't know, the Holodomor was a series of famines in Ukraine that were implemented by the Soviet Union in 1921, 1932, 1933, and 1947. The Soviet Union forced Ukrainians to meet unreachable harvest quotas, which meant there was not enough food for the actual people of Ukraine, and millions died of starvation. I was aware of these events but what I didn't know was that the truth was censored for over 50 years. We watched a short 15 minute video and then had a tour of the rest of the museum. I really liked the main memorial called the Candle of Memory which was encased in a metal cross representing how Ukraine was like a prison.
Next we were driven to the World War II memorial. Our guides gave us some background information on when Ukraine entered the war, their roles, and the battle that was fought around the Dnipro River. The main statue was a really tall monument called "Motherland" that was built in 1981. The statue is holding a sword and shield. Interesting facts were that the shield was embellished with a Soviet Union symbol and when Ukrainian government outlawed the symbol it was deemed too expensive to remove. And a myth around the sword was that the sword was cut off so that it would not be taller than the crosses on Valgra Church, who knows if that is true.
We then headed back to the hotel. Brooke stopped off early to go body suit shopping with some girls and was very successful. I went and had a beer in the hotel bar with the guys. Then it was time to head for dinner.
Dinner was a multi-course meal with a small group of dancers / singers performing for us. It was so nice to be performed to for once! The food was delicious and very abundant. Some of the highlights were the potato pancakes (Dad you must be so jealous), grilled beef, and the sour cherry perogies for dessert. The small performing group sang for us and also had everyone come up at different times throughout dinner and do folk dances with them.
Another traditional part of a Ukrainian meal is vodka toasts. The tradition is to do 5 toasts throughout dinner and the toasts are to: 1. The Host, 2. Friends, 3. Love, 4. Parents / Grandparents, 5. Good Health. The restaurant had an incredible cherry vodka that was very easy to go down. The toasts went fairly quickly and then it was custom toasts afterwards. We also can't end on an even number so I think we finished at 13 in total (the pours started to be smaller as the night went on)
Finishing off the night with a drink with the dancers at the hotel bar. Tomorrow is a city tour of Kyiv.