Yalenka Ukrainian Dancers Society – School of Dance was the first Ukrainian dance school in Calgary. Its roots date back to the early 1970’s when parents attending St. Vladimir’s Ukrainian Orthodox Church organized dance classes for their children.
Shortly thereafter, in 1980, the group was named Yalenka, meaning “Christmas Tree”, a name chosen for the vibrant image of enthusiastic children dancing together around the yuletide symbol. This image is presently depicted in the Yalenka logo.
On February 22, 1985, Yalenka Ukrainian Dancers Society was incorporated under the Societies Act of Alberta with the objectives:
- To support and promote Ukrainian dancing and spread this aspect of Ukrainian Canadian culture to all ethnic groups within the Canadian mosaic; and
- To be an autonomous non-profit organization and encourage the closer association of all persons of Ukrainian extraction.
On July 16, 1997 Yalenka members voted to have the name of the school changed to Yalenka Ukrainian Dancers Society – School of Dance.
The goal of Yalenka Ukrainian Dancers Society continues to be “to teach Ukrainian dance skills in an environment that promotes commitment, self-confidence and the enjoyment of the Ukrainian Heritage”.
Throughout the years, Yalenka’s students have mastered and performed a variety of Ukrainian dance styles including Poltava, Hutzul, Bukovynian, Volyn and Transcarpathian. An extensive inventory of costumes has allowed the students to vividly and accurately portray these regions. Since its inception, Yalenka’s young dancers have proudly entertained audiences at many local cultural events as well as numerous private receptions. In 1988 dancers performed at the Winter Olympics. In 1991, they performed at the Calgary Winter Festival, the Chinese Spring Festival, the World Cup Bobsleigh Event and at the Variety of Nations. In 1992 they proudly participated in “Glorious and Free”, a celebration of the 100th Anniversary of Ukrainian immigration to Canada. They have also entertained at Heritage Day and Canada Day celebrations.
Trips to Spokane in 1992, Regina in 1995, and Edmonton provided the students opportunities to meet and share experiences with other Ukrainian dancers.
In February of 2006, Yalenka had the honor of performing at the Magic Kingdom in Disneyworld and at Universal Studios in Florida. It is the goal of Yalenka to ensure our dancers experience world travel and share their love of dance with other cultures and countries.
During the summer of 2008, dancers went to Ukraine for an experience of a lifetime. They had the opportunity to perform at Ukrainian Independence Day, at an orphanage and for a small community. The dancers participated in clinics which strengthened and improved their techniques and abilities. One of the greatest opportunities the organization had was to experience the people, the regions, the costumes, and the culture of our homeland.
In 2011, Yalenka dancers participated in workshops in New York. They also had the opportunity to tour and experience the vibrant city. It was in 2016 that the dance group performed at a Ukrainian festival in San Diego. The dance school is currently preparing for a trip to Ukraine in August 2018. It will be during this trip that the dancers will participate in workshops to help improve their skills, as well as experience the culture and heritage of this dynamic country.