Shumka celebrates 50th with belated tour across Canada

It’s a once in an 11 year opportunity—that’s the last time the Ukrainian Shumka Dancers came through our town.

It’s a once in an 11 year opportunity—that’s the last time the Ukrainian Shumka Dancers came through our town.

The popular Shumka dancers are in Kelowna next week and the troupe’s artistic director says people all over the world now vie for a chance to see them perform.

“Riverdance is the Irish Dance and now people know Shumka is the Ukrainian,” said Shumka artistic director Dave Ganert, noting how popular the dance troupe has become.

Started in 1959 by Chester Kuc, the Edmonton-based dancers have performed with big stars like opera singer André Bocelli and actor Julie Andrews and frequently tour internationally, including long stops in China to fill 3,000-seat venues.

And yet a cross-Canada tour has eluded them for more than a decade.

All that changes Monday when Kelowna hosts the kickoff of the group’s Canadian tour.

The Shumka are well-known for their distinctive storytelling style so the show promises both the grace and athletic artistry of breathtaking dance, along with a taste of Ukrainian culture.

“We do story theatre in a more modern, contemporary sense,” said Ganert, who says the topics he chooses reflect a sense of life as it is today.

Pathways to Hopak, for example, explores a life journey from a child growing up and carefree, to finding love, dealing with the trials and tribulations of life that adulthood brings and finally, through a new life being born.

The number will mark the second act in the two-hour show which begins with an exuberant Harvest Angels number celebrating the harvesting of cultures from four regions of the Ukraine.

In the second number, the 45-member troupe moves into a more humorous performance with The Cobbler’s Promise as the audience finds a young cobbler who has overextended his commitments to a few special ladies.

The evening wraps up with the Ukrainian version of a Midsummer Night’s Dream, called The Eve of Apollo, leaving the audience on a seasonally apropos high-note.

An apt pitchman, Ganert couldn’t resist throwing in his pitch to bring people out.

“It’s a show for all ages and it’s one night only,” he said.

The group marked its 50th year in 2009, but is using this tour to celebrate the anniversary as it did not tour through Canada during its actual anniversary.

For more information on the group see Shumka will perform at the Kelowna Community Theatre on Monday, May 23. Tickets are adults $45, kids/students $25, seniors $35. For tickets call 250-762-5050 or go to

Jennifer Smith is a Capital News reporter.



Kelowna Capital News