A Chicago Dance School Teaches Kids in Ukraine Via Zoom

The Hromovytsia Ukrainian Dance Ensemble offers children in Kyiv a respite from the grim realities of war.

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Posted in , Apr 6, 2022

A Chicago Dance School Teaches Kids in Ukraine Via Zoom

For forty years the Chicago-based Hromovytsia Ukranian Dance Ensemble has been wowing audiences around the globe with their high-energy performances. The dancers, who combine traditional folk dances with modern music, ballet and jazz, are a crowd favorite at the annual Chicago Thanksgiving Parade, but they have also performed throughout Europe. But right now the group is firmly focused on Ukraine—and how they can help the people there during the Russian invasion.

Many of the dancers have family in Ukraine. They’ve heard first-hand accounts of relatives being displaced and hiding in bomb shelters. They have watched, in horror, news reports of scenes of destruction—schools, apartments, hospitals and homes reduced to rubble.

Their solution: Three days a week, the group holds a remote dance class over Zoom. It’s 9:30 a.m. Chicago time, but it’s 5:30 in the afternoon in Kyiv, the Ukrainian capital, when up to 20 children, aged 6 to 10, start popping up on the screen. Up to three instructors greet each child by name before the 45-minute lesson begins.

Dancer Nastia Lototska told Block Club Chicago that their goal was clear. They want to get these kids, many of who are “hiding in basements from not having the ability to go outside because they might be potentially, God forbid, killed”—up off the floor, dancing and focused on something other than bombs and destruction. “We owe the kids in Ukraine exactly that and more. Anything that we can do, if it’s getting their minds off of what’s their unfortunate reality right now, we’re going to try to do it.”

The Dance Ensemble and school is located in Chicago’s Ukrainian Village. The St. Nicholas Cathedral School recently reported that they have already welcomed several new students who have fled from Ukraine with their families; they expect more. In March, President Biden announced that the U.S. is preparing to receive more than 100,000 Ukrainian refugees.

Lototska told Block Club Chicago that she has extended family in Ukraine, including male cousins who have been drafted by the Ukrainian Army. “We just want to remind people that at the end of it all, innocent kids are involved. And if it were our American kids, we would expect the world to do the exact same,” she said. “That’s why we’re going to continue doing it until something changes over there. And we’re not going to just let our flame burn out, because we can’t. Because if we end this, nobody else will pay attention anymore.”

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