Nicole Bizovie and the Dovbush Dancers

SFU student shares how dancing has kept her grounded in Ukrainian culture and community

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A young Ukrainian dancer is pictured in her colourful traditional dance costume in front of the Vancouver Ukraine Cultural Centre building
Nicole Bizovie in front of The Ukraine Cultural Centre. Tallulah Photography / @tallulah_photo / tallulahphoto.com

By: Yelin Gemma Lee, Arts & Culture Editor

For many of us, dance means marvelling at the beauty of performances as an audience member or moving your body at the club. But for SFU health science student Nicole Bizovie, dance has kept her connected to Ukrainian culture and community all throughout her life. 

Bizovie has been going to the Association of United Ukrainian Canadians (AUUC Vancouver) at the Ukraine Cultural Centre since she was just three years old. Growing up in the Dovbush School of Dance, she officially joined the Dovbush Dancers at age 14. Bizovie explained to The Peak that dancing and being a part of AUUC Vancouver keeps her rooted in her Ukrainian culture. 

Bizovie said the elements of this dance — like costumes and choreography, “pertain to particular regions throughout Ukraine. So you learn about the history of your culture through dance which is an interesting way to learn about it,” said Bizovie. “Just being around people in your community really connects you with it.”

The Dovbush Dancers were on a performing hiatus throughout COVID-19, with dance Zoom calls twice a week when their in-person rehearsals would normally be. Though things weren’t the same throughout these socially distanced rehearsals, Bizovie expressed pride and gratitude to be able to remain connected. 

“A lot of the Ukrainian dance studios in the Lower Mainland didn’t operate throughout COVID-19. So we were one of the only ones who were actively practicing,” said Bizovie. 

Since then, the Dovbush Dancers have been back to in-person rehearsals and recently did their first performance closing for Ukrainian designer, Tetyana Golota, at Vancouver Fashion Week. As the Dovbush Dancers operate out of the Ukrainian Cultural Centre, they’ve been working together to help host numerous fundraisers for the Russia-Ukraine war

Some of these include medical supply and cash donation drives in partnership with Maple Hope Foundation and Ukrainian Patriot, perogy sales, and a craft and bake sale. Bizovie said they also have a large fundraising event coming up on June 11 called “Big Bands for Ukraine” in partnership with the Polish community. Bizovie, who supports administration at the cultural centre, said they have been receiving a lot of love and support during this difficult time for her community.

“The community in Vancouver has been extremely supportive [ . . . ] The amount of support I get weekly from strangers offering their services, offering to volunteer, looking to help in any way. It’s been super overwhelming and amazing.”

Bizovie said AUUC Vancouver, or the “Hall,” continues to be a safe space for her with therapeutic mental effects. Watching older clips of their performances, I was taken aback by the joy and hope exuding from the dancers and with each dance delicately spinning out an enchanting story. 

“I always think of the Hall as a second home, because it really is. I’m there three times a week, sometimes more, and I’ve been doing that forever and ever my whole life,” said Bizovie. “It’s always been a kind of escape for me. Whatever’s going on in my life, good or bad, school, friends, anything — it doesn’t matter as soon as I get into the hall. As soon as I go to the hall for dance, my mind is blank. I’m just existing.” 

To learn more about the Dovbush Dancers, check out their Instagram or website. To learn more about and obtain tickets to the upcoming fundraiser “Big Bands for Ukraine,” visit their Eventbrite link.

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