As each show was about to begin, we had the message whispered to us. "It's a sell out!" If the energy in the room wasn't already through the roof for anyone, that message definitely did it.
Rehearsals were emotional and nerve-racking, as we imagined the crowd before us in the empty auditorium. Last minute sewing and gluing to fix costumes and props as well as understudies frantically trying to master the steps of roles they suddenly had to fill. It was chaotic and exhilarating all at once.
I personally got my inspiration and last minute determination from a few people. As we finished our make up and hair and put on our costumes, I saw the Lehenda Youth Company dancers peering into the rooms, getting ready to go to front of house and sell programs and CD's to the audience. With their eyes wide and gleaming, I had a flashback to my primary school days, when I was in their shoes. I watched a Ukrainian production called 'Discovery' that toured Melbourne, Ukraine and Thailand. I knew then and there at the end of that performance, my goal was to perform in something as magical as that.
I wanted to set that example and inspire the youth dancers of today just like I was. Because that's what's important, to continue the culture, the tradition and magic for many generations to come.
Our artistic director was another one of our motivators. Since the day we started Lehenda, and for some of us many years before that in past dance companies, Melanie has been an amazing inspiration, role model and friend to us all. She has pushed us to be the best we possibly can, and held a patience in all the work and commotion leading up to these shows, I applaud to. Her big heart and patriotic spirit was extended to us all. She is the love and energy behind it all.
Each of us shared moments with each other as dancers and crew. Many tears were shed before and after the show, within the audience and on stage as we took our final bows. But I will never forget the tears I personally shed with one of my closest friends. We helped each other overcome our nerves and worries before the show, and as the curtains closed at the end of it all, tears in our eyes as we embraced I whispered the simple line on all our minds. "We did it."
The audience were a mix of our family, friends, partners and colleagues, as well as dancers, cultural enthusiasts, Ukrainians and strangers who knew of no one personally involved with the production. A particular audience member struck my attention as we heard their reactions after the show.
My mother attended both shows that weekend, and on the Sunday show she sat next to a spanish gentleman visiting Australia with his wife. During intervals they chatted. The man and his wife travelled the world and watched dance productions abroad; from Europe to America they'd seen many in their time. While here in Australia, he found the production trending on Ticketmaster during the week. Once the show had finished, my mother asked what they thought of it all. Eyes wide with excitement he exclaimed how amazing it was, stating the show was definitely of an international standard. He just couldn't believe how wonderful it was, feeling the warmth and energy of it all in his seat, as if he really was in the story.
There were many of these small tales and personal experiences shared after the show. In a room I was changing in and packing up, my fellow dancer's young daughter and the directors young son ran in dancing and laughing around us. They announced their favorite acts and sat there mimicking moves and humming tunes they heard and treasured. The mother Cathy asked her daughter what her favorite dances were and she announced "the ones you were in mummy." Smiles beamed on everyones face and our hearts were warmed by her words.
We celebrated into the night, singing and dancing till our feet could move no more. Like that it was done and gone. The Melbourne shows finished and an enormous energy left in its wake. Ukrainian culture once again is alive and burning deep within all our hearts, and KAZKA now and will continue to spread that fire throughout each city it crosses.
Sydney get ready to feel the passion and love of this tale, it will rock you in your seat. KAZKA is on it's way and burning brighter than ever.
Maria Zhdanko - Company Dancer