When I was about 5 years old, my parents decided that instead of being with their adorable son every Tuesday night, they would enroll me into a Ukrainian dancing group called Verchovyna. What a fantastic idea that was. For the next 13 years, my Tuesday nights consisted of stuffing my face with dim sims from the Chinese shop next door, dancing and then watching survivor. This created lasting friendships with a crazy bunch of people, allowed me to develop my fitness levels and provided me with wild memories.

About 2 years ago I joined Lehenda, this pushed my Ukrainian dancing to a new level. My dim sims changed to honey chicken, rehearsal increased from one day to 2-3 times a week and I now perform almost monthly at various events. I have had the chance to travel interstate over the past few months and overseas in a week to America and Canada to perform our new production called ‘kazka’, in which I’m totally excited for. For me, my biggest motivator to dance has to be the people I dance with, not only do I love sweating all over them during rehearsal, but I get to see a bunch of my best friends so often which can be hard when you have such a busy lifestyle. Another thing I love about Ukrainian Dancing is being able to transfer the fun and excitement to a crowd when dancing hopak. There is about an 100% chance that the whole audience will either be clapping, screaming, smiling or crying because of you. The feeling of having the whole audience clapping to your hopak is indescribable.

A typical day for me consists of a ridiculously sized breakfast which you can almost count on there being 6 eggs and toast, doing some exercise which ranges from going for a run, going to the gym or a going for a bike ride, finishing off homework, hanging out with mates and mainly playing with music while attending and trying to get good grades as a full time student at university in which I’m studying to become a PE and health teacher. My sleeping patterns are often messed up as I’m a DJ and it’s not uncommon to work till 5am sometimes. Being a DJ, a lot of my free time involves checking out new music and arranging them into different folders which can easily chew up 10 hours, whilst obviously playing the songs at ridiculous volumes. One time my neighbors’ knocked on my door and told me to turn my music down. What were they doing awake at 4am anyway?

Maria Zhdanko