Music Monday: Hopak Dancing

Today, we’ll discuss dancing.

One of the most popular Slavic dances, to the point of a being stereotype and having it’s own page on TVTropes as “That Russian Squat Dance,” is actually Ukrainian. Known as hopak (alternatively spelled as gopak) or “the Cossack Dance” originated in the 1600s in southern Russia and Ukraine.

Through the centuries, it became popular among the Cossacks, who lived among the Russians and Ukrainians. When there were military victories, the Cossacks would perform this dance as a celebration, often with violins, bagpipes, and other instruments.  During the 1700s, as it became more popular among lower classes, professional dancers would start to perform it, often as only a part of a larger performance. Conductor and composer Vasyl Verkhovynets (d. 1938) was the first to suggest that the hopak can be it’s own solo dance, being distinct rather than blended with other dances. This allowed Verkhovynets to put the hopak on an international scale, performing even at the First International Festival of the Folk Dance in London in the 1930s.

The word hopak comes from the Ukrainian гопати (hopati), meaning “to jump.” The most recognizable part of the dance, in which the dancer squats and kicks their legs out, is called the prisyadka (Присядка, related to the Russian verb “to squat”). Both “jump” and “squat” are apt terms for this dance, as, you can see below, they can do plenty of both with ease. It takes a lot of strength and balance to do that.

Although the entire video is worth a watch, if you want to get to the prisyadka itself, skip to 2:00 in the video and watch onward.


 

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