How to do the troop dance

For these dancers, defending Ukraine means sharing its culture : NPR

Dariya Medynska gathers with other members of the Voloshky Ukrainian dance ensemble before the International Spring Festival at North Penn High School in Lansdale, Pennsylvania. Rachel Wisniewski for NPR hide caption

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Rachel Wisniewski for NPR

Dariya Medynska gathers with other members of the Voloshky Ukrainian dance ensemble before the International Spring Festival at North Penn High School in Lansdale, Pennsylvania.

Rachel Wisniewski for NPR

After a pandemic hiatus, the Voloshky Ukrainian Dance Ensemble is a little bit rusty.

A few times a week, around two dozen semi-professional dancers run through choreography in the basement of the Ukrainian Educational and Cultural Center in suburban Philadelphia.

Among their ranks are engineers, designers and students, brought together by common heritage. One that is now under attack.

"[Russia is] trying to rewrite our history and it's our time to say 'no.' We're fighting back," said dancer Maria Molyashcha.

Members of the Voloshky Ukrainian dance ensemble rehearse at the Ukrainian Educational and Cultural Center in Jenkintown, Pennsylvania. Rachel Wisniewski for NPR hide caption

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Rachel Wisniewski for NPR

An estimated 57,000 people born in Ukraine and their descendants call the Philadelphia area home, making this the second largest Ukrainian community in the United States, according to Census data.

Since the Russian invasion, this diaspora has kicked into high gear: collecting donations, lobbying the federal government to send arms, and educating an American public suddenly focused on their homeland.

The Ensemble, which turns 50 this year, sees its role in combating Russian aggression as diplomacy through dance, teaching U.S. audiences about Ukrainian history and culture.

Choreographer and executive director Taras Lewyckyj, 59, has been studying Ukrainian dance since he was around 4 years old.

Taras Lewyckyj, artistic director of the Voloshky Ukrainian dance ensemble. Rachel Wisniewski for NPR hide caption

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Rachel Wisniewski for NPR

"It's a very catchy way of dancing. It's kind of like breakdancing," he said, particularly the hopak, a folk dance said to have evolved from fighting moves performed by the Cossacks.

Born in Philadelphia to Ukrainian parents, Lewyckyj grew up speaking Ukrainian and studying the history and culture of his ancestral homeland.

"I have two sisters and a brother. If father came home and we were speaking English, we would have to write what he heard [in Ukrainian] 50 times on a piece of paper," he said.

While he used to chafe at such strict rules, Lewyckyj eventually came to see the U.S. Ukrainian community as "safety deposit box" for a unique culture that has been under attack for centuries.

"My father's father was shot in front of the family," said Lewyckyj, targeted for promoting Ukrainian language and culture, which was seen as a threat to Soviet control. He sees the same kind of purge happening in Ukraine now, following Vladimir Putin's insistence that Ukraine and Russia are "one people."

Some in the troupe were born in Ukraine themselves, so the war feels even more personal.

Members of the Voloshky dance ensemble get dressed and practice thier routine at the locker room at Penn High School. Rachel Wisniewski for NPR hide caption

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Rachel Wisniewski for NPR

Dancer Khristina Maria Babiychuk, a 27-year-old engineer originally from western Ukraine, moved to the U.S. as a teenager. "After this [war] started, we basically don't have real sleep," she said.

Her mom recently returned to Ukraine, bringing military supplies with her. "For three people, they had like 90 suitcases for bulletproof vests and helmets, because this is something that cannot be shipped," said Babiychuk. Her grandfather and uncle still live in Ukraine.

In Philadelphia, Ukrainian and Russian immigrants share many of the same spaces. The dancers described family members' tense moments at work, and hearing anti-Ukrainian independence slurs.

"Even here in the U.S, when people have access to all the streams of information, people still choose to believe [Russian propaganda]," said dancer Dariya Medynska.

She said the Ensemble hopes they can counter disinformation by showing Ukraine in a positive light.

The Voloshky Ukrainian dance ensemble members arrive for their final dance number. Rachel Wisniewski for NPR hide caption

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Rachel Wisniewski for NPR

"We're here, it's not like we're front-line fighting, but we're fighting," said Medynska.

This year's choreography also highlights the subversive side of Ukrainian dancing. Many pieces in the group's repertoire involve characters acting out a story that seems to be about one thing, but is really about Russian oppression during tsarist or Communist times.

"Those are really great to put on right now, to show the chronic nature of this cultural identity theft," said Lewyckyj.

A few weeks later, the Voloshky Dance Ensemble got ready to perform at an International Spring Festival, held at a local high school. Hundreds of people roamed around the gymnasium or sat in front of the stage on folding chairs.

The Voloshky dancers assembled early in the locker room, steaming their costumes and practicing their moves.

The Voloshky Ukrainian dance ensemble performs the "puppet dance," about Russian occupation (top), as well as the "broken promises" dance (bottom). Rachel Wisniewski for NPR hide caption

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Rachel Wisniewski for NPR

When it was their turn, the Ensemble started with some lighter pieces, welcoming the audience and honoring springtime. Then, Lewyckyj introduced a political satire called The Puppet Dance.

In it, a dancer dressed in a Russian fur hat tries to come between a Ukrainian couple. It ends with them kicking him in the behind, and the Russian tumbling over.

"We can only hope for happy endings like that. And you can probably see why that dance was banned from the Soviet Union," Lewyckyj told the audience.

For a finale, the group always performs the hopak, with its acrobatic moves inspired by fighting. One man did an airborne split. Another spun on his head.

This time, the show ended on a chant that has become the battle cry for an independent Ukraine.

Lewyckyj called out in Ukrainian, "Glory to Ukraine!"

The crowd responded, "Glory to the heroes!"

The Voloshky Ukrainian dance ensemble performs their final dance number at the International Spring Festival. Rachel Wisniewski for NPR hide caption

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Rachel Wisniewski for NPR

Cambodian Performing Arts | Lowell, MA

We're back! Join us to celebrate our 35th Anniversary and witness the resiliency of Angkor Dance Troupe, Khmer performing arts. We are excited to premiere two very special performances. 


Show 1 - August 6th at the Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, MA at 4 pm

Thank you to the Clark Art Institute for their generous support and invitation. Angkor Dance Troupe will be performing as part of the Rodin In The United States: Confronting the Modern exhibit. To purchase tickets scan the QR code on the flyer or through this link CLICK HERE.


Show 2 - August 7th at the Boarding House Park in Lowell, MA at 6 pm 

We are kicking off our 35th Anniversary celebration with a FREE performance right here in Lowell at the Boarding House Park. 

Mission Statement

Connecting communities through the preservation, education, and innovation of Cambodian performing arts.


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Co-Founder | Interim Executive Director
[email protected]

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Artistic Director
Master of Classical Dance

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Master of Folk Dance and Music

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Our Story

Angkor Dance Troupe was established in November 1986 when Tim Thou and a passionate group of Cambodian refugees came together in Lowell, Massachusetts with the sole purpose to revive a culture once almost lost.

As the heart of the Cambodian Community, the Angkor Dance Troupe is nationally recognized as one of the most accomplished and experienced U.S. - based Cambodian traditional arts organizations.


A few features include:


  • White House

  • Philadelphia All-America City Competition

  • Boston's First Night

  • Monkey Dance (Documentary) - website

  • Travel Channel - Bizarre Foods - website

  • "Neighborhood Kitchens" (WGBH) - website

  • "Chronicle" (WBUR)

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Traditional Cambodian

Performing Arts

Angkor Dance Troupe (ADT) teaches and performs a body of work developed at the Royal University of Fine Arts (RUFA) in Phnom Penh, Cambodia  - where they are considered the world’s cultural source and standard bearer for traditional Cambodian arts. ADT's Artistic Director, Phousita Huy is a master teacher and former faculty member of the Royal University. She toured internationally as a principal dancer with the Classical Dance Company of Cambodia.

Accompanied by a team of esteemed master teachers from RUFA, our mission is to heal our community and share the history of traditional Cambodian performing arts.

Check our calendar for live public performances or book us for your next event.

Shows →



Dance | Music | Khmer Language

We envision Lowell, Massachusetts to be the epicenter for Cambodian performing arts with the Angkor Dance Troupe at the core.

To achieve this vision, our goal is to certify 10 new master teachers to continue the legacy of Cambodian culture and arts.

Through cultural exchanges and programs including dance, music, and Khmer Language class, students will learn how to explain the history and stories of the Cambodian people through the power of facial/body language, musical composition, and lyrical speech.

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We'd love to hear from you.

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Office: 978-275-1823

Mailing Address:

Angkor Dance Troupe, Inc.​

P.O. Box 1553

Lowell, MA 01853

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Rehearsal Studio & Offices:

Lowell National Historical Park

Patrick J. Mogan Cultural Center

40 French St., 3rd Floor

Lowell, MA 01852

Hours will vary.

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Dance of the Soldier - Choreographic Ensemble Inspiration

The period of the Great Patriotic War is a time of courage, heroes and fortitude of the whole nation and every person.

In this difficult time for people, song and dance led forward, charged with energy and faith in Victory and success.

Military dances appeared with the advent of people and military conflicts on Earth. In ancient times, the family of a warrior accompanied him into battle with a ritual dance. The purpose of which was to protect him in battle, help him win and return home.

Subsequently, songs and dances began to reflect the spirit of victory and courage of the heroes. The soldiers honored their strength, ingenuity and perseverance shown in battle. This style has come down to our time and generation.

The Soldier's Dance are finely practiced movements that reflect the music played or played. It happens: individual, pair dance and collective.

The military period has died down, but military dances continue to live among the people. In the repertoire of dance groups, there are always several similar works prepared for military-themed ceremonial events.

History and the young generation in the soldier's dance

Within the framework of the educational system of the kindergarten and school there is a point of patriotic education. This is an extensive program that includes thematic events of both classroom and school scale. It does not do without outdoor events.

They tell about the history of the country, teach to be proud and respect their country and the heroes it raised. In memory of the exploits and victories at the solemn holidays dedicated to important events in the history of the country and the world.

Children begin to learn the dance of the soldier from a very young age. The dance of the children's soldiers contains simple movements:

  • marching
  • squat
  • circular movements
  • restructuring in ranks and columns.

In most cases, it is performed collectively, so that the children feel more confident.

Dance little soldiers

Dance of soldiers in kindergarten , prepared in advance, so that all participants memorize the movements and fully practice them. It takes several days to prepare, it can even take a couple of weeks.

The following compositions are used in their repertoire:

  • dance “A soldier is walking through the city”

  • "Good Soldiers" dance;

  • dance "We are now soldiers."

Boys mostly take part in the dance, girls are also welcome. The main movements are designed for boys, girls perform auxiliary fragments. During the war years, the girls actively fought shoulder to shoulder with the guys, not yielding in anything. They were soldiers, they were nurses. And this is reflected in modern military dances.

The dance “A soldier has a day off” and the children's dance “Good Soldiers” are structured in such a way that everyone takes an active part.

At the beginning of the song, the children go on stage and march in a circle, after passing the circle, they line up in twos, make two columns, move towards the audience, turn left, march in a circle.

From the couplet about kvass, turn around, two columns go towards each other and change places.

Then make two circles, outer and inner, moving in the opposite order.

After they make one column, stand at the counter facing the guests, and the baton is intercepted by the girls from the line about the place of residence of their beloved.

Walk past the boys and wave to them. Stand at the opposite wall.

The boys do another marching circle, the girls clap, then bow and they leave the stage.

Both boys and girls in military uniforms and hats, in most cases caps.

Children's dance Soldiers and the dance "We are now soldiers" include more elements of marching and rebuilding into lines and columns.

Soldier's dance is an interesting and not difficult dance, the guys take part in it with interest and desire.

Children's dance soldiers video, can be found in large numbers in any search engine.

  • dance on May 9
  • dance of the Pilots
  • Katyusha dance
  • dance Children of War
  • What is the difference between a dance and a dance • Episode transcript • Arzamas

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    Course What is modern danceAudio lecturesMaterials

    Contents of the third lecture from Irina Sirotkina's course "What is modern dance"

    In the last lecture we were convinced that dance is not so alien to philosophy as ignorant people used to think about it. Our next step is to show that dance can very well be a philosophy. Remember Nietzsche said that you need to philosophize with both your feet and your head? How they think with their heads seems to be clear. But is it possible to "think with your feet"? But some famous dancers speak directly about this. One of the creators of postmodern dance, Merce Cunningham (we will return to him later), stated: “I am no more philosophical than my legs.”

    The more you get to know the dance, the more you notice contradictions in it. On the one hand, dance is liberation, emancipation of the body. On the other hand, there are a lot of rules in the dance. For example, when dancing with a partner and walking freely, it is important not to step on his or her foot.

    Balls have always had very strict rules regarding not only the sequence of movements in each dance, but also the sequence of dances. The aristocratic ball opened with a polonaise, followed by more cheerful mazurka and cotillion. It was carefully prescribed who would dance with whom: it was indecent to dance more than three times with the same gentleman. The outfit was even more strictly controlled: it was obligatory to wear gloves (white and always clean) so that, God forbid, not to touch the skin of a partner. In other words, the ball is very, very codified by custom, rules, prescriptions. However, by the end of it, "ballroom liberties" could also increase. No wonder loves and marriages began at balls.

    Yuri Mikhailovich Lotman wrote something like this: dance exists in the space between discipline and freedom, order and liberties. This is true not only about ballroom dancing, but about dance in general. The existence between order and freedom is the first dilemma of dance, which we will talk about today. By the way, the presence of two different words in the Russian language is connected with it: "dance" and "dance". These words are not full synonyms, they mean different things (I call them concept words). And their origin is different. "Dance" is a word borrowed from the German language (der Tanz), "dance" is a native Russian. The word "dance" entered the Russian language at the same time when the first balls, or "assemblies" appeared, which were arranged by Peter I.

    If we place dance and dance on a scale with maximum freedom on one pole and maximum order on the other, then the dance will be closer to the pole of freedom, and the dance will be closer to the pole of order. In dance, as we have seen, there is also freedom, but in dance there is more of it. We call dance a passionate, wild, free, ecstatic dance. Unlike dance, dance is subject to regulations, the rules of the civilization that created it, the laws of art. Dance and dance in a sense oppose each other, like a free expression of feelings - self-control.

    You have probably heard the expressions “nerves dance”, “soul dances”. Buffoons are dancing, a tightrope walker is dancing in the sky above the fair. Buffoons in their dance triumph over the prohibitions of the official repressive culture - it was not for nothing that the church forbade buffoon games. And the buffoons themselves were severely punished: in Andrei Tarkovsky's film "Andrey Rublev", the buffoon is cut off his seditious language.

    Free from conventions and restrictions, dance is subordinated only to music, which itself is an emotional element. The dance cannot be "performed", it can only be surrendered to - like passion or ecstasy, "start dancing".

    As we can understand, dance and dance are also class antipodes: rich and noble people “dance” at balls, peasants “dance”, ordinary townspeople - in a word, the people. The dance is democratic, the dance is aristocratic. Remember how in "War and Peace" Natasha Rostova, trained only in ballroom dancing, unexpectedly for everyone (and perhaps for herself) dances "Russian" to her uncle's guitar - with the full approval of the peasants.

    Some even talk about the "instinct to dance", supposedly universal for all people, but I will not subscribe to the biological word "instinct". I prefer to stay in the realm of culture when talking about dance rather than speculating that animals also dance. It seems to me that we are talking about different phenomena here.

    Of course, dance and dancing have a lot in common. Both serve for communication - not only personal, tete-a-tete, but, as sociologists say, are included in the processes of group communication. This is especially noticeable in some dances: look, for example, how much pride and challenge in the movements of flamenco dancers. And in Russian dances, men even have special knees: trick, breaking (hence the colloquial “Well, why are you breaking out?”), snorting, frightening, trepak. This is a challenge, intimidation of an opponent, maintaining one's own morale. They are performed, for example, during aggressive courtship or as a provocation to a fight. Not without reason, at the end of rural holidays, after round dances and dances, street fights often took place. They fought wall to wall (for example, suitors because of a girl with the support of their teams) or on a geographical basis: street to street, edge to edge. Now this tradition has partly passed to modern street dance, street dance - hip-hop. Initially, this is a rivalry between two gangs from different quarters: as in a Russian village, they compete in prowess, intimidate each other, promising to give each other a trepak.

    With this ability of street dancing - a symbolic confrontation - to develop into a real struggle, sometimes with bloodshed and self-mutilation, perhaps the distrust of the authorities in public holidays is connected. The authorities have always tried to put the dance under their control. In pre-revolutionary Russia, the introduction of folk festivals into a "civilized" framework was carried out, in particular, by public organizations - guardians of people's sobriety. In contrast to the taverns, they opened the so-called people's houses, where they drank tea, not vodka. In Soviet times, this tradition was continued by red corners, factory and village clubs, and Houses of Culture. They tried to subdue the free, uncontrollable energy of folk festivals and dances, introduce them into a disciplinary channel, and regulate. For this, they organized "amateur art" (which, of course, is a paradox - organized amateur performance). They published instructions for holding club evenings, collections of "mass games and dances". At 19In 28, at the All-Union Spartakiad, they even organized a “dance championship” between different peoples of the USSR.

    The Pyatnitsky Choir, which arose even before the revolution and was an informal gathering of singers and musicians, became "state" and even "academic" under Soviet rule. On the wave of taming the "wild" dance, in the terrible year for the country in 1937, the first State Folk Dance Ensemble was created - it was permanently led by Igor Moiseev. A rather strange hybrid of folk dance and classical ballet appeared - the so-called folk stage dance. The dance began to be staged by special choreographers and taught in special schools, including cultural institutes. Finally, the dance rose to the very top of officialdom: "folk dances" were included in physical culture and other parades on Red Square. Moiseev, Kasyan Goleizovsky, and other professional choreographers, including those from the Bolshoi Theater, took part in staging the parades.

    It is curious that when Isadora Duncan came to Russia on her first tour, her dance was so unusual, it was so different from both balls and ballet that it could not even be called a dance. Journalists, critics, fans unanimously wrote and spoke about Duncan as a dancer. They remembered Nietzsche again (Isadora herself ambitiously imagined herself “a battlefield contested by Apollo, Dionysus, Christ, Nietzsche and Richard Wagner”). Her dance has become for her fans a symbol of rebellion against a repressive culture, a space of individual freedom, where creativity and creation of oneself are possible, where the human "I", the personality, is revealed - or perhaps created for the first time.

    Reenactment of Isadora Duncan's dance by Sylvia Gold. Music by Franz Schubert. 1979

    As we remember, the “dancing philosopher” Nietzsche admitted that he would believe “only in such a God who could dance”, and considered lost “the day when we never danced”. He meant, commented Isadora, not pirouettes and entrecha, but "an expression of life's ecstasy in motion." Creating her dance - deeply emotional and personal - Duncan claimed to experience ecstasies on stage and revel in her own "will to dance." This is how she attracted spectators who admired the "rapture of joy of the dancer" and believed that she should be seen "if only because of this joy of hers to dance." Dance-ecstasy, dance-improvisation became the most characteristic utopia of the Silver Age. Man, wrote one of Duncan's followers, must first of all awaken his "will to improvise. " Dance improvisation is "the manifestation and realization of one's higher spiritual and physical "I"". Duncan's fans saw in her dance a means to restore the once lost integrity, to bridge the gap between mind and emotions, soul and body. No wonder her dance was called free, free.

    Michel Foucault has a concept of biopower - this is how he calls the control that modern society exercises over the body of an individual. This is not so much about direct control, but about a set of cultural norms and practices for disciplining the body. It is required to discipline the body, to educate, to subordinate it to control and self-control precisely because they see a danger in the body. The awakening of bodily forces and energies can be fraught both for others and for the “owner of the body” itself.

    Conversely, corporeality and dancing are often seen as the last island of resistance, including resistance to a normative culture clothed in the words of an ideology.

    The dancing body is more than a mere conductor of social norms. Unlike consciousness, it - so these people believe - is able to elude the rigid requirements of morality, relations of dominance and submission, the hypnosis of consumerism, consumerism. The body can become the basis for a radically different relationship. I will neither confirm nor refute this statement - I will leave it open so that the listeners themselves can explore the relations of order and freedom in their body and their dance.

    More to read:

    Bakhtin M. M. Folk-holiday forms and images in the novel by Rabelais. The work of Francois Rabelais and the folk culture of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. Ch. 3. M., 1990 .
    Kreidlin G. E. Non-verbal semiotics. Body language and natural language. M., 2004 .
    Lotman Yu. M. Conversations about Russian culture. Life and traditions of the Russian nobility (XVIII - early XIX century). Part 2: ball. St.

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