Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Ukrainian Dancing: Over 30 and back at it!

Reviving this 5 year old blog, because I'm reviving my career in Ukrainian Dancing!

A few years back, I decided to showcase some of my Ukrainian dancing friends as masters of athleticism and strength. Ukie dance is something I grew up with, dancing with the Odesa Ensemble in Syracuse, NY, then the Mamai and Dunai Ensembles of Rochester, NY. As I was developing my fitness career, I made this blog and decided that Ukrainian dancers were some of the best representatives of overall athletic performance. 

Today, I am so happy to say I am again a Ukrainian dancer, active in San Francisco Bay Area's Burevisnyky. Three dancers from back east, and one from Australia; we've have been together for two months, done two performances, and are recruiting other old school ukrayinsÊıki tantsyurysty for upcoming performances. Before you dig into the blog from 4/3/12, check out some of these new pictures of an all 30+ Ukrainian Dance Ensemble!

Billy and Andrew Practicing Before Our Show

Couples Dancing Pryvit At The World Arts Fair

Spreckles Auditorium In Golden Gate Park

Billy, Tatiana, Larysa, and Andrew Welcoming Tradition

Busting Out A Little Crowd-Pleaser

Burevisnyky Ukrainian Dance Ensemble

Ok, that's my October 2016 update to this blog. Enjoy the old post from 2012 if you've never seen it! The embedded video that Mike Lewycky, dancer extraordinaire, made of Syzokryli is my favorite part.

Ukrainian Dancing: Athleticism, Accuracy, Stamina, Strength- MY CHILDHOOD!

My Ukrainian heritage is something I will always hold near and dear to me. Since I moved to California in 2009, I have had very little interaction with Ukrainians, unlike how it was back east. Syracuse, Rochester, and especially New York City all had large and lively Ukrainian populations. The three of those cities each had youth dance ensembles too. Ukrainian Folk Dance has a lot of history, which I will go into at a later date. For now, I would like you to enjoy a YouTube video of a group I've had the privilege of dancing with on several occasions between 2007 and 2009, called Syzokryli.

I was not in this performance from July 2011, though I have shared the stage with each of the dancers you see, and give them all accolades for sticking with the lifestyle and performing so proudly and expertly over and over again.

The kind of strength and stamina dances like these take are beyond what any average person and even beyond what lots of sport-specific athletes can muster. If you want to see more, visit Syzokryli at their homepage or their YouTube channel. Those videos are of their outstanding performances in front of paying audiences. Every performance is an adventure of sight, sound, energy and emotion, unmatched by anything else, but the real work and athleticism takes place in the practice studio where foot-busting, ankle-popping, shin-splinting, quadriceps-tearing, gluteal-wrecking rehearsal takes place for hours on end until they get it perfect!

My personal training business differs in that I don't have tradition to dictate my course of action. A traditional Ukrainian Dance practice is run by an old-school Ukie Dance extraordinaire who wants that sh*t done right! Now, you'd never hear me suggesting that my clients "push through (injury) pain," but every single person I've ever known to do traditional Ukrainian Dancing has, indeed, time and again pushed through the pain for the glory of the performance. Those smiles you will see on those dancers exude sheer joy. The hormonal response of performing in front of friends, family, generations of fellow Ukrainians or even the virgin public having ever to see this kind of spectacle is just insurmountable. When you start at six years old, your instructor tells you to "SMILE!" but after your first performance, it ends up coming naturally, and you can't stop until the next day :)

This sport is not for everybody, but if performance is what you enjoy, then this may be something you should look further into! Santa Cruz, California's premier World Danz instructor, Gina Garcia, incorporates styles from many corners of the globe, and will hopefully soon incorporate a little bit of "tanchi" (Ukrainian Dance) into her routines after I show her some moves this month!

I wouldn't imagine anyone becoming as talented and synchronized as these fine ladies after only a few classes, but some of the adult and senior World Danz participants doing "tribuchka" (the one, two, three dance step; "basic" move in Ukrainian Dance) might be a terrific addition to their exercise arsenal! 

My aim with fitness and personal training is (NO, it's not to be able to do THIS ^^ ), 
 to help my clients and the general public understand what will benefit them, how to attain their goals, and why we are doing what we do when we exercise. Just thinking about Ukrainian Dancing so much lately is making me want to go further into studying the exact effects this has on people's bodies. I can tell you that the size of the quadriceps and calves on these dancers is extremely large in comparison to the rest of their otherwise very lean bodies. Also, this kind of jumping and jarring (read: high-impact) is fantastic for improving bone density and skeletal strength. 

Injuries are a frequent occurrence, as with any sport. I have heard many male dancers talk of their knee pain or knee surgeries they've had from the bouncing and squatting required in some of their more advanced moves. Female dancers are most often ballerinas, like Ksenya Hentisz, who danced with Syzokryli for years and has become renowned for her ballet skills in the dance program at NYU and the Roma Pryma Bohachevcky Ukrainian Dance Workshops, famous in the tri-state area and Ukrainian communities internationally. I know Ksenya pretty well, and look forward to the day she  and her dancer friends come out to Santa Cruz to take Billy Bad Ass Cardio Kickboxing.

Ksenya's not the only one I should give a loud and serious SHOUT OUT to. Everyone who has danced with Syrokryli, or ever performed with a Ukrainian Dance group anywhere deserves applause and appreciation in this blog. (Including me...yep. I'm in this picture above actually. And the one directly below too!)

That's a guy named Alex Kopcyk, from Connecticut and the fella behind him is Stefan Calka of Sacramento. Behind both of those soloists is a smiling, shirtless, Billy Prusinowski, just giving my boys some support by creating a pretty background! Stefan is a principal dancer in the Sacramento Ballet, that I've seen perform professionally four times now (in Cinderella, Capital Coreography, and The Nutcracker, twice)! Stefan also has his roots in Ukrainian Dancing back east in New York, and is now everyone's favorite ballerina in California's capital!

For more videos and photos, which almost capture the propensity of how amazing Ukrainian Dancing is, please go to Syzokryli.com and start clicking! I'm in 10 or so of those pictures from the 2007 and 2009 workshops...so find me if you can!

One of Syzokryli's former dancers made a documentary about the lives we all (more fittingly,they all) live when "in season" (i.e. getting prepared for the large summer performances). This is a close look at some of the hard work that goes into learning, conditioning, practicing and perfecting these very athletic and acrobatic dances. This is what I appreciate to the fullest, and would expect anyone who appreciates athleticism in any form to fully understand how truly awesome dance can be and is. 

Lastly, if you just want to stare at some beautiful Ukrainians (ladies and gentlemen), the Syzokryli bios page is right here. Second row, middle, (Natalia Halatyn, dancer extraordinaire) has indeed been to Santa Cruz and taken Billy Bad Ass Cardio Kickboxing. These are my close friends who I miss lots, and would love to see all come out and visit in California. Maybe perform? And then go see Stefan perform in the Sac Ballet? Much love everyone.

Yours in fitness, 
Billy Bad Ass
(don't forget to watch my video too if you haven't yet!)
(and subscribe to my YouTube channel!)

Kozak Stampede 2007 Featuring Billy With His Kozaky Mustache


  1. I love everything you've written about Ukrainian dancing and the art and culture related to it. The part about the smile on your face for at least 24 hours after the performance is so true! And besides the physicality, the artistry, and the community life ("hromada") that Ukrainian dancing creates, it connects generations to generations...and thus creates a living history of a people! A people that you are a part of Billy! Great blog tonight!

  2. FABULOUS BLOGSITE: VERY STIRRING for anyone who has ever danced in Ukrainian Ensembles. WELL DONE!