Hopak is a traditional Ukrainian dance, which was performed by the Cossack soldiers, Ukrainian fighters, who lived in Southern Ukraine and protected the country from the enemies. The dance, which developed in the sixteenth century as only male amusement and represented the victory in a battle, has grown to be very popular with the rest of society and remains one of the most important cultural dances in the country. I have decided to research the dance due to its interesting history and the role it plays now in the modern society of a fast-evolving country. This paper aims to analyze the background of the dance and the ways it represents the modern culture and the nation.
Hopak means “jumping dance” in Ukrainian, and its main moves are jumps. The dance was originally founded by Cossack soldiers. They lived in Sich, a land, where only Cossacks were allowed. It was territory only for males who fought against Ukraine’s enemies. Sich was a military place, and although the soldiers were not allowed to have fun before the battle, they often entertained themselves after their victories. As a result of such entertainment, hopak was found. It was a dance with male dancers jumping high and wide. The jumps resembled the battle and symbolized the fight between a soldier and his enemy, and the dances were often militarized since the swords could be used as accessories during the performance. Cossacks were amateurs, and hopak itself did not have a specific routine to follow. The dancers would jump in order to portray a battle, so it was an improvisation from the beginning till the end. The dance was watched by the soldiers and was not accessible to the rest of the Ukrainian society.
Interestingly, the dance quickly became popular with the rest of Ukrainians, and by the eighteenth century, it was performed throughout the country. Hopak was no longer only for males, the female dancers also joined it. Although the dance kept its essence, it became much more organized and developed a specific routine. As a rule, the male dancers gather in a circle with a leader jumping as high as possible with characteristic leaps with others supporting him. The female dancers play a secondary role, while dancers often carry them around or jump with them. With girls becoming a part of the dance, hopak no longer represented just masculinity and victory in the battle; it also conveyed a wide range of human emotions such as a process of communicating one’s victory to the beloved ones. Nowadays, the dance is often performed in Ukraine; it is a national dance, and can be seen during national holidays. Both male and female dancers participate, wearing traditional clothes and performing the traditional routine, which is a few centuries old. The purpose of the dance now – unlike in the past – is to celebrate the country’s culture and unique style.
Hopak tells much about the culture and the people who belong to it. First, the dance shows that the dancers and original creators were brave and passionate people because they wanted to save their victories and emotions in a beautiful art form. The fact that the dance lacked a structured routine also adds significance to the passionate qualities of the performers since people used hopak as a tool to share their emotions at the given moment. The dance also shows that Ukrainians were fighters as they were willing to live separately from their families in order to protect their country. The whole nature of the dance, which is very quick and festive, presents Ukrainians as people who cherish fun and want to entertain themselves after the long and tiresome days. Moreover, the dance is interesting because it shows how Ukrainian culture has been developing, and how it has evolved into the culture the country has now (Bureychak 143). Remarkably, the dance was created by warriors, who are considered the least likely artists and performers. The fact that the soldiers found the dance shows the important role of resistance and bravery in the Ukrainian culture. Furthermore, the fact that society also began to perform the dance presents the nature of Ukrainian people, who respected their soldiers and shared similar passions and emotions. The dance remains extremely popular until now and unites Ukrainians across the globe. They continue to learn and perform hopak. It still consists of the original steps or jumps, and the performers are expected to jump as high as possible, showing that the Ukrainian people have remained similar in culture to their ancestors.
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In conclusion, the paper has highlighted the background of the dance, the reasons it developed, and the process of its evolution to the modern-day when it is widely danced throughout the country. Overall, the analysis of hopak enabled me to see how one dance could define and represent an entire culture. Hopak is not merely a dance; it is a cultural phenomenon, which is important for the entire society. It explains much about the people who perform it, the audience, and the nation, which the dance has originated from. Researching hopak was interesting not only because it provided me with insightful knowledge of the dance and the country, but because it showed how a dance culture could be connected with the entire nation and the evolving society. Hopak has proved that cultural dances are an essential part of the culture they belong to; and as a result, they influence the people, who represent the culture and are a part of. Thus, hopak is a true revelation and discovery when it comes to combining dances and culture.