“Nothing makes dancing more worth it than hearing from people in our audiences about the shows and how watching folk dance touches them. One moment is seared in my mind when a woman came up to me after a performance literally in tears. Her family had fled communist Poland and she had not seen Polish dancing in many years. It brought back memories of home to her and she loved that we honored not just her culture, but so many others, and that many of us were not even of her nationality, but loved her nation’s songs and dances so much that we performed them as volunteers. There is nothing I’ve done in my life that comes close to touching people’s hearts as I have been able to do through Carpathia. It really is the best thing I’ve done so far in my life.“
“When I was a kid, growing up Ukrainian Catholic, I would help out my church festivals. During the festivals, they would have this fabulous Ukrainian group perform and I always wanted to do it, but never took the chance. As an adult in my early thirties, somehow dancing in a dance group popped up again. I thought to myself, if I don’t do this now, when am I going to do it? The next day, I researched Ukrainian Folk Dance Groups, and I came across Carpathia Folk Dance Ensemble. Not only did they dance Ukrainian (among others), but it said no experience necessary. I emailed and got a response back saying come in and check out a practice. The next week I did and that was it. Initially nervous and having no self confidence, I grew to love the not only the dancing, but the people in the group. I can’t tell you how much everyone in the group loves to dance. I found we all do it because we love it. People tell us all the time how much fun we look like we are having on stage and the truth is we are having fun. I find that sometimes in life, you need to take the leap. This turned out to be a life-changing leap for me. My debut performance was at the Ukrainian Festival in Baltimore. I still get goosebumps thinking about that day. Dreams do come true if you take the leap.“
“I moved to Dallas, Texas, from St. Petersburg, Russia/USSR, when I was nine. As a teenager, I was incredibly homesick and joined a Ukrainian dance group, Zorya, to maintain some connection to my Slavic heritage. Little did I know that, in joining Zorya, I joined a life-long second family. I danced with members of Carpathia in Texas when I was fifteen, and am happy to be dancing with them in my thirties in Washington, DC.
In my experience, folk dance (more so than any other social/performance art) brings people closer in ways that are hard to define. Every member of Carpathia has his/her own story but, when we get on a stage, we put everything we have into our performance. We are not professional dancers, but we certainly do love every second of it!“
“Dance is a feeling, an emotion that speaks through body movements, expressing happiness, love, anger, sadness, solitude or just state of being. It helps us connect with inner selves. Folk dance is graceful historical heritage that speaks of who we are and where we came from. Every single move has a story, every single color, texture or sewing technique in folk costumes shows us intricate details of how talented and different our ancestors were. It’s a great gift to share this experience with others and to do something that you are so passionate about. I am very happy and proud to be part of Carpathia Folk Dance Ensemble, to be able to take people back in time and make them smile or sentimentally cry performing the dance of their native lands. I myself came to United States almost ten years ago and I dearly miss the country that I spent my amazing childhood in – Ukraine. I am true Ukrainian at heart and dancing with Carpathia gives me a chance to share my heritage, my story, my feelings and who I really am. Thank you Carpathia for making it happen.
“I dance because it makes me happy.
I am sure you can all bring to mind a memory when you were doing something you loved surrounded by people you love, and you’ll find yourself grinning from ear to ear remembering how complete and brimming with happiness that moment made you. That is what Carpathia is to me. I have so many wonderful memories that it’s hard to choose a favorite.
Moments that fill my heart: like smiling and dancing on stage as rain runs down my face and a dark storm cloud appears to get closer and closer, or the big smile on a little boys face as he ran up to me with a multitude of questions and asking to take a picture with me all the while telling me his big plans for dancing and performing himself someday, or the many times backstage laughing as I and other dancers try to maintain balance while trying to change from one multi layered costume to another with only one song to go, and especially the moment as we strike the final pose and the music fades and I smile at the energized audience knowing that our dances brought them entertainment and joy.
As an immigrant from Ukraine and someone who believes in the power of art to be a medium for cultural diplomacy, I am proud to represent all the cultures our group showcases and to meet so many other wonderful dancers and witness the cultures they represent.“
“Originally I came to Carpathia because my friend, Lena, was relentless in inviting me. I made it a personal goal to learn a couple dances, do one performance, then go back to my regular life. After being issued a costume I felt guilty about ditching out so soon, so I pushed my commitment one season. A year later and I still haven’t gotten my Thursday nights back – and I couldn’t be happier.“
“Some people share their stories and feelings through words; others do it through music; Carpathia group members do it through dancing.
One of the most vivid memories from my childhood is connected to dancing. When I was small, about 6 or 7 years old, my grandparents and I used to watch a weekly folk dance TV program. Every week they showed different folk dance groups performing traditional Ukrainian dances. And every week I felt excited about wearing my Ukrainian headband and an embroidered shirt while dancing along trying to look like the dancers from the stage.
Now every time I am performing with Carpathia Folk Dance Group, I remember that feeling of excitement as a small girl. Dancing has a much deeper meaning for me today though. It’s about telling my story, sharing my country’s history and traditions, about being a citizen of the world where everyone can understand each other through music and dance.
I think dancing does not know borders or limits. It gives freedom and empowers imagination. Through dancing I am able to go back in time and be a small girl again dancing in front of my grandparents in Ukraine. While dancing I can be with my family and friends despite the distance. Through dancing I can share amazing stories from different countries, people and cultures. Through dancing I am free. Nothing stops me, and everything is possible. I just believe in myself and try; I dance.“
“There is nowhere else in my life where I can say with certainty that I belong as I do with my folk dance families. From birth (I mean that literally) folk dance was a part of my existence; my mom is the director of an Italian dance group and intensely involved with the Italian community in Dallas, TX and nationally, and my dad, is the director of a Ukrainian dance group and also intensely involved with the Ukrainian community in Dallas, TX. They lovingly forced my brother and me into this world and opened our eyes to cultures and ideals of others. I absolutely loved the friends I made, going to practice and performing, but as a child there were times where I would be embarrassed about the activity my family engaged in. I felt too different and only wanted to be like all the other girls and boys in my school. As I became an adult my perspective changed; it was through our involvement in these communities that we bonded and made long lasting memories as a family. We also developed beautiful relationships with others in the groups that I consider to be extended family. Additionally, my parents explained to me that they became involved in these communities, as a way to connect with the heritage and honor their ancestors. It gave them meaning and connection to their past which allowed them to feel as those they belonged in a country where being different is not necessarily smiled upon. From a psychological perspective, to dismiss where you come from is a form of dismissing who you are and that causes a fracture in one’s identity. I love that through dance I have a connection and intimate understanding of the life and ways of my family I will never know. I love, even more, that I have a family that reaches beyond blood, I have my dance family that will be there for me, love me, and support me where ever I am. It is in my family I was born into and in the family that I have made where I feel as though I belong. I honor that love every time I dance, and I dance knowing my family is in my heart.“
“Folk dancing, for me, is time travel. For a few hours a week, my mind floats away to a place where all things modern disappear and are replaced by all things timeless to the human experience; movement, rhythm, breath, partnership and love. Every time I try to perfect a move, I remember that generations of dancers before me too focused on the exact same gestures, body positions, muscles and emotions, striving for incremental improvements, agonizing over unnatural postures, always rushing to perfect an endless number of choreographic errors before the next impending performance.
The Carpathia Folk Dance Ensemble is my second family and a direct connection to the eternal (as well as a workout). As a Russian/Ukrainian American, it is a constant reminder that, politics aside, we are all humans with the same basic wants and feelings and that no matter how you look at it, there is infinitely more that unites us than what divides us. After 10,000 years, the stage has changed, but the message has stayed the same. What better way to share it than with striking costumes, timeless music, and lifelong friends on beautiful stages all over the DMV area.“
“For me, dancing is something that comes from the inside, it is about how you are feeling at that very moment while your body is doing all the work. Ever since I was a little girl, I have been a part of various Russian dances and performances, however, it has never made me as passionate. When I joined the Carpathia Dance Ensemble in December 2015, thanks to my dear friend- I have joined an ensemble family with the most kind, diverse group of people with different cultures and backgrounds. They were willing to guide me through every step, giving me the best advice I could ever take. These are the people I dance with, a family that is bonded by passion.
Despite having made a ton of memories, there is one memory that I will never forget. I have had someone that wanted to see me dance, however, despite her severe illness has never been able to. When I found that our group was going to perform close to her home, I invited her. She is someone that I kept close in my heart, as I talked to her about the various dances my group performs. That day, an hour before the start of the performance, I get a text stating that she will not be able to come due to a mini stroke. No words can describe this moment because I felt that all my energy was gone and I didn’t even want to come on stage anymore. Luckily, I have had the support from my dancing partners and I was able to get through this and dance. All I wished for was for her to be somewhere in the audience. And my prayers have been heard, for she has been able to come and watch us perform. It was an unforgettable feeling because despite all the pain she has endured, she had been able to come watch me, and that was something special, something that I keep to this day. Unfortunately, it was the first and last time she would ever watch me again. Although she is not here to watch me perform anymore, I feel this strength from inside when I dance, and I know it is coming from her.“
“‘Every mistake you make is progress.’ In life, as it is in dance, embracing one’s mistakes is part of growth and maturity. The beauty of being in Carpathia, a volunteer organization, is that you don’t need prior dance experience, but should be comfortable with making mistakes in practice and on stage. When I joined Carpathia Folk Ensemble, over a year a half ago, I was terrified of looking nervous and uncoordinated in front of large audiences. However, on stage, no one is immune to making mistakes, not seasoned dancers and certainly not beginners. Some dancers have lost shoes, turned the wrong way, ended up with different partners. As you can imagine, each dancer can write a book on slipups during performances (okay…at least, an essay). But we keep dancing because we love it! What Carpathia taught me is that I don’t make mistakes, I make progress and develop as a dancer.“
“I have been involved in Ukrainian folk dancing for over 20 years. Along the way there were many challenges and I almost quit a few times. Looking back, I am glad I kept going. After a 5 year gap of no folk dancing, it was exciting to find a group that covers not only Ukrainian folk dancing but that of other cultures as well. What amazes me most about the “Humans of Carpathia” are those who came to the group with zero experience and through hard work and perseverance mastered daunting choreography and technique—and stuck with it. In transitioning from dancer to teacher, it has been amazing to watch a dancer in the span of a year perfect split jumps akin to someone who has been doing this style of dance for several decades or someone with no dance experience master character and stage presence. From the dancer perspective, our dances will challenge a beginner or an advanced dancer. Little did I know that the Romanian folk dance suite would take me the longest to master because of the exceptionally fast and syncopated steps (despite looking so deceivingly easy from the audience!). It has been exciting to perform with the group at various local international festivals, embassies, multinational organizations, universities, and collaborate on stage with other folk dance groups. Most importantly, we strive to reach audiences that would otherwise not be exposed to all of these cultures. It’s an honor to share my culture and that of the other unique Eastern European countries with everyone through Carpathia.“
“I have loved to dance since I was little. I’d be tempted to dance to any music playing anywhere. Ever year until college, my friend and I would choreograph a dance for our families’ New Year celebration. As an adult I bounced around on the periphery of many different dance communities- Contra and Square, Ballroom and Swing – but never found one where I felt at home: the music, or the style, or the vibe never fully clicked for me.
And then I not only found Carpathia, but also brought a friend who still comes!
I really enjoy the music we dance to, and the bright costumes, and graceful steps, and the natural logic of our dances. But still more, I am thankful to a group that invited me in, gave of their experience and enthusiasm, showed me an inordinate amount of good will, and, ‘though I did not know all the steps, helped me learn to join the dance.“
“I can’t believe that it took me a year to join Carpathia. I met Lena Galperina in 2014 when she told about the ensemble. At that moment I had so many other things to do, so I put this idea aside. I didn’t realize what an opportunity I let go. A year passed and I had a gap between jobs and finally came to my first practice. It was tremendous! The practice was full of life and laughter. People werefriendly and open. The practice went in one breath. It is such a special feeling. That was my first impression which is current until today.
Since that very first practice, I fell in love with folk dancing and became a part of the Carpathia family. I couldn’t wish for better dance group. All of the members are my close friends now.
Moreover, I think what we do is important. Being born in Russia and moving to the USA during political conflicts is pretty tough. I love my heritage and it hurts to hear someone mixing politics with culture and people. In the personal level we have built such friendship that rises above politics and prejudices.
P.S. I still have many things to get done, but I always find time for Carpathia.“
“Folk dance has always been a major part of my life – my mom performed with me still in the womb, and I haven’t stopped since. Growing up with closets full of folk costumes and music collections full of decidedly unconventional melodies, I’ve long felt my connection to Eastern Europe as a core part of my identity. Even more than the dancing itself, though, has been the community.
The different ensembles I have danced with and grown up around over the last 31 years have truly been as close to me as my own family. When I got together with my brother and now-wife back in 2011 to found Carpathia, I didn’t know just how wonderful, vibrant, and caring a family it would become.
Even though I’ve moved away from Carpathia to the other end of the globe, I wear my Carpathia shirt with pride, listen to folk music incessantly, and brag about my dance group like a proud parent to anyone who will listen. At the end of the day, I know that when I return, there’s always a place for me in the next dance.“
“I had no idea what I was signing myself up for when I first met up with a couple of people in a cleared-out conference room in one of the GW campus buildings for that very first Carpathia rehearsal. I thought I was going to be learning some interesting dancing, probably doing it all very badly, and that it would be a surprise if I ended up being anything like serious about it. I was soon proved wrong about so many things, growing so I cared less about how much I was learning about dancing and more about the people and experiences of being part of this incredible group.
Time and life took me away from DC, and I was so sorry to say goodbye to a group of people I really consider to be like family. They enthusiastically invited me back whenever I was in town, which for the next two years ended up being quite a lot, with business trips taking me out to see my Carpathia family every couple of months. Nothing changed! Each time there were maybe a couple of new faces, but the experience of joining in the dancing was always the same.
Now I live on the other side of the world, but I still hold my Carpathia family close to my heart. I know that, whenever I manage to make it back to DC, I’ll have to plan my trip so that rehearsal night is free. I’ll walk in and see everyone’s smiling faces again and hear the music start up and know that I have come home.“
“Some of my most special memories from Carpathia are when people with no connection to Eastern Europe come up to us after our performances and tell us how much our music and dancing affected them—whether it inspired them, gladdened them, or even left them with a sense of nostalgia. These moments truly illustrate how much of a common humanity we have, despite cultural and linguistic differences. It is so wonderful to think of art—in particular folk dance, which people tend to associate with a specific culture—as uniting people from many diverse cultures in one common emotional experience. Whenever people ask me anything about where our costumes and dances come from, I am happy to tell them, hoping that they will leave the performance not only having learned something about a new culture, but having been surprised that a song, dance, or piece of clothing from a group of people halfway across the world could feel so beautiful and familiar to them. In fact, I had the same experience a few years ago; after hearing a few Hungarian songs by chance and being surprised at how much of an effect they had on me, I decided I wanted to find more about folk music and dance and ended up as a member of Carpathia. Even though I have no Eastern European heritage, I love sharing these cultures with other people by dancing in my wonderful folk dance group, Carpathia.“
“To me, dancing has always been a challenge I’ve shied away from. Then, one winter evening a year and a half ago, my friend Jenny asked me if I wanted to join her for a practice of an Eastern European folk dance group she was thinking of joining. I came along to spend time with an old friend, and found so many new ones! Members of Carpathia dance because they love to share the joy, cultural richness, and openness of folk dance. It’s an amazing group of people that can teach even a life-long skeptic to enjoy dancing. In the process, I’ve discovered more about the cultures of Ukrainian and Hutzul peoples from my native region in Ukraine. It has been a transformative year and a half, and I hope Carpathia never stops dancing.“
“When I moved to the DC area a few years ago, a friend invited me to see a Carpathia performance, and I knew I would love to join! I’m thankful to have found such a fun and dedicated dance group. Being from Romania, I was impressed with how well the group performed the Romanian dances, and how it transmitted the character and energy of the folk dances. Having joined the group, I have loved discovering and learning dances from all over Eastern and Central Europe, each with their own distinct style. I’m grateful for the chance to learn from the more experienced dancers in a supportive atmosphere. I’ve also discovered the joy of performing – seeing people in the audience smiling, clapping along and enjoying the show! My favorite moments have been doing the audience participation dances at various festivals in the DC area – through teaching these dances, I get to share part of my Romanian culture. It’s beautiful to see many people of different backgrounds and ages form a big circle and join together in dance!“
“To me Carpathia represents the fact that your heart will somehow always lead you back to where you came from. As a young girl in Poland, dancing in a children’s folk group called Varsovia was my first introduction to the art of dance. I was quickly in love and took it very seriously. One silly thing I remember from those days is the dread I had as little girl that I might be selected to dance the male part. Thankfully, that fate rarely fell upon me. When my family moved to the United States there was no children’s folk dance group to join, so I danced every other kind of dance that was available. I danced ballet, tap, modern. In college and graduate school I started to fall back in love with cultural dances like Indian Bhangra and Latin Salsa, Bachata and Tango. Eventually as an adult I learned about Carpathia. Being part of Carpathia has brought me back to not just my cultural roots, but to the very foundation that gave me a passion for dance itself.“
“What is the most amazing thing about Carpathia is that we are all volunteers and do this because we 100% love it. The joy I saw in the dancers that day spread to the entire audience. Watching them made me so happy on a day where I did not even want to be where I was! If Carpathia was able to do that for me, I can’t imagine how many others’ spirits we have uplifted over the years through this majestic art form. Every member has become a sort of family to one another (and it shows), and we come together to share culture, art, and happiness. This dance group does a beautiful thing for the community, and I am blessed to be able to be a part of what has so far been the best 7 years, and counting, of my life.”
“At first I became a fan of the Carpathia Ensemble after I started coming to see some of my friends performing in the group. At some point I realized that I already remembered many dances and had all that wonderful folk music in my head. So I finally made a decision to join the group. Now I can say it was absolutely the right decision because I love it a lot! Besides the great atmosphere we have in the group that makes each practice such a joyful activity, I feel really fortunate to be part of such an unique dance group: various Central European and Eastern European countries are presented with our dances and different beautiful traditional costumes are worn for each one! Being raised in Eastern Europe myself and migrating to another continent made me understand the importance of my culture. And I believe the best way to stay connected to your roots is through folklore. So the Carpathia Ensemble is more than just a dance practice for me, it’s the whole world of my ancestors that makes me feel connected to my true self.”